So Long Mount Washington Observatory!
2020-06-22 15:38:58.000 – Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist
It’s crazy to think that it has been 2 years since I returned to the Observatory as an Education Specialist. What’s even crazier, however, is that this will be the last blog post I ever write as an Observer. This Wednesday, I will be heading down on Shift Change for the last time, and bringing my time at the Obs to a close.
I have mixed emotions about leaving for sure. While there have been both highs and lows to my career as an Observer, I feel like I have learned and grown quite a lot since my first day back. I’ve seen and experienced weather phenomena, both extreme and serene, that I may never get to experience again in my life. Those are memories that I will carry with me forever. That being said, I am starting down a new path that should be full of adventures and new experiences too! If you haven’t heard, my wife Kryssi and I just got married! Check out this photo from our wedding! I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her, and together we are looking forward to new beginnings, new careers, and eventually, starting a new family!
I’ve taken a lot of time this past shift to reflect on my 2.3 years here. And I wanted to share with you all some of my favorite memories and experiences from working up on the summit. Of course, you get to see lots of the crazy weather up here. But when you have a good crew, you all work together, support each other and build some amazing memories together. So let me show you some of my favorite memories from my time here, both weather related and from my crew!
Jumping back to 2015, when I first started as an intern. I have to say this was probably my favorite time up here, as everything was fresh, new and exciting! My Father and I hiked to the Summit several months before to check it out, tour the Obs and see what it was like working as a Meteorologist on top of a mountain. I was hooked by the end of my tour, and was incredibly excited to come back as an intern. I had an amazing crew too! With Kaitlyn O’Brien as my shift leader, Michael Dorfman as our IT Specialist, and Elena Weinberg as my fellow intern, each day was a blast! Everybody meshed well together, and the Observers went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable, while showing us everything there was to know about running this mountaintop weather station. The pinnacle of it all, though, was the first time I saw the Aurora Borealis!
I remember being woken up by Ryan Knapp, the Night Observer, saying that we needed to get upstairs quick! We all got dressed and sprinted outside, and let Ryan take these long-exposure photos of us. In reality, you could barely see anything, even after your night vision had adjusted. But with the long-exposure, you could clearly see the beautiful colors, pillars and curtains of the Aurora sounding us. It was a powerful, moving moment that still gives me chills thinking about to this day. I even stepped away and took a moment to spread some of my Uncle’s ashes, so that he too could enjoy witnessing this beautiful phenomenon with us in this incredible place. So as a result of all the exciting, new experiences, crazy weather, themed dinner nights with the State Park crew, and so much more, I can safely say those 3 months were some of the best times of my life.
When I came back in 2018, a lot had changed. My previous crew had all moved on to new careers, and I was set to work with a brand new group with loads of new responsibilities. It was a TON to take in all at once. Learning how to code observations and account for every, single, possible weather feature we could observe, all while trying to learn how to deliver educational content and create new programs as the Education Specialist proved to be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, I was working with this gentleman here:
Chris Hohman was hired on as a new Night Observer at the same time as I was. He’s an incredibly intelligent and dedicated Meteorologist. And he has an amazing personality as well! He can easily make you laugh and feel comfortable in pretty much any situation. And he’s one of the most empathetic men I know. He and I were a team, tackling learning the METAR code while supporting each other as we navigated our new Observer roles. In good times and bad, he had my back and I had his. We’d play video games together after hours, and he hands down played the funniest character in the Dungeons and Dragons game I ran for our crew. And his random dinner questions, such as “If you could be any kind of tree, what would you be and why”, always made for a great laugh and solid companionship for our crew each night. When he left the Observatory in 2019, there was a notable hole and you could tell he was heavily missed. But he and I made it a point to hang out with each other as much as possible in our off weeks. I can easily say that he has been my best friend (aside from Kryssi) during my time here in New England. And my times with him up here are some of my favorite memories as well.
2018 had some wonderful weather surprises for us. Those of you who know me, know that I have a deep love for lenticular clouds. So I have been quite fortunate to work at a place that gets to experience some very impressive “Lentis”. I’d have to say my 2 favorite lenti events came between 2018 and 2019, when I got these 2 shots down below:
And of course, we made the most of the holidays we were on the summit for. Our crew was up for both Halloween and Thanksgiving that year. And my family and I take the holiday’s we celebrate seriously back home. They are usually a wonderful time for everyone to come together, celebrate the holiday and enjoy visiting with each other. So I wanted to bring some of that up to the summit, since I couldn’t be at home with them. Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself to be a pretty excellent pumpkin carver! So I went out, bought a bunch of pumpkins for the crew, and brought them up so we could all carve together! For mine, I free handed this imitation of a Mt. Washington Trail Sign:
The following month for Thanksgiving, Taylor Regan who was an Observer on the other shift joined our crew for the holiday. Of course, each of us spent a considerable amount of the day preparing dishes each of our families would serve for dinner. But it was also 31º below 0 that day! So Taylor and I took some time to do some “cold weather experiments”. And my favorite, by far, was what we called the “Banana Hammer” experiment. We tossed a banana outside into a nearby snow drift, and let it sit outside in the freezing cold for about an hour. When we went back outside to check it out, it was so completely frozen solid, that we could use it like a hammer to drive a nail into a 2X4 piece of wood. It was insane! We also took a small skillet outside, left it out there for a while and then used it to flash-freeze scramble some eggs. They didn’t cook completely before they froze (took about 2 minutes), but they did scramble a little bit in the incredible cold:
The latter half of the winter season of 2018-2019, we saw some more incredible winter weather conditions. Our crew experienced a 139 mph wind event, while the other crew saw a 171 mph event! I got to climb around on some of the deepest snow drifts I had ever seen at that point, with blisteringly cold temperature regularly under 20º below. And on calmer days, I got to see some amazing undercast clouds like these:
Throughout 2019 I felt like I hit my groove as an Education Observer. I loved developing and delivering content, and broadcasting on Facebook Lives and Streamable Learning Platforms as well. It was something I looked forward to each week, and I put a lot of heart and effort into the programs I worked on. So if you were able to join us for any educational content, be it Facebook Lives, Home of the World’s Worst Weather Live, Day Trips, Edutrips, etc. I truly hope you enjoyed the program as much as I enjoyed delivering it! And please, continue to tune in and participate, as the Observatory has much to teach and offer you if you are looking for it!
I’d have to say my one of my favorite memories from 2019-2020 was when members of the NWS came up to the summit following the AMS Conference in Boston. Jon Powers, one of the awesome Snowcat drivers, managed to get their crew up to the summit safely in some impressive wind speeds. And while they were here, winds started to gust upwards of 120 mph. We safely inched our way out on to the deck, just past the A-Frame, so they could experience the insanity a little bit. And with a North wind, it was like the air was crashing down on the deck in front of us, and blasting past us with incredible force. I sat on the wooden beam next to the Cosmo Shack to “catch” people inching their way out. And it was such a huge rush letting that air blast into me. But what was even better was when we took the crew up to the top of the tower, to let those who were interested try to stand exposed in those crazy winds. Of course, myself and several other crew members were right there to keep everyone safe. And once they all had a turn, I took a turn myself and had this awesome picture taken:
Lots of wonderful memories. So this has been another long post, as I’ve come to be known for in my time here. And frankly, I could go longer as there is so much wonder and so many amazing experiences the Obs has to offer that I’ve had the priviledge to enjoy. I am truly grateful for my time as an Observer, and I feel as if I’ve learned so much and grown as well. Thank you to the Observatory staff, for hiring me back and allowing me to work and experience this crazy place for the last 2 years. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity, and will take everything you’ve shown and given me forward into the next phase of my life. Thank you to all the incredible volunteers I’ve had the pleasure living and working with during my time here. The hard work and effort you put into this organization, the kindness and company you’ve brought to the summit, and my time spent with you all; all of it has been truly wonderful. I certainly will miss you, and hope we can stay in touch on social media, letters, etc! To the New Hampshire State Parks staff, thank you to each and every one of you for being so welcoming, for being helpful on all fronts, and inclusive for all these years. You’ve all been so easy to chat with, share stories with, and those times with the themed dinners during my internship are some of my happiest memories from here. To the interns who have come and gone during my time as an Observer, thank you all for being wonderful additions to our crew and for all of your hard work on your research, operations, and for all of your enthusiasm. I hope you enjoyed your time on the summit with us, and that your experiences from here have helped carry you forward in your education and careers! Never be afraid to reach out to me, and I will gladly chat with you and help you with anything you need if I can! And for those specifically who were on my crew, if you ever need your Dungeons and Dragons character sheets, just let me know! ;)
And finally, the biggest thank you to my family and friends for all of your support over these years. I know it has been difficult with us being so far away. And for Kryssi, my being gone every other week was challenging. All of you have been my support, rooting me on, following my education work, checking in to see how we are doing, and many, many other things that would take too long to list out. Please know that your encouragement, in all forms, has been a strength that I have relied upon greatly. Words can’t express how much it has all meant to me, and I hope to return that strength, in all forms, to you all going forward. Thank you for supporting me in pursuing my dream job, and I can’t wait to show you all what’s next in the coming days.
It has been a wild ride everyone! I wish you all the best going forward. Thank you all so much, and if you see me out there, never be afraid to say hi! I’ll be looking forward to it!
Ian Bailey, Weather Observer/Education Specialist