There’s a first for everything.

2008-09-13 05:03:31.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

Sunrise from 09-11-08. The first light of the day.

Nothing compares to the emotions and memories of experiencing something for the first time. And life is full of firsts from the time we enter this world until the time we depart it. Our first cry announces our entry to the world. Our first words, allowing us to learn how to communicate our experiences to others verbally. Our first steps allowing us mobility to explore the world around us. Our first written word allowing us the ability to provide a history of experiences to ourselves and to those who are interested. All of these provide us with a wide foundation in which we get to experience other firsts.

The anxiety filled excitement of the first day of school and work. The wonderment of seeing a larger than life character on a movie screen. The sensation of take off and landing in an airplane. The tranquility of seeing the sun rise and set over a mountain range or an ocean for the first time. The anger and disappointment of receiving an F for the first time on a test you studied so long for. The eager anticipation of being allowed to drive alone for the first time. The joy of buying your first house. The humility of seeing someone being born and hearing the first cries and knowing that your firsts will someday be their firsts as well. And their firsts will continue even after your lasts.

Working at the Mount Washington Observatory, I am being introduced to firsts all the time. The fear I had of coming to New England for the first time to start a job at a location I had never seen without support from anyone I knew out here. Meeting a crew for the first time of which I had never met in person since my interviews were all phone based. Seeing a mountain for the first time whose peak elevation was almost equal to the elevation where I grew up at on the west coast. Riding up in a Bombadier (snow cat) for the first time and the uniqueness and excitement that came with that. Exiting on the summit and experiencing weather on a terrain that seemed like an alien planet from Star Trek. Experiencing weather that I had only read about on the web and in books. Winds of 50 mph with temperatures well below freezing is something that can never fully be explained in words or video.

With time, some things that were once firsts become routine to the point that it takes unique experiences to truly evoke a feeling of a first time experience for me up here. I hear our interns Michael, Jeff and Jordan debating who has experienced the higher wind speeds in their time here and I remember the excitement of experiencing each speed for the first time. Seeing 100 mph winds for the first time was awesome, then 101, then 102 with gusts of 130 then 131 then 132 peaking with the experience of seeing a 158 mph gust for the first time (bad memories of that one, but a first non the less). So now it will take a gust of 159 or more to evoke that same feeling I had with 158. The same is true with temperatures, now I will have to see something below -37F or above 70F to generate that same sense of uniqueness. But these are just extremes that will generate the feeling of firsts. The weather, the people and the terrain are what really generate firsts for us up here on nearly a daily basis.

Rime ice is ever changing and provides a new landscape every day in the winter. Glaze ice makes walking around up here a new experience every time we have to head outside. Edutripers, interns, volunteers and tourists are constantly introducing us to people for the first time as well as questions that we may have never thought of. Cloud formations are rarely exactly the same (see video below). Sunrises and sunsets, good or bad, provide a unique canvas each time we are able to see them. And although there are a few 3 out of 10 (rated) sunset/rises, our guests and interns always remind me that a 3 to me is a 8 to someone who has never seen one from up here before. The same can be said for each trail up here. Some we know by heart but others lead us to new vistas and locations for the first time.

Yesterday, I experienced two more first time events that took me almost three years to accomplish. I experienced the inside of Lakes of the Clouds Hut (see yesterdays comment as to why that was) and I experienced the summit of Mount Monroe for the first time. Being the night observer on a crew of two (instead of three) makes it hard to get out much since, by the time I get up, it is close to dark or close to the start of my shift. But it was really exciting to get down there before the hut closed Sunday which would have forced me to wait yet another year to experience that for the first time. But it is stuff like this that reminds me that life is full of firsts up here and that each day is unique. The uniqueness is what allows me to want to continue working here and is what brings other to the summit in all seasons. If you have been here, you know exactly what I mean. If you have not been here, try to for the first time, you won’t be disappointed.

(This video was actually shot last shift but it is of a vista and cloud “formation” I had not seen before up here. Click on the words “Observer Comments” or “expand” above to make the comments section larger to view the video properly.):


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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