2010-07-19 17:36:19.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist
In case you were wondering what my favorite trail on Mount Washington is, it’s the West Side Trail. It connects the Crawford Path and the Gulfside Trail and takes you along the western portion of the mountain (hence its name). The loop is less than three miles long, there is very little up and down, and it’s a quiet section of the mountain; perfect for one who craves a little tranquility.
The view of Monroe and of Lakes is beautiful, and for most of the trek, the summit buildings of Mount Washington are hidden from view. The trail is nestled into the steep sides of the Ammonoosuc Ravine, and looking into the Ammonoosuc Ravine can cause vertigo, but there is almost no relief as one looks up towards the summit. The west side of the mountain gets a lot of wind, and the plucky little plants brave the elements and hold their ground tenaciously. They snuggle between rocks, find convenient protection in the shelter of larger plants, and lead pretty awesome lives.
I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about the alpine vegetation, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to ‘discover’ some new plants. The bluebead lily looked like a tiny honeysuckle flower, and I had to take a picture so I could later identify it. The emphatic emerald color nearly overwhelmed my senses, which are accustomed to various shades of gray.
As I approached the Cog tracks, I happened upon the cutest little mushroom (yes, fungus really can be adorable). In this picture, you can see a plethora of living things – lichen, moss, mushrooms, sedge, all making their home upon the rocks. While I was crouched down, looking at the mushroom, I looked towards the Great Gulf. The different view, though not strikingly different, inspired yet another photograph.
Alas, I crossed the Cog tracks and turned right onto the Gulfside trail. With the summit in view and the promise for dinner, my ascent was quick. Even though we meteorologists often have our heads in the clouds, looking earthward reminds us how what we study (obsess over) affects the living world around us.
Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist