The weekend at Pinkham Notch definitely exceeded expectations. Upon arrival Friday evening, I discovered that most of the rooms at the Lodge had been reserved for the Boston AMC Chapter's Mountains and Music weekend. Three times a year this group spends the weekend together making beautiful music and hiking in the mountains.
In addition to the musicians, there was a multitude of people out to climb Mt. Washington on this Saturday before Washington's birthday. I met one man from Washington, DC who had attempted the mountain every year on this weekend for the last 14 years.
My job was to talk to the hikers as they came in to register before climbing, to help them look at the weather forecast and to talk to them about their plans. There is a huge model of the Presidential Range in the middle of the visitor center information room. All of the trails are marked on the model and it is easy to use the model to demonstrate the direction of the winds, the areas of high exposure and the pitch of the trail in the steepest areas.
There was a lull in the middle of the day while all of the hikers were on the mountains so I was able to go out for a few hours on my snow shoes. The woods were beautiful and I enjoyed the time but there was nary a bird. The closest that I came to a bird were trees full of woodpecker holes.
By the time I got back to the visitor center, the hikers were starting to arrive back from their days. Without a doubt, the part of the weekend that I enjoyed the most was listening to the hikers talk about their experience. Whether or not they had reached the summit, their red cheeks were held up by wide smiles and crowned with twinkling eyes of accomplishment. As they removed their gators and hats, they told stories about the wind and the views and the blowing snow. The high on Saturday was -1 and there were wind gusts up to 70 mph.
Sunday morning as I walked from the staff housing to breakfast, I saw two ravens soaring off the side of Wildcat Mountain. Finally a bird!!! Later in the morning, I noticed an empty bird feeder near the visitor center window. I searched around until I found the bucket of bird food and climbed through the snow drift to put some sunflower seeds in the feeder--soon the feeder was full of chickadees and a red squirrel.
The weekend was a nice change of pace and something that I'm sure to enjoy. In two weeks, I'll do it again on the western side of Mt. Washington at the Highland Center in Crawford Notch.