Former interns comments…
2008-03-14 17:32:05.000 – Aubrie Pace, Former Summit Intern
Life is different atop the summit of Mount Washington. People who describe the summit have addressed this topic countless times, but the real experience cannot be fully appreciated until the individual actually spends time on the summit his/her self. I was welcomed back to the summit the last few days during my Spring Break to help out. Mount Washington is not normally associated with Spring Breaks, unless to be compared as one of the worst places to vacation, but despite the negative outlook on my choice I would not go anywhere else in the world. My reason is that life on the mountain is not similar to my day-to-day college life; it is something much more. In addition to it being different from what is believed as a typical lifestyle, each day is never the same.
My “vacation” started like any other, packing. The word essential has a completely different meaning when deciding what to take in one small duffle bag for eight days. I only had to worry about three days though, so my bag had some extra room. At a little after 8:30 on Wednesday morning, I arrived at the bottom of the AutoRoad with a box of donuts to share with the crew and of course Wayne, the cat driver. It felt so great to see the whole shift once again, but I was hesitant about what had changed since I left almost three months ago. To my relief, the boys had not changed at all and I realized how much I missed them. To me, they were like big brothers who I could look to for advice, who I laughed with, and who I shared ever moment with on the summit. The feelings I have towards these three does not parallel anyone else because the time we experience on the summit is unlike anything else. Steve, Brian, and Ryan alone made my short time at the Obs incredible, but it is also the new faces from shift to shift that are memorable and can spice up a week. During my stay, the volunteer duo was comprised of one old face and one new face. I knew Frank from my internship and met Matt for the first time. In my time at the Obs, I have had the opportunity to bond with the weekly volunteers, mostly because I spend such ample time in the kitchen, and have found how essential they are to making a week enjoyable. Frank and Matt were no exception. In addition to the always-friendly volunteers, other staff and groups frequently venture up for a stay on the summit. The constant changes in company help to keep things interesting and have given me a chance to meet some amazing people.
After some time with the other shift, the cat headed back down the mountain leaving me with a chance to re-explore the observatory. I was relieved again to find that most things were the same as when I left. However, one significant difference was the absence of Nin the cat. Of course I knew all about this; I had been in the snow tractor when Nin went down and even visited Marty before he traveled to the summit. In spite of this, I still found myself looking for Nin. Nonetheless, Marty and I had a good time playing with all of his toys and I am pleased to see he has taken so well to his new home.
One thing that I knew would not disappoint me was the weather. Sure enough, in true Mount Washington fashion, we were engulfed in fog on Wednesday. However, Thursday was a different story. The thick blanket of white was pulled off the mountain revealing a clear view of the valleys beneath. After shoveling, which was something I was more than excited to do again, I made my way to the Parking Lot Gully. I tried to find my favourite place to sit and look out at the other mountains, but it had been completely filled by snow. I still took the opportunity to gaze out on to the land and instantly remembered why I loved Mount Washington so much. It may be the home of the World’s Worst Weather, but it is in no way the world’s worst environment. The sun kissed, white capped mountaintops smiled back at me as I breathed in the cool air. The wind ruffled my hood as the snow beneath my feet crunched. Every time I looked around the summit, I found something beautiful to admire and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Sitting on that wind blown summit relaxes my soul and yet at the same time awakens it. Spending time with the staff is like an ongoing conversation with an old friend, while the ever-changing visitors are refreshing and energizing. Mount Washington is my reminder of everything I value in life and how it is unlike the daily grind. It certainly is different, but different is not always bad. For me, the contrast of Mount Washington is a welcome vacation from my life while still giving me a greater meaning for my time off the summit. Coming off the mountain is never easy for me and not just because I get motion sickness on the cat ride down. I invested part of my heart and soul into that rock pile and will always have difficultly parting with it.
Today, I drove down route 16 back to my house and began to realize everything that was different between what was in front of me and that which I left only 6,288 feet above. As Gus, the cat operator, driving in front of me waved goodbye and we headed in our separate directions, my eyes started to water. It could have been the sun bouncing off the snow or the wind from the window, but I believe it was because I was waving goodbye to Mount Washington life and heading towards something different.
Aubrie Pace, Former Summit Intern