2009-10-14 16:27:01.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist
Ken Rancourt always says a boring shift change is a good shift change. I usually agree, though today I would beg to differ. We have just experienced one of the most interesting shift-change, EVER. Now, in the past, comments about shift change have been uninteresting, uninspired, and often plain old lame (yup, I’ve even written a few of those). I hope to rectify that with the telling of today’s adventures.
The day began normally enough: everyone putting on snow pants, gloves, and making sure that they would be warm enough once we reached the summit. Because it has snowed about 8 inches in the last day and a half, we prepared the truck: loaded it, oiled it, chained its tires and jumped in the back with the expectation of a rather long and uncomfortable trip up the Mount Washington Auto Road. We got to the Toll-house and received some interesting news. Eight inches of snow plus high winds equals four-foot drifts; a bit too overwhelming for upcoming trucks with chains and plows. We were left with a decision: Do we drive up to six mile and hike into blowing snow, zero visibility, sub freezing temperatures, sub-zero wind chills, and four foot snow drifts? Do we delay shift change for a day, when weather was sure to improve? Or, do we do something totally different and new (at least to the current crew), and ride up the Mount Washington Cog Railway?
Hiking seemed a bit treacherous and delaying shift changed seemed unnecessary, since there was another valid option. After a quick call to the Cog Base, we loaded the truck’s contents into the van. We were all a little giddy and more than a little hungry and thus a food and coffee stop was positively necessary. The sugar, caffeine, and excitement combined to make a boisterously fun and scenic ride over to the Cog Base. Our eyes lingered on the lush green giving way to the golden-hued fall foliage, which was in stark contrast to the snow and ice-frosted mountains. Then, we loaded onto the Cog, which is the first and oldest of its type. Once again, with excitement uneasy to hide, smiles bubbled up as Deb shot pictures of us all, most memorably on Jacob’s Ladder (I am in no way taller than either Mary Ellen or Steve!). Jacob’s Ladder is the steepest and most treacherous portion of the Cog Railway: it is a lattice work that stands 30 feet above the ground at a 37.5% grade. What that means is that on the way up, the people at the front of the trolley are 14 feet higher than the people in the back.
We finally made it to the summit and were greeted by teenage temperatures, sub-zero wind chills, blowing snow, whipping winds, and snow. Home, sweet home.
Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist