September 20, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cooking in the Clouds... Day 1

I'll just close my eyes. I'll just close my eyes tight! Really, really tight!

We were starting up the Mt. Washington auto road, and my last experience here... well... white-knuckeled, Bert and I turned back a quarter of the way up, while Heather and Tim whipped past us on their bikes. The following summer we'd gone up on the Cog Railway, my only visit to the summit. Until now. If I lived through the ride up.

Before leaving Yarmouth at six this morning, I emptied the rain gauge of the 2" of "showers" we got last night then set off with no great hopes for the weather here. I pulled into the base parking lot in warm sunshine, the summit clearly visible. I was about to begin my one week stint as the volunteer cook at the Mt. Washington Observatory. Only three of us coming up today in the van: Ken, who's driven up this mountain between 2,500 and 3,000 times in his 25 years of working here; Mike, a recent college graduate and intern doing his second week on the top; and, me.

Ken stopped a few times on the way up to point out especially spectacular views (which I did somehow manage to look at), places where the wind had dessicated, shaped, and bent the evergreens, spots where the glacial markings and debris were really unusual, and he pointed out the winter road used for access to the summit when snow depths and drifts have blocked the auto road. As we reached the top, the first few wisps of cloud wafted past, soon to close in completely, and I do mean completely!

The living quarters are comfortable and cozy, located in the tower section on the bottom level. The kitchen is about the size of ours in Yarmouth with a pantry about the size of the laundry room and half bath. There's a table seating 6-8 in the narrow area between the kitchen and a small corridor off of which open five doors to narrow bunkrooms. The bathroom backs up to the kitchen while the living room is opposite the bunkrooms, and is probably12' square. One wall is filled with bookshelves, several comfy couches and chairs set around, and a desk with computer, which is where I'm writing this.

There are no views from the small windows at this level, but at the end of the hallway past the bunkrooms (exactly ten steps from my room's door) is an exit door that leads to... great wonders! Up the first flight of circular metal stairs is the weather room (more on this later), then up another flight to the tower door, our main in-and-out access. It is so totally cool as you step right out onto the sweeping observation deck. If you've ever been up here, then you know just where I mean... glorious views in all directions and by the time I first went out, it had cleared off again enough to see 50-60 miles. To see Tuckerman's Ravine. To see the hotel at Bretton Woods. To see what little foliage has turned color in this area. And to see the Cog Railway train chugging up the mountainside. And tooting.

Peggy, the volunteer who was going down, went over the kitchen, pantry, foods and chocked-full freezers, and the chores to be done, then showed me the other buildings and some wonderful outside sitting spots. I met the crew. Now this is going to be a pretty quiet week up here... just five of us including me. Ken, who's a weather observer... Jim, weather observer and phenomenal photographer (check out the website for an incredible number of gorgeous images by Jim and many others) , Mike the intern, and Sharon who runs the Observatory museum and gift shop. Jim and Mike are early to mid-20's, while Ken, Sharon and I are... not!

I'd been told that the crew is easy-going and grateful for any volunteer cook's efforts. But you know me! By the time they'd finished their lunch of soup and tuna sandwiches, I already had a lemon pudding cake in the oven for supper. The supper of beef 'n' gravy, carrots and peas, mounds of mashed potatoes, applesauce and a platter of angel biscuits seemed to be appreciated.

And now, although there's so much more to share, I've got to head to bed. We're on standard time up here, so while the clock reads 9:17, my body knows it's really 10:17, and it's been a long day. But before closing, I've just thrown on my hat and coat, climbed the two flights and slipped out onto the observation deck. Thick, wind-swirled fog... it felt as though I was on the deck of a ship, far, far out at sea. The current temperature is 35 (and expected to go well below freezing tonight), wind speed 42.7, wind chill 20.

See you tomorrow... Mary


Anonymous said...

Life is an adventure, as you well know. Have a fabulous week! I will be looking forward to reading all about it.

Anonymous said...

Fri am 30.8°F, wind chill 12.1°F on the mountain! BURRRRRRRRRRR
Hot oatmeal or a pizza for breakfast? I think I would like your Hot Caramel/Milk drink!

Anonymous said...

Mary, What's cooking?