8 Days in February: Some of my favorite things…

2016-02-12 09:22:05.000 – Johanna Vienneau, Summit Volunteer


The conversation around the dinner table is full of laughter. What a great crew! My husband and I are both former science teachers, and the nerdy topics, the ideas bouncing around the table, make this the very best place to be. Just last night Dennis and I were telling them about all sorts of science “magic” tricks that we used to perform for our students. Some requiring special equipment or chemicals, but some using ordinary things. I suddenly realized we could do one simple trick involving orange peels and….Mike Dorfman was already getting the orange out and lighting the candle. He knew what I was thinking. We shut off the lights then squeezed the peels, aiming the squirts of orange oil towards the flame and watching it sparkle.

I was personally looking forward to the overnight visit of the Kilted Hikers. They are a long-standing Seek the Peak fundraising team. We shared lots of hiking stories, at least one KH had summited Eisenhower a few days prior. More nerdy talk, this time with a ham radio and radio frequency bent. And, in the cold and wind, these guys went outside in their kilts for a photo op! An unexpected gift was all the ingredients for breakfast (eggs, sausage, hash browns, pancakes) and the desire to cook it. Dennis supervised as the Kilted Hiker cooked breakfast for 16. I was especially appreciative because I got to sleep late that morning.

Dennis loves to cook. So, he is in heaven (well, quite close at 6,288 ft. elevation) cooking dinner and dessert each night. Chicken Parmesan, Meatless Meatballs, Seafood Crepes, Eggplant Tomato Casserole were some of the dinners. I now understand how this works…look through the fridges and freezers and inspiration comes. I saw a bag of sweet potatoes and knew that a case of mushrooms came up with us and thought…Vegetable Posole, a favorite colorful tasty stew. One lonely little turnip in the veggie drawer? Threw that in too.
I am an outdoor person. On good days I’m out hiking or skiing, and when it is too muddy or rainy I still get outside at least for a walk. My first few days on the summit I was frustrated. It was too cold, too windy and with the summit in the clouds I had no real desire to head out. I would bring my camera up to the rotunda each day, looking for a rime-free window to snap photos of the icy rocks, the Nelson Crag Trail sign, and the feathery rime on the window frames. Finally, on Sunday, the sky was clear, the winds were down, and the temps. were easy to handle, even my camera didn’t run out of juice. Out I went with new goggles on my face and sharp spikes on my boots. I was dazzled by everything I saw. The rime ice decorates rocks, buildings, signs, and cables. It is a blazing crystalline wonderland. I headed out a second time for the sunset and then a third time for the aurora. The glittering Milky Way and bright Orion are what I gaze at the most…along with the red-flashing wind farm in the distance. Ryan’s skill with the camera concentrates the aurora colors, so I enjoy his posted photograph more than what I saw with my own eyes.

One of the things I appreciate about volunteering here is the organization. A volunteers’ responsibilities are clear, starting with Kaitlyn giving a rundown on the trips and guest numbers expected during the shift. The Summit Volunteer Manual, Inventory, and the Tuesday All Day Cleanup list guide what we do. The Tuesday list is daunting at first, but we start off in the morning and are finished before 11 AM. Vacuuming, steam cleaning, sanitizing, dusting…. I am not much of a Cinderella myself, but it does feel good to get it all done. Volunteers do a real service for Mount Washington Observatory and we do feel appreciated and we do get a sense of accomplishment, but the chores and cooking are never overwhelming.

Monday I designated as Marty Day. Marty is a very popular summit denizen. Unfortunately, he is also rather aloof. I don’t think I even saw him for the first few days. One Kilted gentleman was particularly eager to see and photograph him, and I looked for Marty with no luck. (It was reported to me that Marty showed up right before the Kilted Hikers departed. I hope he posed!) On Monday, things changed. I was determined to get a photo also, so when he showed up in the kitchen for a quick snack, I tempted him with a treat and picked him up and handed my camera to Dennis to snap a few shots. Later, in the rotunda, Marty showed up in a very affectionate mode. He walked along the windows, gazing out and flicking his tail, but allowing me to scratch him and he purred and purred and purred.

Now we are done. Now we are waiting for the shift change: the unloading and loading of the Snowcat and debriefing with the next volunteers. Then the long bumpy ride down to the valley. It will be nice to get home. But I will look forward to my next volunteer shift. 



Johanna Vienneau, Summit Volunteer

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