Saturday, March 10, 2012

3/10/12 - Calm on the Summit

 The change from foul weather to fair, from dark, sluggish hours to serene, elastic ones, is a memorable crisis which all things proclaim.
Henry David Thoreau - 3/26/1846 - Journal*
* forms the basis of the chapter entitled Spring in Walden

Before I review the week's progress on the mountain, I must mention an organization which is very interested in the happenings on Wachusett.  In fact, the organization is very interested in what happens on any mountain in the world (and especially in America) which lays claim to a Lookout Tower.  That organization is the Forest Fire Lookout Association and is involved in research of former forest fire lookout sites, ground cabins and early forest fire detection methods.  Visit them at Forest Fire Lookout Association.  I am honored that they chose to use some of my photographs in their quarterly publication Lookout Network.  Visit their site and take a look at some of the other towers that stand throughout the United States; perhaps you can visit one someday soon.

And now it is time to visit our closest and to me, our dearest Lookout Tower site.

A chilly and dark afternoon it was and with tomorrow being quite busy at home, I thought it a good time to dress for the outdoors and head to the mountain.  And as you can see from the picture below, it turned out to be warmer than expected with the sun breaking through the clouds by mid-afternoon.
Afternoon Sunshine Lights up the Southern Face of Our Two Cabs
It was quiet on the mountain today and even though I could hear the ski lift in operation just over the northern edge of the summit, it still seemed eerily quiet.  It took a moment for me to figure it out.  The last of the high-lift cranes, the orange one that has been present from day one, has rolled down the road and off the summit this past week.  The large rock pile has been removed; only a few large rocks remain.  With the exception of one bulldozer and the water tank, both sitting to the side of the site, the new tower pretty much stands alone ... as she will for years and years to come.  The Coastal Survey marker remains surrounded by the hay bales.  Indeed, we are certainly on the "back nine" of this project.

Four things are clearly not yet in place:
  1. Hand railings which will be affixed to the anchors on either side of the ramp.
  2. The walkways on the ramps for the north, the west and the south.  I am not sure if they will be of wood or of metal.  Since they are not yet in place, I suspect that they will be of metal.  [probably another reason for the project delays.]
  3. The retractable vertical ladder the goes from the observation deck to the first level stairway to the cab.
  4. The electronic equipment has to be moved from the old tower to the new one.
Once these three occur, the old tower will probably then come down.  After that, the fence around the construction site will be removed and we will have free access to the new tower.

Eastern Wall and Ramp
 At the northeast corner, the ramp continues, but it will not be concrete.  Wood or metal grading will provide the walking surface.  For now, the workers use plywood which lays across the joists.

NE Corner

NE Corner and Old Glory
The flag was all knotted up so I untangled it and it spread open in the wind - a little worn and frayed, but no question about what she represents.

Plywood Ramp at the NW corner.
 Here again, we can see the anchors for the railings which have yet to be placed.

C-Clamp Securing a Wooden Railing Joing
 I am not sure of the purpose of the C-clamps, but they appear at the joint of two pieces of the top railing that goes around the outside of the ramp.  This clamp is on the inside of the railing so only the top and bottom are visible right at the joint.

View Down the Northern Wall
 Between the Red Metal Construction Office and the tower, you can see a cylindrical cement structure.  This has been the compass stand for the unofficial "summit."  Climb up and stand on that!  Your climb to the summit is official ... or it always was, before the new observation deck appeared.

Western Ramp From the Ground
 Nice stone work Mick!

Western Wall

SW Corner
I notice this week that the "broken" sections of the ramp fence have either been replaced or repaired.  They are now positioned.  And for the most part, the topmost wooden railing is now continuous.

View to The East off the Southern Side
As I wrote above, the site is now clear, except for the water tank and a single backhoe.

Sun Creeps Behind the Towers
Late Afternoon on the Summit
Skiing continues, but obviously, the snow from last week is now but a memory.  Spring is coming fast.  I saw birds building nests for new families as I trekked back to the car.

Looking Towards Worcester

So at last, the end of this project is in sight.  The air was quiet, the site was pretty much empty, and I could imagine what it will be like in a few months when a "new" normalcy reigns over Wachusett.  Right now, it leaves an empty void in the activity I have witnessed for the past 11 months.  It's a different feeling, but one that we will all adjust to and find quite comforting over time.

Til Next Week.  We're not quite finished yet.

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