2010-10-27 22:05:18.000 – Lyle Cunningham and Dianne Pointer, Summit Volunteers
Living in the flatlands of Illinois, the experience of coming to work on top of a 6,288 foot mountain is quite a change for us. Driving to the mountain from Portsmouth was spectacular; the trees were bursting with color.
We met the observers and interns at the base and loaded the van for the trek up the mountain. We started up the winding road with the trees still colorful. As we progressed the trees started to lose their color and eventually we ran out of trees and started to encounter snow. Snow in October?! We have never experienced that in the flatlands. As we proceeded farther up the mountain, the road became covered with snow. Ken, our driver and the Director of Summit Operations, pulled over to a flat area. The crew then proceeded to do something we have never seen in our lives. They put snow chains on the tires. Chains are illegal in Illinois. The chains on, we continued our trip. The road became more covered and visibility even worse. We were glad that Ken had made the trip many times. We arrived at the top safely and unloaded all the gear. All the structures were covered with rime ice, which was sepctacular. We then settled in to our living area and began our week as a MWObs volunteers.
When we signed up to volunteer at the Observatory, we hoped to experience a little of Mount Washington’s infamous weather. Our week, October 20 through October 27 brought the hope of some cold weather. What we got was 13 degrees with a wind chill of -20 and 92 miles per hour winds. It was amazing! What was even more amazing, just two days later the rime ice and snow were all but gone. Three days later it was a balmy 47 degrees and we had to worry about getting too much sun during our hike. We got to experience three seasons in five days. What more could two weather junkies want.
We found life at the Observatory to be interesting to say the least. Each day is orderly. Routines are in place to ensure that the important business of the Observatory takes place. In the middle of the routine, the unexpected is happening on a pretty regular basis. The five member staff are prepared and handle each surprise with professionalism and a good dose of humor. They do the Observatory proud. They made our week of volunteering a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience we will treasure.
Lyle Cunningham and Dianne Pointer, Summit Volunteers