Sunrise/sunsets ahead

2010-06-24 21:25:37.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Day 175: Daylight: It’s all downhill from here.

Since starting as an observer on the summit, I have only worked the day shift a handful of times. When I first started here, it was usually my choice to work the night shift since I had been working nights at my job prior to here and it was something I enjoyed doing. Over time, my job description went from just being a weather observer to becoming one of the Staff Meteorologists which requires me to take the night shift. Although my job title requires me to work nights, if given the option, I would still choose to work nights on the summit. There is just something about working nights here that I am drawn to. And having worked a night shift schedule the last eight years of my life (not all of them here mind you), watching the sun go down at the start of my “day” and rise at the end of it is completely normal to me now. But this “normal” schedule of watching the sun set then rise to mark the start and end of my “day” is only true in the summer months. In the heart of the winter months, my shift of 1730 to 0530 EST starts and ends in complete darkness. And having crossed the summer solstice on June 21, 2010, the days will only be getting shorter from here on out as we head towards the winter solstice on December 21, 2010.

Yes, it is disappointing to think that for the next six months, the days will only be getting shorter. But that’s not to say I won’t still get to see plenty of sunrise and sunsets in the meantime. In fact, it isn’t until roughly October that I will have to decide to wake up early to see a sunset or stay up late to watch a sunrise. But with the summit in the fog over 60% of the year, statistically it’s not very hard to make this decision. But on the occasions where we are clear and we can see a sunrise or sunset up here it is always a treat for us. And while not all of them are a perfect 10, even the 1 out of 10’s are something to marvel at from time to time. The only sunrises that are not worth waking up or staying up for are the ones that are experienced while in the fog since all you are seeing are a change in the shades of gray. To me they are nothing worth looking at but from what I have seen from tourists and volunteers, even these gray scenes are neat and unique for them since they are not normal to them by any means.

So, if you want to experience a sunrise or sunset from the summit there are a few opportunities for you (at least try) to view them. The easiest and cheapest (free) method is to hike up early or down late and see them. Just be aware that the building will be closed during sunrise/set hours so you will have to find a good rock to perch on and watch them from. If you don’t want to do the whole peak, you can always stay down at Lakes of the Clouds Hut and just do the shorter jaunts up/down to catch them. Another option is via the auto road. They have a few special events that allow you to drive up/down and hopefully catch them. If you have a Mini (car), there is a special sunset drive this Saturday (the 26th). If you don’t have a Mini though, there is a sunrise tour on the 27th that will allow you to drive up early and hopefully catch a sunrise from the summit. More information on the Minis on Top and Sunrise Tours can be seen on the Auto Roads webpage HERE. The last method to try and catch both a sunset and sunrise from the summit is with our “Summit Adventures” which allow you to stay at the Observatory overnight giving you roughly 24 hours to experience everything the summit can offer. There are four of these events scheduled this summer with more details HERE. If you catch one of these trips, you will have the chance to see a summit sunset and sunrise like me. But unlike me, you will get to sleep between the two events.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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