Sunday, May 13, 2007


Logically, undercast is the opposite of overcast - clouds obscuring valleys to higher vantage points. Since nearly everyone is bound to the surface of the earth most of their lives, it often comes as a surprise to hear the term. As the hut naturalist at Mizpah last fall, morning forecasts from the Mt. Washington Observatory of "the summit will enjoy a beautiful undercast while the valleys below are under gray skies" required plenty of explanation for curious guests.

On this day in mid-October, Tessa, Mizpah's assistant hutmaster, and I hiked up the southern Presidentials quickly so as to beat the rising clouds to the top of Washington. Just above Lakes of the Clouds, we emerged into the clear. The billowy, shining tops of cumulus clouds stretched as far as the horizon, making the above-treeline ecological island a visual one, as well. The sensation was oddly exciting and comforting, a reminder of our temporary and happy isolation from the human world (mostly) below.

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