2009-07-01 07:36:17.000 – Tim Ryan,  Summit Volunteer

View from Mt. Clay

Random thoughts on the past week from a first time volunteer:

1.Room With a View. My first surprise was waking up Thursday morning at 3:15 am (that’s 4:15 for those of you on daylight savings time, EST). The sky was red from the rising sun, and from the top bunk in the rather spartan sleeping quarters of the Observatory, Mount Clay and Mount Jefferson loomed large right outside my window. Fantastic!

2.Undercast. On Thursday, I rose early like a kid on Christmas Day, and ran outside. At 7:00 am there is auto road traffic not Cog rail patrons, it is the best way to experience Mount Washington, I would encourage anyone who can to volunteer. There was an undercast– the valley below was blanked in white clouds, while we had blue skies overhead – the mountains stuck out of the clouds like mysterious islands in a archipelago. Awesome!

3.Weather Nerds. We are all interested in the weather, but the staff at the Observatory are truly dedicated to the study of violent weather. They were visibly disappointed on Friday because an expected violent storm passed 30 miles to our south and missed us. To some it may seem a little like a NASCAR fan that’s waiting for car crash. But they are testing new equipment and processes to enable more accurate forecasts of violent storms- as a hiker partial to fair weather excursions with lots of views, I fully support that goal!

4.The Ant Hill. Saturday by far was the most interesting day. In the morning, standing on the Observation Deck, you can see several of the trails snaking their way from Mount Washington over the horizon from several directions. On each trail there were groups of 5 or 6 hikers walking in single file like a group of army ants.

5.As Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by just watching”. Saturday afternoon at 1:00 pm, just as expected, it started to rain and thunder. I stood in the corner of the snack bar rotunda to watch the reaction- It was like being in Grand Central Station. I’ve never seen the rotunda so crowded! Every chair was filled, and people were anxious- some were unnerved by their trip up the auto road, or the Cog railroad, hikers were shaken by the rough trails at the end of the hike, some hikers were trying to arrange for trip down on the Stage Coach Auto Road or the Cog railroad. It was a diverse group- I heard at least 4 different languages, some hikers arrived shirtless and undaunted, some slowly prepared to leave the building and had no intention of letting the rain stop them. A few hours later, the storm ended- only 3/10ths of an inch of rain fell, and everyone seemed to survive their ordeal on Mount Washington.

6.Mini-Cooper Sunset on Mount Washington. An unusual Sunset Trip was also held on Saturday night for about 200 enthusiasts, which also made Saturday special. There were still clouds in the area, but the sun made some dramatic appearances around 8:00 pm, so I think no one was disappointed!

7.Come to Mount Washington. The typical forecast for Mount Washington lately seems to be “in and out of the clouds, under cloudy skies, tending towards rain showers”, but this hardly seems to do it justice. Even on these days you are apt to get beautiful sunrises, awesome cloud formations and movement, and spectacular sunrises- if you come here often enough you’ll experience all it has to offer!

8.Got more than I gave. As with most volunteer experiences, I got more than I gave from my time on Mount Washington. The staff enthusiastically ate my meager attempts at cuisine, and in return I met some terrific people, had some of the most memorable mornings and evenings at the Observatory, and took some spectacular hikes through the Alpine Garden and to Mount Clay along the Great Gulf. I’ll be back!


Tim Ryan,  Summit Volunteer

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