Wild Places

2019-03-23 10:37:51.000 – Bill Ofsiany, Summit Volunteer


I like going outside. I do it every day, often two or three times a day while volunteering on the summit. I call it my “weather fix”. I do it when it’s clear and calm, when it’s foggy, or after dark on a clear night to look at stars and planets. I do it on rainy days, when the precipitation is coming down horizontally, when rime is forming on rocks, signs, and even on my goggles and outerwear, and on days when the wind is roaring and you get pushed around like you are weightless. It is during these times outside, especially when it is wild that I seem to connect, not with the summit, but with the wildness of this place and its history.

We need wildness as a species, but as we get more numerous and expand into more places on Earth, the wild places get fewer and fewer, and we are less because of that. Mount Washington is no big wilderness, not with millions of people living only hours from its base, but there is no doubt it is a wild place. When you stand in the wind that gusts to seventy or eighty miles an hour, or go outside to feel what sixty-five below zero wind chill is like, you are experiencing wildness at a primal level. You can’t do that unless you are living at the top, and can feel the forces just outside your door. You know the same forces were in play when the Crawford family guided people here on horseback, along the southern peaks. As you stand there, you know it wasn’t any less windy or cold, or wild. These people lacked the windproof insulated gear that makes it possible to go outside. You also know that the wilderness doesn’t care if you live or die. The decisions you make determine how safe you will be. That hasn’t changed much since the earliest people came here. Feeling that wildness connects you to those people who came before, and to the forces that focus here in such strength, and will continue to do so long after people are gone.


Bill Ofsiany, Summit Volunteer

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