Late Season at the High Huts

This weekend marks the end of the full-service high huts season. Madison Spring Hut and Lakes of the Clouds closed their doors to guests last month until the new season begins in 2011. After Saturday night, October 16, Mizpah Spring, Galehead, and Greenleaf will do the same.

Beginning next week, Zealand and Lonesome Lake will join Carter Notch (at 3,288 feet the highest of the winter-season huts) in the self-service season. Guests can still bed down in the huts’ bunks and use the kitchens, but must pack in their food. Hut croos are replaced by winter caretakers.

We felt the lateness of the season last weekend, over the Columbus Day holiday, when Jim, Ursula, and I hiked up to Mizpah Spring Hut with friends Chris and Patty and their daughters Sarah and Rita. The four of them had reservations for two nights and designs on the summits of Pierce, Eisenhower, and Jackson.

We’d tried too late for our reservations. Even though the weather report at the Highland Center at Crawford Notch called for winds gusting to 75 miles per hour over the summits and temperatures at tree line 5 to 10 degrees on either side of zero with wind chill, we still couldn’t get off Mizpah’s wait list. Instead, we joined them for the hike in.

Twelve-year-old Ursula has long enjoyed her position as the “middle girl” in this long-standing trio: Sarah just started high school, Rita middle school. The three girls share an ease in the outdoors, a love of books and language, and a goofy sense of humor. Ursula is always happy to meet up with Rita and Sarah, even if it’s only for a two-and-a-half mile hike on a cold and windy day — and especially when her younger brother (who stayed behind for a friend’s birthday and overnight) isn’t getting in her way.

The three girls took off quickly up the Crawford Path and stayed just around the next bend most of the way. Protected from the wind by the forest, we were warmer on the trail than we’d been in the parking lot. Too soon, we arrived at the hut, but ready to warm up with hot chocolate and tea. While the girls played cutthroat games of cards, the adults talked, warming ourselves again with long friendships formed and sustained in the outdoors.

Then it was time for the three of us to head back down the trail. We were on the highway, driving home, with the heater blowing hot air to Ursula in the back seat, when night fell. Before we’d said good-bye to Chris and Patty and Sarah and Rita, though, we’d schemed about next year’s hikes. One of our promises: to plan further ahead for hut reservations.

Learn more
- Information about Mizpah Spring Hut.
- Explore AMC’s hut and lodging options online.
- “Trail of Years,” a history of the Crawford Path by Madeleine Eno (AMC Outdoors, April 2000). Crawford Path is considered the oldest continuously maintained trail in the country.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.