Hike to a Hut

Have you ever been hiking through the White Mountains and stumbled across a little cabin-like structure in the middle of the trail? Have you ever heard the loud music coming from the inevitable radio in the hut and navigated the seemingly endless streams of college students out on their summer adventures that seem to find solace in the walls of these huts?

hutThen you may be surprised to learn that that structure you stumbled across is likely a hut run by the AMC. The huts can be found scattered through the White Mountains and act as overnight accommodations to hikers going the distance. Huts provide the weary hiker with a bunk, a good meal for dinner and breakfast, and a place to relieve oneself that does not involve squatting in a questionable pile of rotting leaves. Overall, a very wonderful thing when you feel like your legs are going fall off after hiking a 4,000 footer.

So it was that my husband and I, along with several daring family members, recently found ourselves on the Galehead River Trail near Bethlehem, NH, headed to the hut at the top for a night of relaxation in the mountain air. However, I will caution the courageous hiker. The Galehead River Trail is not for the faint of heart and weak of knees. If you’re looking to experience a night in a hut, I recommend finding an easier trail for your first endeavor.

The hike up Galehead took approximately 4 hours for our mixed abilities group, and the sights along the trail were well worth the strain. The initial trail sets out along an old logging road and tricks you into believing the way will be easy as the flat land gentles rolls on through the White Mountain National Forest. But after a break in the trail that reveals the stunning waters of the Gale River, you will soon learn the true nature of this trail as the path unwinds in a series of near vertical stairs of rock. With one staircase after another for the remaining mile of the hike, Galehead will put you to the test.

But as our mixed group did, you will likely succeed and be rewarded with the breathtaking view of the Pemigewasset Valley when you arrive at the hut.  The Galehead Hut is manned by a stunning and capable crew of college students embarking on a summer adventure my need for cleanliness would never allow. But as all of them take turns hiking down the mountain every three days to hike out trash and to return with supplies, their backs can take the 50 pound load with ease. And for that, I admire them greatly.

valleyAnd if the views are not enough, don’t miss out on the entertainment the hut crew provides, from skits to talks on the nature of the area and the history of the valley, there is always something happening in the hut that simply buzzes with activities. The hut even has its own library and stash of games that will have even the weariest hiker inventing words just to win at Bananagram.

The food is remarkable when you consider where you are and the very likelihood that some college kid not only prepared your meal but hiked that meal in on his back up a 5 mile trail through the White Mountain National Forest. We were treated to stuffed shells, mocha cupcakes and a turkey soup that Mom could have made. And don’t forget the bread made fresh daily! Breakfast was even more tasty with fresh cinnamon rolls the size of my head (this is not an exaggeration). With bowls of oatmeal and eggs and bacon passed family style around the table, you not only fill your belly but fill your head with the tales of the fellow hikers at the table.

And while the hike down from Galehead can be daunting at times considering the number of rock staircases to descend, you will be well refreshed from a night in the mountain air and with the filling food in your belly. When you hit the flat part of the trail at the bottom of the mountain and you realize you’ll soon be back at the trailhead where you left your car seemingly only minutes before, you’ll already be planning your next hike to an AMC hut.

To learn more about staying in the huts or becoming a member of the AMC, visit their website.

And as always, if you have something fun to share, please send us an email to fun@stayworkplay.org.

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