2007-11-25 21:01:15.000 – Aubrie Pace, Summit Intern
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Today, we woke up to howling. The strong western push of the wind was moving the snow, old and new, into every pocket and door frame. I began to dress: long underwear, thick socks, a fleece, bibs, heavy snow boots, a down jacket, face mask, hat, goggles, and gloves, each piece well worth its weight and bulk. I started my shoveling on the far end of the Sherman Adams Building. Walking through the vacant State Park area was like being in school again walking through the hall while classes were happening. It’s empty and dark, but you know there is something happening all around you. The front entrance did not reflect how the weather would be today. Instead of fierce winds and snow, it was peaceful. The airlock and building were blocking most of the conditions so the inch of snow was shoveled in no time at all. I then climbed the tower to the parapet. After one set of stairs and two ladders, I was looking at the small wooden door to the top. From the calm inside the building to the less than extreme surroundings of the front, opening that door felt like I was opening the wardrobe and passing into another world. The second I stepped out, the eighty mile wind tried to steal my breath and knock me down. Standing on the parapet and looking toward the deck, the forceful wind was at my back. I began to shovel so I could finish and get down from the highest place, which is often the windiest. I have shoveled many times before both on the summit and in the valley and I really enjoy it, even today. It was a challenge though, because you’re fighting not only the snow but the wind as well. I had to learn how to position myself to still get the snow, but not lose my trusty shovel.
Once finished, I went down to the observation deck to start the next level of shoveling. If you start from the bottom, by the time you get to the top the bottom will be filled with snow again. The tower behind sheltered me from some of the wind. The chill of 11 degrees could still get me though. Looking around, the end of the deck was not visible and the summit was engulfed in white. Being alone and out of the office is my idea of a break. While shoveling, I think of everything to do inside; pen a B16, make some charts and link spreadsheets for my project, maybe a polycom later. After I have thought of everything, my mind starts to wander out into the fog and snow. I walk down to the weather room emergency exit and hope a hiker does not randomly emerge from the white unknown. The wind is the worst here, pinning me against the wall and pulling my shovel towards the rocks. I struggle on the walk to the door. There are foot prints here. They look like a dog’s, but smaller. Maybe they are the fox’s. Maybe she was up here looking for food when the snow started and wind picked up. She then went for the closest shelter, even if it was near humans. Did she sleep here all night? The tracks suddenly end and I realize I’m at the door. My mind had run off again. The tracks were too scattered. They only went towards the door and I was not staring at the red bushy face of a fox. It was probably the rime I pushed off the parapet some time before that fell in a convenient pattern.
My shoveling is finished and I start back to the deck door. My black mitten twists the handle and the wind rushes to get inside. I push my way in next and put the frost covered metal shovel back in its place. My boots clank down the spiraled red, grated stairs. My goggles fog from the sudden lack of cold. I realize my finger tips had gone slightly numb. I take off my head gear, mittens, and jacket. I reach for the steel mug I left filled with hot chocolate and find it is no longer warm. I sit for a second and then begin my day’s work.
Aubrie Pace, Summit Intern