September 24, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Listen! The Wind...

I have always loved Anne Morrow Lindberg's book Listen! The Wind, and it especially comes to mind today. Although it's been strangely warm up here, at 9 pm the wind is rising, the temperature is dropping and rain's due overnight. The temp is 35, wind sustained at 80 (with gusts to far), and wind chill 17. The howl, whistle and whine of the wind never cease, and I am comforted by knowing that the walls of the Observatory are two feet thick reinforced concrete.

Visibility continues to be near nothing, but still... there was a lovely wedding up here this morning (inside), with all the attendant finery and pomp. I'm not sure how the bridal party and guests came up, perhaps the stage, but this setting will certainly make a most memorable day even more so!

Breakfast this am - since I am up here to cook - was bacon, eggs, hash browns and hot-out-of-the-oven cinnamon buns. It was wonderful to have Mike's mom Leah stay over last night, and everyone enjoyed her company. She was able to get headed down in one of the Stages just before noon. Lunch became a forage-among-the-leftovers, while supper was pasta with hot Thai peanut sauce, mixed veggies, and gingerbread with whipped cream. Eating is a major recreation up here, and all my good ideas of using this time to semi-fast are now downright... laughable!

Yesterday the summit was very busy with full trains, the auto road open and the stages running even with the limited visibility. Many people dropped in for a tour of the Observatory facility, and listening to tour guide Ken, I, too, learned a lot. The mountain will essentially close down for winter by the middle of October, the summit mostly accessible after that only by the Sno Cat.

The crew from the State Park, who live next door to our quarters, will leave and the person who mans the Observatory Museum and gift shop will work her last shift. The crew here will lay in $30,000 - $40,000 of winter food and supplies, and just storing those goods will tighten an already somewhat cramped space.

(I measured our living area this morning so that I can do a good drawing on the computer when I get down. As I've mentioned before, the kitchen and pantry areas here have no windows, are at the back of this space and are actually built into the side of the summit. The bunk rooms are each 7' by 12' with two stacked bunks, and the big bunk room housing six is just as narrow only of course much longer. This facility can bunk 15, but I can't imagine that many people here in very close winter conditions.)

The EduTrips account for most of these over-night visitors, especially in winter. If you aren't already familiar with exactly what the Mount Washington Observatory does, and how it runs, you've got to check out their website which also explains the EduTrips. These fully-led trips covering a variety of subjects (meteorology, geology, folklore of the area as well as flora, fauna, photography, and more) are a way to sample this extraordinary facility in its utterly unique and challenging environment. What a GREAT Christmas present!

Back to today... Very exciting! Early afternoon, I had just walked back across the outside observation deck under overcast skies, mild temps and a 40+/- mph wind. There was a high school group visiting and the half dozen teens were out on the tower observation deck, way above me, having the time of their lives. I had just started making the gingerbread
when Mike called down from the weather room. I hurried the 3-5 minutes since I'd left the observation deck, and the kids had come in from the tower, a fierce thunderstorm had swept in. I got to see lightning, up close and personal...very spectacular and very scary!!

This was actually a double red-letter day... Later, while looking east from the inside observation deck at the clearing sky and sun-and-shadow landscape, I saw a rainbow. Short and thick with wide, distinct color bands, it was sort of wedged between two mountains, not arched up high at all. Wisps of clouds drifted past then closed in. What a gift to catch that first to seven minute window!

And so another day ends. There are not words big enough to even begin to share this experience... the place, the people, the ever-changing, always-glorious panoramas.
And now, Nin is feeling very snuggly and I, very sleepy. A quick trip up to the weather room - no outside stroll for me - and lights out. G'night!

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