On Top Of New England

“Here on this mountain top, I got some wild wild life.”- The Talking Heads

Mount Washington Sunrise- photo by Patrick Hummel

Early one mid-September morning, I arrived at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road. It was a clear early Autumn day. Joining one of our Park Staff members for the drive up, I arrived at the summit after the nearly 8 mile ride to the top and stepped out of the Park truck for my first day as the Park Manager of Mount Washington State Park. The position had only officially been offered to me three days prior and perhaps the quick turnaround benefited me to the extent that any semblance of nerves or anxiety had no time to cultivate.

Over 3 months later, I have the Fall tourist season behind me and have been experiencing Winter at the Park since a mid October storm dropped two feet of snow at the summit.

The transition from Fall to Winter. photo by Patrick Hummel

There’s an understanding that there are experiences that come with working here and with managing here that are in front of me; unavoidable circumstances and situations and challenges that will come. They’re welcomed realities for the role I’ve chosen to take on.

In addition to the time I’ve previously spent and visited here, during my time as Manager I may have learned a lot and have experienced the many moods of Mount Washington, I know enough to know that I don’t know nearly enough…yet. The Mountain and the unshakably dedicated and capable Park Staff that work here have more to show me.

early winter, putting in grade stakes to help with visibility when conditions aren’t this clear. photo by Patrick Hummel

In my previous position as the Park Manager of another one of New Hampshire’s storied and busy mountains, I often pointed to Mount Monadnock as being one of the most influential teachers in my life.

But, after 3 months, Mount Washington State Park has offered some teachings:

  • the scales of what I used to consider “cold” or “windy” have dramatically shifted
  • most people don’t know what the staff does up here in the winter and are curious about it (we will save that for a future blog)
  • Appalachian Trail thru-hikers are pretty easy to pick out of the crowds
  • the longest lines tend to be for the bathrooms and the photo opp with the Summit sign
  • going up and down this mountain regularly, we really have the best “work commute”
  • a 108 mph gust is a formidable obstacle to staying on my feet
Here I am, moments before being TKO’d by a 100mph+ gust of wind
  • getting better at estimating the wind speeds based on how they sound from inside certain sections of the Sherman Adams Building
  • when not doing “Manager stuff”, my favorite thing to do here is to interact with the public at our Information Desk
  • how dizzying and disorienting white out snow/wind conditions can truly be
  • already an all time personal favorite, the view of the Presidential Range’s neighboring north mountain peaks (Mts Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison) from this Park are magnetic and it seems I will never tire of it
From L to R, Mounts Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison. Photo by Patrick Hummel
  • if a photo opportunity catches your eye and you’re free to take it, don’t wait. The scenes are prone to rapidly changing
  • people flush all sorts of things down our toilets that don’t belong there, including a curious amount of dental floss. It all gets found and pulled by our staff, but can strain our systems
  • what minus 72 degrees wind chill feels like
Thanksgiving morning, 2018. Ambient temperature of -20 degrees and a wind chill touching -70 degrees
  • that winds can blow hard enough and cold enough to literally feel the air being pulled out of your lungs
  • the phone can ring and wake you at all hours of the night, but is most often people calling with random questions about the Park or the mountain that seemingly could wait for “business hours”
  • from our staff to the Auto Road, to the Mount Washington Observatory, to the Cog Railroad staff, how much people who work here love this mountain and working here
  • that I also love this Park and am exactly where I want to be
mid September sunrise. Photo by Patrick Hummel
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Patrick Hummel, Mount Washington State Park

As the Park Manager of Mount Washington State Park, I oversee and manage the operations of the 60 acres of the summit of Mount Washington; the highest peak in the northeast US at 6,288'. Our Park is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year and is sometimes referred to as the "Home of the World's Worst Weather". Previously, I served as the NH State Parks Volunteer Program Manager and before that, the Park Manager at Monadnock State Park, home to the most climbed mountain in the Western Hemisphere. IG= @topofthenortheast

8 thoughts on “On Top Of New England

  1. Loved the pictures The information is very educational and I always enjoy reading about Mt Washington. Looking forward to reading more info and seeing more pictures. It’s been many years since I have been to the top. But, I can see the top of the mountain every day from my home in Maine. It is so magnificent.

  2. Enjoyed your blog about your experience as Park Manager. Hope you will continue to share your unique experiences at the home of the World’s Worst Weather.

  3. Early Dec.1954: Five UNH students (2 young gals and 3guys) on a dare, decided they would climb Mt Washington. They checked in at the base office and were told that the trails were impassable due to deep snow cover. They decided to try the auto road as they learned that it was passable (for personnel use). It was a mild and sunny day and they had snacks and water. Somehow these fools actually made it. As they neared the summit they heard a loud and constant roaring sound, and as they rounded the last bend in the road the noise suddenly stopped and they were soon met by 3 men who looked at them as if they were mad martians and escorted them to a building (that were covered with large horizontal icicles) . They were given warm water to drink and some crackers and were told they could not provide anything else as it was against protocol and they had to make their supplies last. When asked about the noise that was heard they were told that sometimes the wind made a strange sound up there. The five were lent a flashlight with instructions to return it to the base office when they got down. The guys at the base office laughed as they did not believe the five when they did this. Suddenly the summit radioed and asked “did those crazy kids get down ok and did they turn in our flashlight?” Well , the base guys treated the five to cocoa and some soup, congratulations, and a lecture to realize how lucky they were.

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