My Summer on the Summit
2016-08-13 17:02:21.000 – Claudia Pukropski, Summit Intern
As the last week of my summer internship at the Mount Washington Observatory comes to a close, it’s nice to take a look back and reflect on my memories of this world-famous place. This summer has been a season of personal growth for me as I am always looking for ways to challenge and improve myself overall as a person. Getting this internship was a push in the right direction, not only in my academic career but also in life experiences. Being from New Jersey, I have never pumped my own gas before. So that was my first challenge as I embarked on this adventure. Figuring that out was definitely an experience within itself . The first couple of times did not go too well, but after a while, I began to get the hang of it. My nine-hour trip to New Hampshire was nerve racking to do alone, but I often thought of it as taking a mini road trip alone and that made it a little less scary.
When I first came up to the summit, it was a little bit terrifying but in an exciting way. To me it is always scary starting a new chapter in your life, but it almost always is worth it. Luckily my first week we had two of the best volunteers who made the adjustment a lot easier for me. One of them was a yoga instructor and every morning we would go out to the rotunda and do yoga. It was quite the experience doing that every morning with the views of the White Mountains. It was a refreshing way to start the day. After a short few days the summit began to feel like home away from home due to the incredible staff up here and the close knit vibes I soon became a part of, such as having family style dinners every night and everyone being so welcoming and helpful. Marty, almost everyone’s favorite summit resident, was refreshing to have around. Having a summit cat with us while we worked made being away from friends and family a little bit easier, even though he is a very grumpy cat. Even being here on a holiday, such as the 4th of July was amazing, because the staff had a big celebration that included grilling at 6,288 feet!
My goal coming into this internship was to leave with a better understanding of meteorology. Through the hands-on experience I received here I feel as if I met that goal. I got a lot of experience forecasting and feel I have learned more here then I have in a classroom. Mountain meteorology is one of the hardest environments to forecast for and now, through my experiences, I feel I became an overall better forecaster. I also got to observe weather at the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather,” which is something not many people can say they’ve done. We saw countless thunderstorms up here, which is absolutely incredible to be in the storm as it’s happening. I learned more about weather observing, and felt incredibly happy, and grown-up, when I had the chance to take an observation all by myself. I learned how instruments work, from changing barograph charts to bringing down anemometers from the top of the weather tower. One of my favorite things was going out in 80+ mph winds. Me and the other interns would get so excited when the winds would exceed hurricane force and we would eagerly go jump around on the observation deck. It’s incredible to feel how powerful that force is when you can feel the wind moving your body back as you jump in the air. I saw lenticular, cap, and pileus clouds form, which are pretty rare to see elsewhere because they typically only form in mountainous areas. Often me and the others working up here would take time lapses of clouds, which is a really great way to exemplify that clouds are in fact a fluid and move very similar to a wave. Probably the most incredible thing I have experienced was the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. I felt incredibly lucky to have been there considering they are only visible 6-12 nights of the year, and the conditions have to be perfect for them to be seen. It made it even more memorable when everyone, including Marty, stayed up late on the observation deck looking at the beautiful display of shooting stars and the Milky Way while waiting for the anticipated Northern Lights to be visible. It was one of the most amazing nights that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Throughout my 6 weeks spent on the summit, I have experienced some interesting things that weren’t directly related to weather. I got to experience “Ride to the Sky” where hundreds of motorcyclists climbed the Mount Washington Auto Road, and the Auto Road’s Road Race, where the first place winner came in just under an hour. I tried hiking for the first time, which was very challenging due to the fact that I am from a relatively flat area, and have never been in a mountain range before, let alone climbed one. I learned that it is in fact a lot more difficult hiking down than hiking up, which is opposite of what you would think. One of the more interesting things that happened to me was that I was asked for my autograph twice—once by a group of AMC volunteers who listen to the morning radio forecast that the interns broadcast, and another from two hikers who saw me the previous day on the news when WMUR came up to the summit to do a live broadcast. I’m not sure if they were being serious or just kidding, but their enthusiasm made my day, just like the majority of the people who visited the summit. One girl sticks out in particular, who I met a couple of weeks ago while taking a walk one early morning on the observation deck. She had a dog with her who was wearing tiny little dog shoes. She told me she studied something very similar to meteorology in college and was fascinated by the work we were doing here. She ended up flying planes for the Army post-graduation and shortly after joining she broke her back, and was told she would not be able to do anything physical again. Being a marathon runner, she didn’t accept that and decided to hike the entire Appalachian trail with her dog. Mount Washington was just one stop on her path and it was so inspiring and empowering to meet her and hear her story. It made me want to push myself more. Like many others I have met this summer, her story will forever stay with me.
This summer has held a lot of firsts for me. Like the majority of people, I have a gigantic fear of public speaking, and fully knowing that I would have to give tours, I still was eager to get this internship. When I told my boss I was nervous about giving them, he made me do the next couple of tours to help me get over the fear. Although I was not happy about this in that moment, it is something I am grateful for because it is true that you will never get over a fear unless you face it. And although I am still afraid of public speaking, this summer made me a little bit less scared. To anyone reading this who was on one of my tours, thank you for your patience through my nervous stuttering. Every person that I have given a tour to was so kind and made me feel very good and prideful about the place I have been working. Aside from that, I drove up the Auto Road twice, conquering my fear of heights. It has been an incredible summer and with all of the experiences I have had, I would have to say the best was having my boyfriend, who also studied meteorology, and my family, make the nine-hour drive from New Jersey to come see where I have been working. Being able to share these amazing experiences and my developments with the people I love most has made it all worth it.
As I get ready to leave, it has become evident that the state of New Hampshire and the summit of Mount Washington have formed a special place in my heart. I truly believe that I am not only leaving as a better meteorologist, but a better person as well. So thank you, Mount Washington Observatory, for giving me the summer of a lifetime.
Claudia Pukropski, Summit Intern