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August 2010

The Trail to Neverland: Hut Keepers of the White Mountains

No one stays young forever, of course. Just don't tell the hut keepers in New Hampshire's White Mountains.

By midsummer, the croo settles into a veteran rhythm. Teschner starts reading a history book on Iran. He sets an easel up in the hut’s storage loft and begins painting the sylvan view from the window. Meanwhile, speculation mounts as to which hut will end the summer with the oar. Commonsense favors Lakes of the Clouds, the biggest hut, with 10 workers; Lonesome Lake, very small and remote, is a dark horse. But then Galehead bursts into dominance in late July, during a complex series of battles. To do it all justice, I’d need to conjure a hoary military historian with a wooden pointer, gesturing at a roll-down map.

In brief: One morning, on the short-wave radio, Anderson overheard that two croos were conspiring to converge on Zealand, to seize the oar. The invaders’ huts would, of course, be understaffed, so the Galeheaders split up and power-raided both of them, garnering an oversized wooden spoon and a few dilapidated signs. The oar ended up at Greenleaf, and one afternoon Anderson and Alsofrom hiked there, timing their arrival for lunchtime, when only one staffer was present. Anderson wore a skirt for the occasion. He and Alsofrom pinned their foe to the floor. "She fought like hell," Anderson says. "She squeezed Chelsea’s head in a door pretty hard, and she kept kneeing me." A crowd of hikers gathered. "People were videotaping us," says Alsofrom.

After Anderson wrenched the oar from the wall, he gave it to Alsofrom and together they rushed it three miles downhill, to a parking lot, where Teschner was waiting with a getaway car. The next day, the croo of another hut, Lonesome Lake, raided Galehead, led by a large and swashbuckling red-bearded young man whom Teschner calls "the Jack Black of the hut system." Johannes Griesshammer, 21, pried through a rope lashing Galehead’s front door shut and shouted, "Let the onslaught begin!"

But Galehead had been tipped off, and the staff had hidden the oar in the woods atop measly Galehead Mountain. Is this legal?

"Semi-legal," Alsofrom tells me, days later, still gloating. "We’re like monsters. We steal and then we lie. It’s awesome."

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