The road less traveled…

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AMC Lodges, the good, the bad, and the free food for thru-hikers.

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) lodges are located throughout the Whites for people to stay in. They cost approximately $100/night/person and include dinner and breakfast. This is obviously out of most thru-hikers budgets, but they do cater to us in other ways. All of their leftovers need to be packed out at the end of the week, so when thru-hikers stop in during the day they are sometimes lucky enough to get whatever was not eaten the night before, therefore making it less food that the “AMC crew” needs to pack out. At Galehead Hut I arrived around lunchtime with some other thru-hikers and they gave us some leftover teriyaki chicken and bread. Some other day hikers also gave us some tootsie pops as trail magic. The lodges also offer work-for-stay for thru-hikers. This is sometimes very competitive as most lodges only have 2 slots available and you have to arrive around the right time of day to get one of the slots before they are either filled or the crew turns you away because it is too early. Blue Fox and I tried to get to Zealand Falls Hut to do a work-for-stay, but we knew it was going to be close. When we arrived there was only one slot available and we knew that there were 2 more thru-hikers behind us. However the AMC crew was really generous and let all 5 of us do work-for-stay. My “work” consisted of hanging outside after dinner and talking to all of the guests about my thru-hike. It was basically a little Q&A session. Other chores are doing the dishes, cleaning out bunk rooms, cleaning the kitchen, helping put food away, or whatever task needs done around the hut. It is usually pretty simply work, they know that we have been hiking all day and are usually exhausted.

A bonus of staying at the hut is that once the guests are done with dinner, we get to eat with the crew and have whatever leftovers there are. GOOD home cooked meals are definitely worth waiting for. After eating and doing the chores we just had to wait until 9:30 lights out and we could spread our sleeping mats in the common room and have a nice place indoors to sleep. We were also welcome to stay and help with breakfast in the morning and get any leftovers from another meal, but I never ended up doing this as I liked to get going fairly early and staying would mean not hiking until around 10 a.m. That was just too late of a start for me.

I only ended up doing work-for-stay at 2 of the huts. Zealand Falls Hut and the Lake of the Clouds Hut. The Lake of the Clouds Hut is located very near the top of Mt. Washington so it was the busiest hut with the most people. I was able to get to the top of Mt. Washington fairly early with some other hikers and hang out at the visitors center watching the Cog Trains come up the mountain and all the tourists coming and going. The clouds parted enough while I was there to see the fantastic view and continued clearing off and on throughout the day.

Weather is known to change quickly and drastically in the Whites and it definitely happened to me as I got to Mt. Madison. Suddenly I was hiking in a rain cloud on slippery rocks and trying to see one cairn (rock piles to show where the trail goes above treeline) and then the next cairn so that I wouldn’t lose the trial. It was a low point of my day. When I got to Madison Hut for a break, the crew gave me and 3 other hikers a chocolate cake that they couldn’t serve the guests and we all ate more then a normal serving of cake should be. Quite the healthy snack break if I do say so myself.

So far in the Whites I was blessed with more then decent weather, but that came to an end as I left Pinkham Notch and started climbing the Wildcat Range. It poured rain the entire day. It was slippery and scary and more then once I had moments where I could have been seriously injured. But I kept on trekking, one foot after another, I had a Pig Roast I had to get to. Sometimes I wonder where I got the mental strength to get through the days that completely left me drained and miserable, but I kept going. Because of the crappy weather and the terrain I gave up hope on trying to find a good stealth site to pitch my tent, so I headed to the shelter for the night and decided to just pay the $8 fee that I had been avoiding. It was great getting out of the rain and there was only one other hiker there, who was a girl. Girls night in a shelter, that was a first. 😉 Usually there’s a ridiculous amount of testosterone, it was a nice reprieve. An added bonus was the caretaker had thru-hiked in the past and was really easy-going so he only wrote us down as 1 hiker, meaning I only paid $4 for the entirety of the Whites. I was pretty impressed with that.

By the next morning after hiking a few miles, the bottomless pit of mental energy that I thought I had, was completely gone. The strain of getting through the Whites on such a quick timetable had finally caught up with me and I knew that I had to change my plans. So instead of hiking another couple of days at an insane pace hoping to get where I needed to be, I stopped at the next highway which was my last chance to get off the trail for a while, and headed to Gorham, NH.
I made a few calls and one of my bestest friends from Maine drove 2 hours to come get me and bring me home. I surprised Joe by being home a couple days earlier then planned and then we went out to my favorite restaurant, met up with some other friends and had a fantastic reunion. My mental happiness was quickly returning! Normally when people hike through the Whites they do slower days, 8-13 miles a day. I was hiking anywhere from 14-19 miles a day, which explains why I almost had a serious mental breakdown. The Pig Roast was only a couple days away and I was happy to take those 2 days to relax before the craziness began. Here comes my next vacation from the trail!

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August 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment