2011-03-23 22:18:26.000 – Ed O Malley, Summit Volunteer
Without the first intrepid visitors to the summit in 1870, and the colonization of the summit by the fledgling Observatory in 1932, it is likely that many of us who enjoy Mt. Washington today would not have the opportunity to visit here, or even know of the mountain’s existence. The experiences of those who have visited Mt. Washington or the Observatory, and retold those stories, are what make the mountain unforgettable. The ongoing presence of the Observatory on the summit, the New Hampshire state park, and the protective cloak of the White Mountain National Forest has continued this trend.
Each visitor to Mt. Washington adds to its history and future, by sharing their stories, memories, and photographs, both in intangible and tangible ways. There are also the shared experiences created in the company of others, by time spent on, near, or simply in awe of the mountain. These visitors run the gamut, from tourists, to hikers and skiers, to Observatory staff and volunteers. Included are memories and stories such as those told by a man who played on the summit in the summers as a young child, while his father supervised construction of what we know now as the Sherman Adams Building.
My Mt. Washington story began in May of 2007 – though I was aware of the mountain, at that point, I had never visited it, or even seen it, and my only time in New Hamsphire was incidental. A news story about the Observatory caught my eye, and with that prompting, I discovered their website, applied to volunteer, was interviewed over the phone, and then scheduled for my first week in late October of 2007. Since then, I have spent numerous volunteer weeks on the summit, often frequented the area in all seasons to hike, take pictures, and visit friends.
I value and enjoy my time here on the summit for many reasons – the opportunity to see and work along side friends, to enjoy the wide range of weather, both extreme and mild, and to help the Observatory in many diverse ways. Every moment of time here, whether day or night, is unique. If one were to count up the number of people who have spent a night at the summit of Mt. Washington in recorded history, I suspect that it would be surprising small. I have had the opportunity to spend many nights up here, and have been outside on the summit, well after midnight, and well before sunrise, enjoying everything that the mountain has to offer.
Since my first visit to Mt. Washington, I have shared many memories, stories, and photographs with both family and friends, and in February, I even had the opportunity to spent the night at the Observatory with four friends as guests. Now, rather than just experiencing what Mt. Washington has to offer vicariously through me, they got to see things first hand. Not surprisingly, they were all awed and wowed by the mountain, as one would expect. If you would like to help the Observatory as a volunteer, or visit as a guest, all of that information, and more, can be found here.
In the absence of people, the moutainn would still be here, and still be impressive (perhaps even more so), but there would be no one to speak for it, and no one to tell its stories. It would stand mute, unable to share its tales of extreme weather and extreme beauty, a fierce and awe-inspiring example of what the natural world has to offer.
Though this has been said many times, when you visit Mt. Washington, please leave only footprints (and try to minimize those by staying on the trails…), and take only memories, whether they be in the form of memories to share with your family and friends, or photographs.
Thanks to Brian, Ryan, Mike, Becca, John, and Marty for another enjoyable week on the summit!
Ed O Malley, Summit Volunteer