Rob Burbank's Outdoors with the AMC: Which hut is that?

By ROB BURBANK June 02. 2018 5:19PM


The Appalachian Mountain Club's high mountain hut system is now open for the full-service season, and with eight huts in the mix, it's not hard to find a few unique qualities that separate one from the others, or make one or another stand out as a favorite.

Open to AMC members and nonmembers alike, the huts are spaced a day's hike apart along a 53-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains.

The highest, biggest, and most popular? Hike on up to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, above treeline at 5,012 feet above sea level on the shoulder of mighty Mount Washington. With its location 1 1/2 miles below the 6,288-foot summit, it's frequented by day-trippers arriving at the top via the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Still others arrive from a variety of approach trails to enjoy a fresh-cooked dinner, an overnight stay, and a hearty breakfast before heading out to explore the high peaks.

The hut can accommodate 90 overnight guests and is the largest of the eight in the system.

The full-service season runs from early June through Sept. 15, Sept. 22, or Oct. 20, depending on the location, and guests can expect bunkroom lodging (either in the main hut or in detached bunkhouses) with mattress, pillow, and blankets; all-you-can-eat dinner and breakfast; and educational programs focused on the hut and surrounding flora and fauna.

While the accommodations and overall experience is similar at each hut, details vary. Can you identify the attributes of the various huts?

1. What is the westernmost hut in the AMC hut system?

2. Which was the first hut with indoor plumbing?

3. Which hut features steel-beam construction?

4. Which AMC huts are located above treeline?

5. What site has hosted an AMC hut since 1888?

6. Which was the first hut built with the assistance of donkeys that hauled in construction materials?

7. Which building still used as a hut is the oldest in the AMC hut system?

8. Which hut replaced a high-elevation refuge?

9. Which two huts are especially popular with anglers?

10. Which hut is near a resident population of carnivorous plants?

11. What alternative energy systems are used to provide electrical power in the huts?

12. Which huts are open in the winter on a self-service basis?

Answers:

1. Situated near the shore of Lonesome Lake at an elevation of 2,760 feet in Franconia Notch State Park, Lonesome Lake Hut is the westernmost in the AMC hut system. The most popular access route is via the Lonesome Lake Trail and parts of the Cascade Brook and Fishin' Jimmy trails.

2. Greenleaf Hut, 1.1 miles below the summit of Mount Lafayette in the Franconia Range, opened in 1930 and was the first hut to feature running water and indoor toilets. Operation of Greenleaf and the cabins at Lonesome Lake in 1930 marked the early days of the AMC hut system's "Western Division." Zealand Falls Hut and Galehead Hut would follow, both opening in 1932. This major expansion period was driven and overseen by Hut System Manager Joe Dodge, a larger-than-life figure in the White Mountains, who worked for AMC from 1922 to 1959.

3. Mizpah Spring Hut, built in 1964-'65, features steel beams and was designed to withstand heavy snow loads and 200 mph winds.

4. Lakes of the Clouds Hut (at an elevation of 5,012 feet) and Madison Spring Hut (at 4,800 feet) are both located above treeline. Greenleaf Hut is not above treeline, but is situated at the treeline (an ecological area known as the ecotone), at 4,220 feet above sea level.

5. AMC has maintained a hut in the saddle between Mount Madison and Mount Adams in the Northern Presidential Range since the original Madison Spring Hut was built there in 1888. Several incarnations of huts have stood at the site in the intervening years. The current Madison, at a 4,800-foot elevation, was extensively renovated in 2010 and 2011.

6. A mule team imported from Roswell, N.M., in 1929, was the first team of "donks" to assist in hut construction with the building of Greenleaf Hut. In a development that would become a subsidiary of AMC, the White Mountain Jackass Company and its four-legged critters helped haul supplies for hut operations and construction until 1964 or so.

7. The stone hut at Carter Notch, built in 1914, is the oldest existing hut in the AMC system.

8. Built in 1915, Lakes of the Clouds Hut replaced the Crawford Path Refuge, a tiny shelter built near the lakes, following the tragic deaths of William Curtis and Allan Ormsbee, who died in a storm near there on June 30, 1900, while enroute to an AMC meeting on Mount Washington's summit.

9. Long stocked by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, the lakes at Carter Notch Hut and Lonesome Lake Hut hold brook trout.

10. The carnivorous sundew ekes out its existence in the highly acidic soils near Lonesome Lake and its namesake hut by drawing sustenance from insects that it ensnares.

11. All eight huts employ solar panels to generate electricity for lighting, refrigeration, and two-way radios, and some also use wind power generators. In addition, Zealand Falls Hut employs a micro-hydropower system.

12. When the full-service season wraps up, three AMC huts remain open on a self-service basis. During self-service, a caretaker remains in residence to maintain the hut, and guests provide their own food and have full use of the hut's kitchen-including the oven, stove, cookware and dinnerware-to prepare their meals. Guests also provide their own sleeping bags during self-service season. The three self-service huts are Carter Notch, Zealand Falls, and Lonesome Lake.

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AMC huts in the White Mountain National Forest are operated under a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. Lonesome Lake Hut in Franconia Notch State Park is operated in partnership with the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation.

Reservations are required for overnight accommodations, and may be requested at AMCLodging@outdoors.org or 603-466-2727.

(The source for much of the information above is "Passport to AMC's High Huts in the White Mountains," written by Ty Wivell and published by AMC Books.)

Rob Burbank is director of external relations for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column, "Outdoors with the AMC," appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.


Outdoors with the AMC

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