After coming home from Asia, I returned to my old stomping grounds in New Hampshire and revisited a job I had not done since the fall of 2014 (as mentioned in A Quick Hut Wrap Up): Appalachian Mountain Club Hut ‘Croo.’ After a few months of unfamiliar landscapes, languages, and foods, it was really nice to be home, and back to a place I love with people I love. I worked on the croo at Mizpah Springs Hut from August to October 2016, and at Carter Notch Hut as a caretaker from October 2016 to January 2017.
My recent revisit to the hut system allowed me to really take the time to see the White Mountains in a new light and allowed me to reflect on why I like working in the hut system so much.
Before I talk about the huts, allow me to recount a time when I worked at Camp Walt Whitman, also in New Hampshire. One summer, I was slated to lead a hike we affectionately call “Insanity.” It is a one day Presidential traverse, on which we take 14 and 15 year olds, around 26 miles long, hitting each summit in the range. The night before, we camp at Zealand Campground on Rt. 302 in order to hit the Crawford Path around 5 am the next day. However, just days before the hike I became very ill, and spent my time leading up to insanity just laying in bed for a few days. It was starting to look like I would no longer be able to hike this big hike. When the day arrived I wasn’t feeling good enough for hiking, but felt capable to assume the role of co-base camp manager and shuttle driver. My role then instead shifted to driving all the participants and leaders to the camp site, helping set up camp, planning and cooking a meal that fuel them for the next day’s hike, and then clean up camp after their departure and pick them up at the other end of the hike. Despite my disappointment in being unable to hike this massive hike alongside my friends and campers, I found an unexpected satisfaction out of being base camp manager. What I realized is that I was able to do a number of little things, mostly logistical, before and after their hike that helped set them up for success. It turned out that everyone had a successful hike that day, and I played some role in allowing them to execute the entire thing. I think setting other people up for success in the mountains is a common thread throughout the entire outdoor industry, and it’s the one that provides me with the most satisfaction.
Returning back to the White Mountains this past fall as an AMC hut croo, I once again felt that sense of satisfaction. This time, I was able to identify it more than I had my first season, and that same sense of setting people up for success fueled most of my motivation for doing a great job in the huts. In a financial sense, I don’t provide anything for the hut guests, such as the food or the shelter, those are provided by the AMC. But I am able to provide the services, such as cooking, that allow guests to access and use these resources over the course of their trip. No matter who comes through that door, I know I can do something to help or enhance that person’s experience in the White Mountains.
One of the main jobs of an AMC Hut Croo member is cooking. We cook dinner and breakfast for all hut guests, and fresh soup and baked goods throughout the day for hikers looking for a snack as they’re traveling through. Whether providing someone with a hot balanced meal as they come in from a stormy afternoon to help their body recover from the days’ stress, or serving a breakfast of pancakes with real maple syrup and eggs as the frosty windows fog up on the inside to fuel the hikers up before they head out on a cold clear morning, I take a large amount of pride in doing it. I love hiking the food up to the hut twice a week. Many times we are asked about local trails. I love providing accurate and detailed trail advice, especially for folks that are unfamiliar with the area. It helps them understand their surroundings and plan a safe trip, and hopefully hypes them up for the incredible landscape their are about to experience. Sometimes people enter the hut having never been before. I usually start by orienting them to the facility and whats available to them, and I love showing people to their freshly swept bunkrooms, allowing them to settle onto their mattress for a restful, dry, and warm night of sleep. While of course we hope it never happens, the fact of the matter is that most AMC Hut Croos are called out on some type of search and rescue at some point. I am glad I can be a part of helping keep people safe in the mountains and respond to their needs in the event of injury or illness. I know I have the knowledge, skills, and training to aid them in a number of difficult situations, and knowing I can assist them in a time of need is rewarding. These are just a few of the duties held by hut croo.
All of these little things are details I can take care of to ensure that other hikers are successful and safe in the mountains. I very much want to achieve my personal goals and have excellent trips, so I gain a lot of satisfaction from ensuring others can do so as well. While some people who are a bit more hardcore may frown upon those who stay in the huts for their convenience and comforts, I am thankful for them. Not only do they ensure that I have a job, but more importantly they allow me to share my passions, skills, and knowledge with them in a way I would not be able to with those who are hiking/backpacking independently of me or the hut system. Everyone builds their own recreation experience, and the hut system is a useful tool for many different types of people to enter the backcountry. I’m just happy to be there to ensure they have a safe and fun time. Whether working in the huts, instructing, or simply giving friends advice on their gear purchases, I think the common thread that runs throughout each situation is that I’m helping these people learn new skills or a new place and make a great decisions to be successful in the mountains, and to me, that’s what it’s all about.
Personal Highlights from the Past Two Seasons:
When I had left New Hampshire in 2014, I was a little burned out. I had been working there for many seasons and had done most of the big hitters multiple times. When I returned, my intention was to see the White Mountains in a new light and explore places I haven’t been much. I thankfully go to do just that. While working at Mizpah Springs Hut, I chose to spend a considerable amount of time in the Dry River Wilderness, despite my close access to the Presidential Range, because I had been in the Presis so much before. I enjoyed days spent at Dry River Falls, in the Dry River Valley, and Mt. Isolation. I also secured a job as a caretaker at Carter Notch Hut as fall turned into winter. The job of a caretaker is a bit different that of croo, but I got to spend my ‘late fall’ at Carter Notch Hut, the hut at which I had previously spent the least amount of time. Exploring Carter Notch in the snow was a huge treat. Hours spent reading inside Carter Notch Hut as I’d go days without seeing people was also rewarding. New Hampshire also became an excellent jumping off point for me to visit the Quebec province of Canada. I enjoyed a few visits to Montreal and Quebec City, and even hiked my first Canadian peak, Mount Saint Anne! Hopefully many more to come!