I was confused. “What does ‘The Whites’ mean?” I would ask other hikers. Did it mean all of the mountains in New Hampshire? Maybe it meant just The Presidential Range. I honestly thought it was just a few mountains in a row, not the slew of four-to-six-thousand-foot climbs that I would be doing in the next few weeks after leaving Gorham. On the AT, It includes The Carters, The Wildcats, The Presidentials, Franconia Ridge, The Kinsmans, and even Mt. Moosilauke.
This area of the Appalachian Trail is monitored, maintained, and managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. In the previous post, I arrived at Speck Pond Shelter to find my first AMC employee, “Lucky.” He told me that some thru-hikers have a different name for the AMC; the Appalacian Money Club. It’s true, one does have to pay to camp at the shelters, and even more at the huts (which are employed by a four or five person “croo”). It’s not a scam however, even if those pesky penny pinching hiker snobs say so. One can be fed breakfast or dinner, enjoy coffee, pastries, flowing water out of a tap, a bathroom, or even board games, books, and even maps. I enjoyed every minute of this part. Well, almost every minute.
Climbing The Carters was tough. Climbing down The Wildcats was tougher. Setting up camp at the top of Mt. Hight while it thundered, hailed, and poured was exhilarating and screwy. Sitting at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center at a picnic table with my stinky feet airing out and my pack’s insides all strewn about the table while all the tourists looked on as if I was a bear in a cage was weird and somehow prideful. Trudging up Mt. Madison was torturous but Daft Punk saved my day. Being around all of the “muggles” at the top of Mt. Washington was eye opening but I ate a piping hot bowl of chili. Sleeping on a table in the common area of The Lakes of the Clouds AMC Hut was comforting yet unusual. Franconia Ridge had no complaints here… and Moosilauke just was icing on The Whites cake.
I get to the last AMC Hut. It’s Lonesome Lake Hut. I walk up the steps to get inside and ask for a work for stay, which means thru-hikers get a random chore, can stay for free, and eat the leftovers from the dinner that was served that night. Typically there’s always enough leftovers for every thru-hiker and sometimes (like for me at the Lakes Hut…shhhh don’t tell) they forget to ask for your $10. Either way, usually there’s room for thru-hikers to sleep on the common area’s floor, or even a table.
For me, however, they had a cancellation. I was standing there, asking for the WFS, and one of the Croo says, “Work for stay? How about you get a hot dinner, a bed to sleep in, breakfast in the morning, and don’t have to do aaaaany work at all for free?” The thru-hiker next in line to ask for WFS was about to fall on the floor. I was honestly honored. My last AMC Hut, and I get to be treated like a guest. I put my pack into bunk room #1, took a walk around Lonesome Lake, ate a hearty dinner of salad, stuffed shells, broccoli, and cookies, slept well, woke to the Croo singing a morning song to the guests for breakfast, ate sausage, eggs, and coffee cake, and can’t seriously recommend it enough. It may be pricey to stay at these remote huts in the summer, but the college kids who are employed there are tough as nails (they have to pack in all of the supplies and out all of the trash!), treat everyone with respect, and from my experience, treated every thru-hiker as if they really were guests. I was just incredibly lucky.
And then it was The Kinsmans as well as Mt. Moosilauke. The Kinsmans were tough, but hardly memorable… as for Moosilauke, well there’s some Roberts history there.
When my paternal grandfather, Samuel Roberts went to Dartmouth College (1947-51), he was a member of the Dartmouth Outing Club. This club actually takes care of and manages (much like the AMC) the trails surrounding Dartmouth, as well as Mt. Moosilauke. Well Grampa, or as we Roberts call him, “Baga,” worked on that same mountain when he was attending school. Family history is a strange thing. It can slip through your fingers if you don’t seek it out. Find a magnifying glass sometime (or just pick up the phone and call if you can) and learn something new about that surname of yours.
So there we have it. The Whites are complete. I walked the same path as my ancestor. Things were tough, fun, surprising, and hilarious at times. There’s more to come, and I’m excited to see how quickly it all rushes past. Stay with me! These trail-legs are just beginning.