Thursday, September 24, 2009

Furry Faction 9/24/09

12:10:58 AM EDT

Furry Faction

A gentleman can live through anything.

William Faulkner

Up in northern New Hampshire there are a group of peaks in the White Mountain National Forest called the Presidential Range, the mountains are named after U.S. Presidents. The highest one is Mt. Washington at 6,288 feet, True, it's not as tall as some Western mountains but it's the tallest in the Northeast.

It's in a town called Bretton Woods, a sparsely inhabited place. But there is a big vacation hotel in town, The Mount Washington Hotel, which has restaurants, a night club, lots of activities and many, many rooms. In one of the rooms there is a big oblong table with easy chairs around it, each one with a name plate on the back. I sat in the chair labeled "Winston Churchill." It was the room where the famous Bretton Woods conference took place that created the International Monetary Fund.

The Mountain also has buildings on the summit. The Mount Washington Observatory monitors something about the weather, I'm not sure what. But they do record the wind velocity, in fact the highest wind ever recorded was up there in 1944 at 231 miles per hour. That was the same year Churchill and his 43 buddies were sitting around in the cozy comfort of their hotel.

There is also a radio and TV transmitting facility for a station in Poland Spring, Maine, home of the famous Poland Spring water. Poland Spring also has a big hotel where the rich used to come, relax, socialize and drink the water (and other things). That hotel is closed now and houses the studios of the radio and TV station. I was an announcer at that radio station for one disastrously unpleasant season. Poland Spring is nowhere near Mt. Washington but they beam the signal from the top of the building via a microwave to the summit of the mountain where the transmitter picks it up, translates it and send it out allover northern New England, parts of sountern New England, Canada, New York State "and all the ships at sea."

There are two broadcasts directly from the mountain. When I worked for the small, local, family owned station in the Mt. Washington Valley I would call up there every morning and talk to one of the weather researchers on the air. The way I did that was to dial 3 numbers which gave me the Bretton Woods operator, a real person. I told her who I was and that I wanted to talk to the mountain, She dialed the number and someone who was expecting the call and ready to talk would answer. It was usually a guy named Al. And there was a stationary camera there for the TV News broadcast out of Poland Spring. Another weatherman type would be sitting at the desk in a white shirt and bow tie when the camera went on. He would give his report about conditions on the mountain in a very serious manner and when he finished he would flash a big smile.

There was also a tourist are on the summit. Yes I said "tourist." There were three ways of getting up there. You could drive. There was a road. You could drive up, park your car and purchase a bumper sticker that said "This car climbed Mt. Washington." You could also take the train if you wished. A cog railway went up and down. I never did that. Then, of course, you could walk up. There were several trails that went up and down. That's how I got there one summer day. But I resisted buying a T shirt that read "This body climbed Mt. Washington."

There is also an annual bicycle race up to the top. They say the last 20 feet are the worst.

The people who work up there do it in shifts. I'm not sure how they get up and down in the winter but for anyone to spend a whole winter up there is enough to drive a crazy man sane.

A few hardy, he man, macho types will attempt to climb it in the winter and some make it, but the forest service is always ready to jump on their snowmobiles and go rescue people, which it does an a fairly regular basis.

There is one resident who never leaves the mountain top however. Like in any good conglomeration of people who live and work together, there is the cat. The cat knows enough to come in when the wind is blowing and generally doesn't go out at all in the dead of winter. But when the good weather comes he is the King of the Mountain.

DB - The Vagabond

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