Casey’s Trip to the Summit.

2009-06-18 23:33:04.000 – Casey Taylor,  Outreach Educator

Sunrise with a sun pillar from this morning.

Observer Note: Author Eric Pinder and illustrator T.B.R Walsh will be at the Weather Discovery Center, on Main Street in North Conway, on June 20th at 1:00PM for a reading and signing event promoting their new book Cat in the Clouds. This richly illustrated children’s book tells the tale of former Observatory cat Nin, the poor stray who stumbled into a life of adventure atop the Northeast’s highest peak. The general public is invited.

This week I had the pleasure of working on the summit while preparing for our Summer EduTrip season. Since I normally work in our valley office, a trip to the summit is always a special treat! My mission for my visit was to scout out several of the nearby hiking trails, as roughly half of our summer EduTrips include a hiking option, and preparing programs in the event of “inclement” weather.

Wednesday was as beautiful a day as one could possibly ask for on Mount Washington. I took advantage of the opportunity to hike and explore around Mount Clay. I even had company, as Hedda, our brand-new intern, and Tom, this week’s volunteer, joined me for the afternoon. They were also quite patient and forgiving toward all of my botanizing and geology-izing along the way! Although, we did have to face up to the anxious crew when we returned, all wondering why we had taken so long on such a short hike.

Today, I took a solo tour around the Alpine Garden and up through the top portion of Tuckerman Ravine. Rain was threatening to occur anytime, but for the most part it held off, and I had an amazing day enjoying and exploring our favorite mountain in all its spring glory. Conveniently, my summit visit coincides with alpine flower season on Mount Washington. While the low-hanging clouds draped themselves among the mountaintops and sprinkled me with light showers, I spent some quality time observing some of the following alpine inhabitants. For more information on these fragile and beautiful ecosystems, check out And don’t forget to post any prize photos on the Observatory Photo Journal!

The following plants were in flower:

Alpine Azalea
Mountain Avens
Lapland Rosebay
Bearberry Willow
Heart-leaved Paper Birch
Mountain Fly Honeysuckle
Alpine Bluet
(Alpine Sweetgrass, maybe?)
Lapland Rosebay
Bearberry Willow

Other plants not in flower that I spent some time investigating:

Balsam Fir
Black Spruce
Labrador Tea (although this one is just waiting to explode into its white blossoms!)
Mountain Cranberry
False Hellebore
Canada Mayflower
Three-toothed Cinquefoil
Bigelow’s Sedge

Of course, anyone that knows me also knows that my eyes were not entirely focused on the plants. Aside from innumerous wolf spiders scurrying around the rocks as I hiked, I also was happy to see some Ravens flying about as well as several pairs of Dark-eyed Juncos keeping themselves busy. I also heard a Bicknell’s Thrush, a White-throated Sparrow, and what may have been an American Pipit as I continued along my increasingly damp, cold and windy hike.

All in all, a great day. Tomorrow (Friday) seems like it may be a bit more wet, but we’ll see if I can still get in a visit to Lakes of the Clouds before I head back down to the valley! Thanks again to the summit crew, interns, and Tom for being such great hosts!


Casey Taylor,  Outreach Educator

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