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Monday, July 13, 2015

Hut to Hut Hiking in the White Mountains

If the thought of carrying a heavy pack has ever deterred you from trying a multi-day hiking trip, consider a visit to New Hampshire's White Mountains where the Appalachian Mountain Club offers accommodations and meals in a number of high huts. Each hiker need only carry her own clothing, water, snacks and safety provisions. Heavier items such as tents, sleeping bags and mats, and cooking gear are not needed.

My family made an early June north to south traverse of the high peaks of the White Mountains over four days and three nights, starting at the Appalachia trail head on Route 2. The route is also known as "The Presidential Traverse" since the peaks along the way are named for Presidents. From the Appalachia trail head there are numerous trails, of varying length and steepness, leading to the Madison Spring Hut, our first night's destination. The easiest of these is Valley Way, the route preferred by hut attendants packing in supplies. We opted for Amphibrach and Spur trails. Though slightly longer than other routes, it is less busy - we didn't see any other hikers for most of the day - and put us at Crag Camp at lunch time. (Crag Camp, operated by the Randolph Mountain Club, is a self-service hut, so you need to bring your own sleeping bag, food, and cooking equipment if you plan to stay the night.)

On the deck at Crag Camp

From Crag Camp we continued on to Thunderstorm Junction and finally the Madison Spring Hut which sits just above tree-line on the flank of Mt. Madison. Originally built in 1888, rebuilt in 1941 after a fire, and recently remodeled, it is the quintessential White Mountain hut: large bunk rooms, open dining room with rows of long tables and benches for communal meals, an enthusiastic croo (sic), and decades of guest registers lined up on the bookshelf. We were delighted to find the renovations had made the bunk rooms more spacious and significantly improved the view from the dining room, without detracting from the hut's character.

Madison Spring Hut

We arrived with enough time before dinner to explore the hut's environs. A few of our party climbed Mt. Madison. I spent time around Star Lake.

Star Lake

After dinner we were all treated to a magnificent sunset.

Sunset reflected in Madison Spring Hut's windows

The following morning we continued our traverse of the Presidentials: over Mts. Adams, Jefferson and Clay,

Along the ridge to Mt. Washington

(and the cog railway track),

Mt. Washington cog railway and summit buildings (at upper right)

to the 6,288 foot summit of Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the range.

Fortress-like buildings at the top house a weather observatory, a museum, gift shop, cafeteria, and post office.

Mt. Washington summit

Some people just continue on over the top without stopping, but having reached the summit, I like to savor being up high. We toured Tip Top House, the summit's oldest surviving building, dating from 1853,

visited the museum, and had a leisurely lunch before continuing on to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, the largest of AMC's huts with bunks for 90 hikers.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Even though the afternoon's hike was short, it felt good to remove our boots.

Hot feet in a cold bunk room

And to bask in the afternoon sun, taking in early season alpine flowers and the ever-changing sky.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut and the ridge to Mt. Washington

It was a perfect time for a few rows of knitting. 

Ebb Tide hat, design by Kate Salomon for Green Mountain Spinnery 

At dinner we shared stories and the next day's plans along with the food.

Dinner at Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Hearty appetites and enthusiastic efforts by hut croos ensure that meals are always great.

Bread is baked fresh daily by the hut croo

It was another fine evening for watching the sunset.

Sunset at Lakes of the Clouds

Evening light at Lakes of the Clouds

In the morning we continued southwest along the ridge crossing Mts. Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce

Along the Crawford Path towards Mizpah Spring Hut

to Mizpah Spring Hut, usually referred to simply as "Mizpah." Mizpah is dramatically different from the high alpine huts of our first two nights, sited as it is in the boreal forest. As we descended below treeline we encountered more wildlife, including this curious grey jay

Grey jay

and this spruce grouse.

Spruce grouse

We departed Mizpah in fog and mist,

On the trail below Mizpah Spring Hut

which burned off by the time we reached the best views along the Webster Cliff trail,

Webster Cliff trail

and left us in dappled sunshine as we reach the trailhead along Route 302.  (We had used the AMC shuttle to leave our vehicle here).

While we had four days of fine weather, the White Mountains are famous for bad weather. 

One of many warning signs in the White Mountains

If you go, be prepared for the worst with extra layers for warmth and wind and rain protection. Even in clear weather it is possible to stray from your path so have a map and compass and know how to use them. For further information on equipment and hiking in the White Mountains, and for reserving a spot in one or more huts, visit the AMC website.

By the way, I finished my hat shortly after the hike and though you might think it will be a long time before I have a chance to wear it, I actually wore it on a trip earlier this month. Check back soon to find out where. 

Ebb Tide Hat

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting these wonderful pictures.... and I love the hat you knitted too.