Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: AMC marks 125th year of White Mountain huts
Built in 1888 at an elevation of 4,800 feet between Mounts Adams and Madison in New Hampshire's Presidential Range, the Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC's) Madison Spring Hut was America's first mountain hut for hikers.
After Madison came a network of huts spaced a day's hike apart along a 56-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. AMC is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the White Mountain huts this summer with programs, activities and opportunities for people to share their hut memories online.
Just launched this past week, the website outdoors.org/huts125 invites visitors to upload photos of their hut experiences and share stories of their time in the huts. Hut-related conversations and photos can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AMCHuts.
Madison Spring was home to several versions of huts over the decades, and AMC still operates a hut at that site. Renovated in 2010 and 2011, the Madison is one of eight huts AMC operates for the public, stretching from Carter Notch Hut in the east to Lonesome Lake Hut in the west. Each has a different look and feel, and surroundings vary from lower elevations, where a hut may be tucked beside a waterfall or nestled in a remote notch, to above-treeline locations where huts have challenging access trails and reward intrepid climbers with sweeping vistas.
The huts open for the full-service season June 1. A hut stay includes a hearty, home-cooked dinner and breakfast, bunkroom accommodations and educational programming, such as naturalist-led walks and talks. There are also kid-friendly activities, such as those found in AMC's Junior Naturalist activity books.
Hikers visiting the huts can travel relatively light, since they don't need to carry a tent or cook stove. Many hikers bring along a sleeping bag, but bunks are equipped with a pillow, mattress and blankets, so sheets or a lightweight sleep sack will do.
The huts are off the grid, so alternative energy systems, such as wind and solar power, are used to provide power to run the huts' lights, refrigeration and two-way radios. Food waste composting is practiced at all the huts and several are equipped with composting toilets to further minimize impacts on natural resources.
Hut crew members pack in food and supplies, and hike out trash and recyclables on twice-weekly hikes, their loads piled in boxes lashed to wooden packboards. Crew members also do the cooking and cleaning, and provide guests with information and hike-planning assistance.
The huts serve as venues for research on alpine ecology and air quality, and hut crews play an important role as search-and-rescue volunteers.
In recognition of the anniversary, a guided hike to Carter Notch Hut is planned for July 2 to 5. (Details are available at outdoors.org.huts125, or by calling 466-2727.) Built in 1914, Carter is the system's oldest hut still in use. Located between the Wildcat and Carter ranges, the hut provides a great overnight spot for hikers tackling the lofty 4,000-foot peaks in both ranges. Rates are reduced by 10 percent at Carter this season.
On the western end of the hut system, Lonesome Lake Hut is offering an extra incentive for families this summer: Kids stay and eat free. One child may stay free per paying adult. Lonesome Lake Hut offers the shortest access trail of any of the huts (though it does contain some steep terrain). The hut is located near a mountain pond where hikers can cool off on hot summer days.
Early season hut guests booking a three-night or more stay between June 2 and June 28 can save 30 percent if booked by May 15 and the booking code HUTS125 is mentioned.
AMC is partnering with Eastern Mountain Sports on a raffle to celebrate the huts 125th, with gear prizes and a grand prize of eight nights at any AMC hut or combination of huts. Details are at outdoors.org.
Evening programs at the huts this summer are slated to cover hut operations, "green" technologies and the history of these mountain hostelries.
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.
More information is available, and reservations may be requested, at outdoors.org/huts125, or by calling 466-2727.
Rob Burbank is the director of media and public affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Pinkham Notch. His column appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.