2008-08-27 15:03:27.000 – Kathy Emerson, Summit Volunteer
Sometimes I like to wear shorts…in Maine…in the winter. People call me “hot-blooded” (my husband), or “crazy” (everyone else), but the fact is, I’ve always liked the cold! Since I can’t afford a cruise to Antarctica, I thought volunteering at the top of Mount Washington might be the next best thing. And you know what? It’s been a blast! I even talked my husband into coming with me. Since I’m in charge of a small B&B at home, and the chief cook, bottlewasher, and house cleaner, I think that he thought he’d get a free ride–but since he’s a carpenter, he got put to work, too, helping to install a cable for a new weather gadget (did I just call it that?) which will detect electrical fields. And once we got acclimated here and found out what a fun crew we had to work with, he even started cooking breakfast–just like he used to do 20 years ago in our “courting” days. Our cooking was greatly appreciated, and the crew easy to cook for; well, except for one person (who shall remain nameless), who had a thing against pies.
I’ve always had a good time experiencing weather extremes, and we were fortunate enough to see an amazing variety of conditions during our week. When we arrived, it was about 31 degrees, blowing 50 mph, and socked in with fog. I loved it! Talk about exhilarating! Then the weather cleared, and (as you’ve read about in the observer’s comments) we had a few days of glorious, sun-filled, low-wind, clear, clear days, even breaking a record one day with a heat wave of 67 degrees!! Hiking on the “rockpile” is kind of challenging for those who aren’t used to it, like me, but the views were incredible, and we hiked to the Lakes in the Clouds and the Alpine Garden, where tiny mosses, wildflowers, lichens, and Krumholz vegetation eke out a living tucked between the rocks, more beautiful than any mega-bucks professionally landscaped rock garden I’ve ever seen. Now it’s back to cold (40 degrees and dropping), windy (60 mph), foggy, and exhilarating (26 degree windchill) and I’m hoping to see some rime ice tonight! Oh, boy!
Some of my favorite moments here were in the early mornings or evenings, standing out on the observation deck, in the peace and serenity, just soaking in all the power and beauty of this place. To experience sunrises, you need to get up at 4:45 a.m. (summit-time), but they were worth every minute of lost sleep. Fog-filled valleys far below, dark purple-blue mountains all around, a bright-orange sun peeking up over the mountains to the east, and once seeing the “shadow” of the mountain against the clouds on the western horizon. Sunday night we watched lightning fill the clouds to the west, while stars shone overhead. There were quite a few quiet star-filled nights; once the silence was broken only by the barking of a fox. I asked if we should worry about Marty the cat being outside with the fox nearby, and they said no, Marty chases the foxes away. Guess you have to be a pretty bold cat to live in this environment!
It hasn’t all been easy. Coping with an oven that has a mind of its own (“what? 250 isn’t hot enough? O.K., I’ll go up to 475 and see how you like that!”), trying not to breathe the smoke of the cute little historic cog railway train as it chugs past, missing my dog (she’d love this place!), and getting laughed at by the tourists when I’m wearing my nifty fleece hat with the ear flaps (and they’re freezing in their shorts) are all things I’ve learned to live with up here. But as you can tell, we’ve loved it, and hope to come back soon to see our new summit friends and see what other surprises this mountain might have in store. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll even get that kid to like pie.
Kathy Emerson, Summit Volunteer