2011-06-28 16:30:29.000 – Mike Finnegan, Observer / IT Specialist
It has been a rather wet and foggy week on the summit, but yesterday was the one exception to this. The sun shone brightly, the wind was nearly calm, and there wasn’t a drop of precipitation! Jersey Jim from State, Steve, and I took advantage of the fine weather to hike a bit down Crawford Path. We hung out for a while just above the switchbacks and then moseyed our way back home, arriving just in time for dinner. After dinner I came upstairs to work on some music, but was soon invited by Steve to go on a walk down to Lakes to say hello to the fine folks down there. Figuring it was a beautiful night out and one of the last I’d be seeing up here for a while it took only a second to decide I would head down with him.
We arrived at Lakes not long before they were going to sleep so we only hung out for a short while. This is the downside of not switching for daylight savings and always being on standard time. If we arrive at 8:00 PM, it is actually 9:00 PM to them. Not wanting to simply head back home, we decided to make the short jaunt up to Monroe. There we sat for nearly 45 minutes, enjoy the upper 40’s temperatures, the light winds, and, in particular, the amazingly abundant stars. With only a few clouds and new moon soon on the way, it was quite dark and the stars quite brilliant. Getting a little chilled, we decided to keep on moving and headed back towards home. We stopped at the upper lake and turned off the headlamps again, this time seeing the stars reflected in the lake and listening to the sounds of peepers and tree frogs. I’m not sure what the tree frogs were doing up here as there is a severe lack of trees in the alpine zone. Perhaps they were visiting their cousins, the Peepers. While here we saw a bright blue shooting star descend right towards the summit of Washington. Knowing our friends were at work up there, we decided we should go make sure they were not struck by this blazing rock. We hiked on home, reaching the summit at midnight just in time to see one more shooting star streak across the sky. As it turns out, the summit was still intact.
All in all, it was a great way to end out my last week here on the summit. Wait…what? Yup, that’s right. I’m moving on, heading down off this great big pile of rocks and on to other things so this will be my last observer comment until I come visiting next time. As much as I’d like to tell you all what I’m off to do next, I can’t for sure. For the summer I plan on being unemployed and living out of my car, a tent, or on the available couch, much as I have been doing since last fall. Late July will bring a several week long bike tour up to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton region and western Newfoundland. September I plan on visiting a couple Russian friends who I met when they came visiting the Obs back in the fall of 2008. Most of the time spent in Russia will be on the little island of Solovki in the White Sea, but of course will see other areas in getting there. All this hinges on a bit of uncertainty that is the Antarctic. I have applied for a position observing weather in Antarctica, so depending on whether this job is offered to me and the prerequisites it requires, things can change rather quickly. Then again, it might all just work out. In fact, I’m quite sure it will all work out; I’m just not sure if it will work out one way or the other. In any case, I will surely miss this mountain that has been my home for the past four years. It is comforting to know that like the home I grew up in, this home will always be here as well and is a place I can always come back to and visit. There will always be friendly faces, both old and new that will greet me and there will be time to recall memories and tell stories. Yes, the memories might become a bit fuzzy and the stories a bit embellished, but then again, there’s no sense in ruining a good story with the truth anyway. It has been a wonderful time though, with many great friends made, countless spectacular weather and optical phenomena experienced and seen, and lots of rewarding work and play. I hope that whoever takes my place comes to this job with a great sense of intrigue, curiosity, excitement, and fun. I certainly did and my expectations and hopes were certainly met. As time passes though, things that were once extraordinary slowly become more ordinary. I told myself when I first began working that if a 100+ mph wind didn’t get me totally psyched to go outside, that it would be time for me to leave. I decided this for two reasons. First, a 100 mph wind should never become a lackadaisical event. The outstanding force, the menacing roar, and the resulting feeling of mortality are all incredibly powerful. However, given the safe haven of the building and repeated exposure to those conditions, these notions can slowly become muted. Secondly, once this happens, it is easier to get down by the endless days of fog, which leads to little annoyances becoming larger concerns and to an eventual “hitting of a wall”. Add to this the time it takes to hire a replacement and one is here unhappy for several months, which in turn lowers overall morale. I did not want to get to this point. I am generally a very happy person and would much rather leave with myself and my shift mates in that state. So on that note, I will end this last comment of mine for now, but will promise not to be a stranger – especially if you have a spare couch!
Mike Finnegan, Observer / IT Specialist