Sunsets and Fireworks

2009-05-24 17:35:52.000 – Mike Finnegan,  IT Observer

A Sight Worth Hiking Down For

Yesterday was a very nice day to go out and hike. Really, most days are if you approach them with the open mind of experiencing something new. It just takes a bit less planning when it’s not blowing 70 mph and wicked cold or the fog isn’t limiting visibility to 25 feet. As it turns out, yesterday started off pretty sunny then went into the fog in the afternoon, so I guess it was somewhere in between. With the holiday weekend, the summit has been a bustling place and part of that bustlingivity is giving tours to members of the observatory. I had an hour before a tour was scheduled, so I took the opportunity to join Ali and Marty on a walk down towards the Lakes of the Clouds. We headed down the Crawford Path at a nice moseying pace, the kitten meowing his way down the mountainside. With only an hour to play, we didn’t go too far, but it was nice to get out for a little bit at least. We met a few hikers who were quite surprised and impressed to see a cat out and about on the trails. All Marty said to them was, “Meow!” On the way up we had to carry him a bit. I don’t know if his paws were sore or he was tired or if maybe he just didn’t understand why we were in such a rush on such a beautiful day.

As I mentioned, the afternoon hours brought fog to the summit. Having only been out for an hour earlier, Ali and I were still wanting to get out. Looking at the Ravine’s webcam, we could see the clouds ended just above Tuckerman Ravine. We threw together a couple of packs and headed down the hill to watch the sunset, hoping the clouds would not lower while we hiked. It was a great feeling to catch the first few glimpses of the valley below as we hiked through the bottom of the cloud. In time, we made it down to Lakes of the Clouds and posted up on a few comfortable rocks to enjoy the sun that was coloring the clouds a brilliant orange and gold. While winds at the summit had been in the 40 mph range, winds were hardly existent where we now sat. As we grew a bit chilled, we put on more layers and enjoyed the liter of hot chocolate we had brought with us. Few things are as pleasant as a hot beverage when you are a bit cold. As it always seems to do, the sun sank below the hazy horizon, its’ rays slowly fading. As we turned to hike home, looking to the ominous black clouds that obscured most of the summit cone, we heard loud booms like thunder. It didn’t seem right that a thunderstorm should be anywhere near, but then again, hiking into a black cloud with that noise around should spook you no matter how illogical it seems. We stood for a second, contemplating calling the summit on the radio to check conditions when we saw the reason. In the valley towards the Mount Washington Hotel were spectacular fireworks being set off! Both excited and relieved, we turned to watch the spectacle which lasted for at least 15 minutes. It was interesting to experience the finale from such a distance. Visually it looked impressive, but it was a few seconds after it was all done that the sound of the explosions first reached us. We waited for the loud noises to cease, smiled at our good fortune, and hiked back up into the thick fog that obscured our home. We arrived home around 9:30 summit time to enchiladas that Cindy, our volunteer had made. She has prepared incredible food all week, but after a good hike this tasted spectacular. We really are some very lucky people.


Mike Finnegan,  IT Observer

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