By Kirsti Carr, VCE Intern
Two weeks ago, my fellow VCE intern, Nate Launer, and I conducted two Mountain Birdwatch (MBW) routes in the White Mountains, one on Mount Whiteface and a second at the base of Mount Washington. We were lucky enough to have time to do a bit of extra hiking, and so we summited both mountains before camping out prior to the surveys. Before this summer’s internship, I’d never explored the White Mountains. Now I’m quickly getting a tour of the range, and becoming particularly familiar with it in the pre-dawn hours of the morning!
When Nate and I arrived at the base of Mount Washington, we weren’t sure if we’d have enough time to summit and get back before nightfall. However, powered by determination, enthusiasm, perfect hiking weather and the postponement of half of our cone counts until the next morning, we scrambled up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, hit the summit, and descended safely before sunset. Our way down may have been slower than our ascent as we allowed ourselves to get distracted by the many breathtaking views. High above tree line, Lake of Clouds rippled in the wind and shimmered a brilliant blue in the late afternoon sunshine, its encircling trails glowing from the sweet diapensia blooming everywhere.
The strong winds were a nice break from the heat of the sun and our climb, but a sign that read, “STOP: the area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad.” provided a sobering reminder of how drastically conditions can change on this summit. Looking around at all the different groups of people, some running, others walking, some in large groups and others climbing solo, it was hard to imagine the 231 mph winds that have made the mountain famous.
I feel very lucky to have summited Mt. Washington on such a beautiful day. And, as we descended, almost as soon as re-entered the stunted conifer zone, Nate and I heard a Bicknell’s Thrush singing into the wind. It was a sure sign that we were in the right place!