Location: Sargent’s Purchase, New Hampshire
Webpage: New Hampshire State Park
General Description: Located at the summit of Mount Washington, this state park is only 60.3 acres in size, but is the highest state park in the New England at 6288 feet above sea level. As the highest peak in New England, on a clear day you can see as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec, and the Atlantic Ocean. However, a clear day is rare since the location and elevation of Mount Washington literally creates its own weather which is considered to be “the worst in the world.” The second highest wind velocity recorded was 231 mph on April 12, 1934 at the Mount Washington Observatory. Winds exceed 75 mph over 100 days a year and the average wind is 35 mph. The average temperature is 27 degrees and snow and ice can occur at any time of the year. The Mount Washington Observatory is a non-profit corporation that conducts weather observations and research throughout the year and the winters are brutal. The modern summit building, the Sherman Adams Summit Building, houses the Visitor Center, a cafeteria, restrooms, gift shop, and museum. The original “hotel” at the summit, the Tip-Top House is now an historic monument open to the public. Along with observatory platforms outside the building and large windows within the building, there is a short path that takes visitors to the highest point where the Appalachian Trail crosses over the summit.
1) The day we visited the State Park was typical weather for the summer at the summit of Mount Washington. We were well within the clouds, so visibility was less than 10 feet. The temperature was in the low 40s with 50+ mph winds making for a wind chill factor in the low 20s. Consequently, it was a challenge to simply stand still during the wind gusts where we got chilled to the bone and wet. Thank goodness for the warmth of the Sherman Adams Summit Building which we spent most of the hour we had at the summit. They did have a nice panoramic viewer in the museum where you could fantasize what you would see if you could see more than 10 feet.
2) We did see a number of hikers on the trail as we rode up the Mount Washington Cog Railroad, so it is a popular hiking destination even in this weather. I should mention that the weather at the base was in the low 70s with broken clouds.
3) While you could barely see the Tip-Top House from the Sherman Adams Summit Building, due to the visibility, it was worth braving the elements to visit. It is a stone structure that has survived the elements for over 150 years and for a long time was the only accommodations at the summit. It consists of a large dining area, kitchen with wood stoves, and a bunkhouse where guest would sleep on either the top or bottom bunch behind a small curtain. While not palatial, the accommodations were certainly better than sleeping outdoors!!
4) The museum in the basement of the Sherman Adams Summit Building is devoted to the extreme winters they have and should not be missed. I especially liked the exhibit on the Rime Frost they encounter during the winter. The super-cooled water in the clouds during the extreme cold of winter will instantly adhere to anything it encounters, be it buildings, instruments, or people. It can create some very beautiful effects, the most common being a spear of ice that heads into the wind (not away from the wind) and must be removed every hour using crowbars to break it from the instruments at the Observatory.