THE EIGHT White Mountains huts operated for the public by the Appalachian Mountain Club open for the full-service season on Wednesday.
Crews are fresh off an intensive stretch of training days to prepare them for their many duties as they help guests make a closer connection with the outdoors this summer.
Full-service season offers the classic AMC hut experience, in which dinners and breakfasts are provided. Bunkroom lodging - with mattress, pillow and blankets - is part of the package. Educational programs focusing on the mountain environment help to enlighten and entertain.
Here are a few details you may or may not know about the AMC huts.They're good and sturdy. Despite the nomenclature, the AMC huts aren't made of thatch. They're sturdy buildings built to stand up to the demanding weather found in the area.
That's especially true of the three huts at or above treeline - Greenleaf, Madison Spring and Lakes of the Clouds - where the winds blow the fiercest. The huts provide indoor lodging in spectacular outdoor locations.There's another hut within a day's hike. AMC's eight huts are located a day's hike apart along a 56-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains.
Trails connect the huts, and each hut has an approach trail that leaves from a roadside trailhead. Transportation between trailheads is provided by the AMC Hiker Shuttle.
The AMC huts, lodges and programs are open to everyone. AMC membership, which helps support the club's stewardship mission, is open to all.
Members can choose affiliation with a local chapter, and they enjoy discounts on lodging, programs and AMC books.The huts offer the most fun you'll have folding a blanket. Guests have a role in helping to keep the hut neat - and that entails folding the blankets on their bunks. But there's a method to it: lengthwise once, widthwise twice.
The hut crew (or, "croo" in AMC vernacular) make it fun by performing silly skits to help you learn how to fold flawlessly."Pomp and Circumstance" hummed at breakfast. Kids between the ages of 5 and 12 are invited to become AMC Junior Naturalists by completing activities in the Junior Naturalist Activity Book.
They might learn how to identify trees, for instance, or go on a scavenger hunt by following the book's instructions.
Kids who successfully complete the activities (the same number of activities as the child's age) receive a certificate proclaiming their proficiency and an embroidered Junior Naturalist patch to sew on their jacket or pack.
Often, the awarding of these items is accompanied by a "graduation ceremony" at breakfast.Be sure to arrive by meal time. The huts are known for home-cooked, hearty and plentiful meals. You might find baked ham, veggie lasagna or roast turkey when you sit down to enjoy a family-style dinner - at 6 p.m. sharp - amid the company of other hut guests.
When it's a crew member's cook day, they're up early to cook breakfast and spend the rest of the day preparing dinner. All that fresh bread. Guests can also look forward to fresh-baked bread at the huts daily.
Dietary preferences can be accommodated with advance notice. Fresh food and supplies are toted to the huts on the strong backs of the crew, who pack their loads in cardboard boxes, lash the boxes to wooden packboards, shoulder them and head up the trail.You can have fun learning about the outdoors. In addition to the Junior Naturalist program, there are many enjoyable opportunities to learn about the mountain environment.
Each hut has a self-guided nature walk card, while hut naturalists provide hands-on insight into the hut's environs.
AMC is also fortunate to have a contingent of volunteer naturalists with demonstrated abilities in natural history who visit the huts and provide programs on such topics as flora and fauna, geology and astronomy.The huts are a Grand Adventure. The New Hampshire Grand program has recognized the AMC huts as a Certified Grand Adventure (nhgrand.com).They've been here awhile. The AMC huts celebrated their 125th anniversary last year in recognition of the first hut at Madison Spring, built in 1888 at an elevation of 4,800 feet in the col between mounts Adams and Madison.
Several iterations of huts have occupied the site in intervening years, and the current Madison Spring Hut was recently renovated. The oldest existing building in the AMC hut system, Carter Notch Hut, marks its 100th year this year.
AMC huts in the White Mountain National Forest are operated under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. AMC's Lonesome Lake Hut is operated in partnership with the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation.
Reservations for overnight stays can be made, and more information can be obtained, by calling 466-2727, or requesting a reservation online at outdoors.org.
National Trails Day
Volunteers are encouraged to spend some time giving back to the trails they love by participating in National Trails Day Activities June 7. AMC is organizing a work day in Crawford Notch on that day.
Participants are meeting at 9 a.m. at the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch. Preregistration is required by contacting Alison Violette at 466-8156, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional trail work opportunities are also available on National Trails Day. Visit outdoors.org and search on "National Trails Day" for details.
National Trails Day is sponsored by the American Hiking Society with participation by trail maintenance organizations and individuals across the country.
Rob Burbank is director of media and public affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly.