All Things Considered
5:46 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Can You See New Hampshire From Mount Washington? And Other Unusual Questions Asked At the Summit

The summit of New Hampshire’s highest mountain is, of course, known for the “worst weather in the world.” But we learned late last week that the summit of Mount Washington is also home to some of the greatest questions in the world.

"This mountain is man made, isn't it?"
"Which of those mountains out there is Everest?"
"Is this named after the state of Washington?"
"What percentage of people who come up here die?"

“It’s just mindboggling sometimes,” Mike Pelchat says. He's the manager of Mount Washington State Park. Last week he wrote a blog post of the Top 100 True Questions of Mt Washington State Park employees at the Summit Information Desk. “Since I started up there in 1979, we’ve kept a little secret list, and it has grown – there’s over 300 questions and we boiled down the top hundred out of 300.”

A few more from those hundred:

"Where are the presidents’ faces carved into the mountain?"
"Does the train go up and down?"
"So, those piles of rocks, are they for baking chickens or what?"
"This is my first time up Mount Washington... what am I supposed to do now?"

This may sound hard to believe, but Mike Pelchat says not every question is as strange as it sounds. For example, here's the likely explanation behind one of the questions, “Are those clouds on a time schedule?”

“Some folks think that the clouds are on the same time schedule as the tides," Pelchat says. "They’re hoping to see something while they’re on the summit, and the summit’s in the clouds more often than not. And they think, us being locals, we know exactly when those clouds will blow away.”

Okay, but what about this one: “Is the summer White House up here?”

Pelchat suggests a possible explanation: “Well, because it’s the Presidential Range in the White Mountains, and it seems such an awesome place, they think, maybe the president summers up here, on such a magnificent area…" Though he does add: "I’m assuming" that's the reason.

Maybe we're being a little unfair. Pelchat points out a lot of the questions on the list may come from people who don't live in the area, and we can't expect them to know the local geography.

And he adds: “I just want to make sure that everybody knows that we don’t belittle anybody, there is no dumb question."

That said, "some of these questions do make us pause, before we can give a true, professional answer.”

Questions like these:

"I hike all the way up here. Ain’t I supposed to get a patch?"
"Those water barrels along the Auto Road that say 'Not for Drinking' – are they there just to torture thirsty hikers?"
"Is there a one hour time difference between here and the bottom of the road?"
"Are these rocks real? I can’t imagine anyone carrying them up from the bottom."

Special thanks to the NHPR Players: Taylor Quimby, Sara Plourde, Rick Ganley, Courtney Cania, Amanda Loder, Nathan Chervek, Rebecca Lavoie, Beth Szelog, Ryan Lessard and Andrew Parrella, who performed some of these questions for the on-air version of this story.

One last question from the list, which we couldn't even perform without laughing:

“Do you have a microwave oven?... Can I use it to dry my boyfriend’s pants?”

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