Smithsonian Institute Shelter!

Smithsonian Institution Shelter
What is it? This hut atop Mount Whitney was once an observatory but is now a shelter!
What makes it historical? The trail to the top of Mount Whitney was completed on July 22, 1904, giving access to the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Four days later, Byrd Surby of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries was struck and killed by lightning at the summit! Construction of a hut at the summit began five years later with funding from the Smithsonian Institute and the Lick Observatory, who meant to use the hut to study solar radiation and look for water on Mars at a high altitude!

It took just under a month to build the hut, with all the native granite and building supplies carted up the steep trail by mule! Gustave Marsh, who organized construction of the original trail, oversaw the building of the hut as well. Once it was complete, Dr. W.W. Campbell of the Lick Observatory hauled up a 16″ horizontal reflective telescope and spectroscope to demonstrate once and for all that liquid water did not exist on Mars!

How can I Help the Helpers? HERE’S HOW:

  • Volunteer with the US Forest Service!
  • Become a member of Friends of the Inyo!
  • Be a responsible visitor! Please respect the signs and pathways, and treat all structures and artifacts with respect. They’ve endured a lot to survive into the present. They’ll need our help to make it into the future!
Where is this place? Since the hut is at the top of the Mt. Whitney trail, I can only provide the GPS coordinates: 36°34’43.0″N 118°17’32.5″W

From Los Angeles: ~223mi (359km) — 12.8hrs
From Sacramento: ~360mi (580km) — 15hrs
From San Diego: ~319mi (514km) — 14.4hrs
From San Francisco: ~377mi (607km) — 15.3hrs

When should I go? You’ll have to apply for a permit to hike this mountain; the best time weatherwise would be in late August or early September!

Click here to see more sites on the National Register of Historic Places!

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