Friday, August 04, 2017

Hiking the Whites - Prologue

The White Mountains of New Hampshire present some unique qualities to the Appalachian Trail section hiker. First, they boast some of the highest peaks and toughest terrain to be found on the AT. Second, there's an abundance of hiking above treeline, in alpine and sub-alpine terrain -- a result of the tough weather conditions that are common in the mountains. Lastly, they're the only place along the AT (or in North America, to my knowledge) that boasts an organized system of "huts" for lodging.
Carmel leaving Greenleaf Hut on a sunny morning.
These huts aren't your typical AT three-sided shelter. The hut system in the Whites is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), and each hut is staffed by a paid "croo" of college students each summer. Reservations must be made - for about $100 a night - and for that fee you'll get a bunk with pillow and three blankets, plus dinner and breakfast. The huts hold anywhere from about 40 to nearly 90 hikers, and are a popular way to get out in the mountains without having to haul a tent, food, etc. They're an awesome way to experience the Whites.

Our Plan

Hiking hut-to-hut made it possible for Carmel to join me for a section of the AT, and we quickly enlisted our friends Traci and David, experienced hikers with a Colorado Trail thru-hike under their belts, as partners in our adventure. The plan was to hike the Whites for seven days, using the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch as our starting point and mid-hike break - a chance to grab a shower, do laundry, and relax before the second leg.

Leg 1

The first leg of the trip was planned for 4 days and 3 nights. We'd take a shuttle from Highland Center to the trail head at Liberty Springs, hike up to Franconia Ridge via the Falling Waters Trail, and hike north along the AT to Greenleaf Hut, Galehead Hut, and Zealand Falls Hut. From Zealand Falls, a short hike back to Highland Center to refit and regroup.

Leg 2

After a night at the Highland Center, the plan was to shuttle north, hike to the Madison Spring Hut via the Valley Way Trail, then head south to Lake of the Clouds Hut, via Mount Washington, and finish again at Highland Center. This leg would be 3 days and 2 nights. In all, we'd hike for seven days, and visit five of the seven huts in the system. Along the way, we'd pass by or go over the biggest peaks in the Whites - the Presidential Range.

Next - We Begin

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