The summit of New Hampshire's Mount Washington is notorious for its extreme weather. Though only 6,288 feet tall, the mountain is situated in the paths of three storm tracks which often converge and collide there. Conditions can change quickly. Hurricane-force winds are not uncommon. Snowfall is heavy. Winters are long. Mount Washington's low temperatures are comparable to the coldest places on the planet (like Mt. Everest's summit and the poles).
"Home of the world's worst weather" is not an empty slogan.
Conditions have been monitored at an observatory there since the early 1930s. From the beginning, pets have been part of the crew - usually cats. (In fact, they're the only permanent residents; the human staff work weekly shifts.) Their furry companionship has always been welcome. Especially during winter, the summit can be a lonely place.
Since 2008, Mount Washington's mascot has been a handsome black Maine coon cat named Marty. Though he sometimes gets a bit shy when the summer and early autumn crowds appear, he has the run of the place. Because I typically summit early in the morning before most people arrive, I've been lucky to spend some quality time with Mr. Marty.
His "mewsings" about life on the mountain are a regular feature each quarter in Windswept, the Members of the Observatory magazine.
I've been thinking a lot about Marty lately. I'd been planning on visiting him again last month, but due to the pandemic my trip back East was shelved. Though I was disappointed about not being able to photograph the foliage show, I was more downhearted about not being able to see Marty. After all, he's an elder statesman. The clock is ticking and I can hear it.
When my latest issue of Windswept arrived the other day, as always I looked for Marty's column first - and this time he surprised me with an announcement of his plan to retire after this winter. Having put in 12 years of service on the summit, he said it would soon be time to bid farewell to both the Rock Pile and his co-workers, and head to the valley below to enjoy his golden years amidst grass and trees.
It seemed fitting to mark the occasion and write a little something about this wonderful fellow.
Still wrapping my head around the fact that his pending retirement meant I wouldn't again see him on the summit, I was crushed this morning to learn that Marty suffered a medical emergency earlier this month from which he couldn't be saved.
Now he plays in the lush meadows at the Rainbow Bridge.
Au revior, chérie. Job well done. You are missed by many.
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