Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Almost Over


That’s not smoke, fog, nor a low cloud – – it’s snow blowing due to high winds. Brrrrr! (click to enlarge)

I’m now back in Maine:  YAY!

While in the post office yesterday, it became clear to me that not everyone is as excited by winter as I am.

“Didja he-yuh, more snow fuh this week?”

“Ayuh.  I say, enough already!”

Perhaps it’s because I was gone for a month and missed the cruelest part of winter (it was -30 with windchill); but I still get excited with every bit of snowfall.  Thanks to the woodstove, our house is always nice and toasty, and we really are at the stage where the weather can’t quite decide if it’s the end of winter or beginning of spring –  – temperatures continue to hover  just above or below freezing.  Hopefully we can avoid a lot of sleet, which is never fun, and of course, once the melt begins, we have mud season to look forward to.

But for now, there is still ample snow on the ground, much to the delight of snowmobilers  and dogsledders who love to explore the wooded trails that crisscross the White Mountains.

People often ask us if we are bored on Shabbos.  It is very quiet, but never uninteresting or unenjoyable.  This is actually a busy time in this part of the woods, and there is more traffic than usual (in summer we get an average of one car per hour down our road, if that).  While out for a walk this past Shabbos, we saw at least a dozen snowmobiles, plus a dog team of 6 American Eskimo, Husky, and Malamute dogs pulling a sled with a “musher,” his wife , and their preteen daughter.  Of course we stopped to chat – – that’s just what you do in Maine.  We also met up with the law enforcement side of the forest service – – a game warden.  We spoke with him as well, and he told us that they patrol the trails (on snowmobiles, of course), checking snowmobile registrations (you have to register your snowmobile much like you register a car) as well as ensuring that snowmobilers are sober and safety-conscious.

Just down the street from us, we drive down this six-mile-long road, which leads to Evans Notch in New Hampshire, all summer long, but it's open only to hikers, snowmobilers and dogsledders in the winter.  Think of this scene the next time you are stuck in city traffic!

Just down the street from us, we drive down this six-mile-long road, which leads to Evans Notch in New Hampshire, all summer long, but it’s open only to hikers, snowmobilers and dogsledders in the winter. Think of this scene the next time you are stuck in city traffic!

As we made our way back home, we met up with a single woman who was also out for a walk.  Laura is a life-long Mainer whose Maine roots go back many generations.  It turns out I’ve passed her house many times on my walks in the woods – – she is  my  second-closest full-time neighbor, only a mile-and-a-quarter away (!).  (By “full-time,” I am excluding those who live in summer/vacation cabins.)

She regaled us with stories of  her “Grampy,”  who lived in Norway, ME (about a 30 minute drive from here) his entire life.  He had worked for decades at a wooden dowel factory.  It was his custom to walk home for lunch.  After a perfect on-time attendance record, one day he was 15 minutes late getting back to the factory after lunch.  He was so mortified, he figured if he couldn’t walk fast enough to get back to work on time, he wasn’t good for anything.  So he quit that job on the spot!

“That’s when Grampy was 89,” Laura added.

Life is awfully good here in Maine.

Mt. Washington


Before the ascent: the base of Mt. Washington, Oct. 2010

A meteorologist’s dream, Mt. Washington is one of the most unusual places on earth.  The weather is completely erratic and mostly unpredictable.  One moment there is 100 mile visibility, and 10 minutes later it is shrouded in fog with 0 visibility.  Gusting winds of 60-80 mph are not unusual – the record is 231 mph. Hikers and climbers have literally been blown off the mountain; there are fatalities nearly every year.

There are four ways to reach the top of Mt. Washington.  Which ever way you decide, check the weather first.  Unless it will be clear, it will be a waste of your time, money, and energy.

There is a small train – called a cog rail which belches black smoke – and recently they added an ecologically-correct train fueled with bio diesel.  I don’t recommend either – they are very overpriced at $62 per person.

Weather permitting, you can take your own car.  The advantage is that you can stop at various turnouts to admire the amazing views and you have plenty of time to walk around – there’s lots to see and it’s not all about the fantastic views.  However, the steep grades are murder on your car’s transmission and brakes and frankly, it’s not worth the wear and tear. Plus, the road is excruciatingly narrow in parts:  it’s not for the fainthearted.  It costs $25 for the car and driver, and more for extra passengers (but you do get a bumper sticker that says, “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington.”  Which means, if you ever see a car for sale with this sticker, do not buy it! Probably the transmission and brakes are compromised lol)

You can hike up.  There are several access trails with various levels of difficulty (rated hard to impossible on the jock scale. If a trail is rated “moderate” don’t believe them – they are lying!).  Going back down is a killer on middle-aged knees.  Since it takes several hours to make the climb, there is little guarantee that the weather will hold.  Mt. Washington’s uppermost sections are above treeline, so if a thunderstorm rolls in you are in danger of being hit by lightening.  While the risks of a summer climb are less than other times of year, there can always be surprises.  That said, if you are up for it, it’s an amazing experience on a nice summer day, as long as your backpack holds plenty of water, food, emergency supplies and adequate clothing for all kinds of weather.

Fifteen years ago my spouse and I took 3 of our children to the top; the youngest was only 9 years old (the incentive for her was the purchase of a t-shirt from the gift store that said “This Body Climbed Mt. Washington” but those were more innocent times – – that would never work today!) By the time we were rested enough to descend, fog rolled in and we couldn’t see a thing and descending was no longer a safe option by foot.  You can’t exactly get stuck up at the top, so we had to pay big bucks to go down via the train.  (And the train has no bathrooms which is not a good thing when you are traveling with children, but that’s another story for another time…)

The fourth way to climb Mt. Washington is via van service, which costs $29 per person r/t.  The disadvantage is that you are at the mercy of your driver, who decides if s/he wants to stop at a turnout, and determines how long you get to stay up at the top before the return trip.   Thirty minutes  of wandering around is really not long enough for a first-time visitor.

Unless canceled by inclement weather, there are also races to the top by automobile, bicycle and by foot.  To give you an idea of the steepness of the climb, there was only a 5 minute time difference between the winning bicyclist (51:56) and the fastest runner (record time is an incredible 56 min 41 seconds, but even more incredible, in the 85 years old and over category, the record is 2:33:30!!!).  The top speed of the best driver was 113 mph – a psychotic death wish imo.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the Mt. Washington weather report and they called for almost-unheard of perfect weather.  No wind! Clear skies! Warm temperatures!  I knew what I had to do:  I dropped everything, drove an hour to the base of the mountain, got on the van, and started taking pictures.

About 1/3 of the way up to the top. Fall colors are past peak but still nice.

Still climbing, this section of the road is called "The Cow Pastures"

Now at the top, there was about 1" of ice on the ground due to a storm the previous day

At the top of the world: down below in the middle of the picture you can see Lake of the Clouds, where there is a hut for hikers run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. It's located 1.5 miles beneath the summit.

Above treeline. As you ascend, the trees become dwarfed and bent from the wind, until they cease to exist at all further towards the top.

Feathery rime ice is created when freezing winds hit incoming fog. It forms on protrusions such as rocks and structures like fences, signs, and buildings.

Finale to a great day