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Backpacker Magazine – 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: By Bill Donahue Photography by Anne Skidmore

AMC hut caretakers (from left) Elizabeth Waste, david kaplan, Chelsea Alsofrom, and Luke Teschner.
AMC hut caretakers (from left) Elizabeth Waste, david kaplan, Chelsea Alsofrom, and Luke Teschner.
hut staffers often serve dinner to more than 30 hikers a night.
hut staffers often serve dinner to more than 30 hikers a night.
Galehead hut was rebuilt in 2000.
Galehead hut was rebuilt in 2000.
Cooking duty rotates between hut workers.
Cooking duty rotates between hut workers.
The kitchen crew bakes fresh bread daily, from scratch
The kitchen crew bakes fresh bread daily, from scratch
Boots dry outside the hut.
Boots dry outside the hut.
taffers Alsofrom, Siner, teschner, and waste sing a dixie chicks tune to let guests know it’s time for the communal meal.
taffers Alsofrom, Siner, teschner, and waste sing a dixie chicks tune to let guests know it’s time for the communal meal.

photo icon  PHOTO GALLERY: White Mountains Hut Keepers
 Head to the White Mountains and meet the hut keepers in this photo gallery


When Sanford and May step into galehead hut, they're bare-chested--never mind the dank cold. They are cut, both of them, bearing nary an ounce of body fat, and upon seeing them, a couple of young women begin shrieking--literally screaming, so the shrill sound ricochets about the whole wood-shingled hut, over all 38 beds in the four bunk rooms. One admirer, a visiting emeritus hut worker named Emily Taylor, finally exclaims, "I'm overwhelmed right now--there are so many people I love right here in this room."

Sanford, 26, begins clomping around the kitchen with a proprietary air. "When I was working here," he says, alluding to a recent autumn, "our compost was on fire. It was 157 F degrees in October! And we didn't use cookbooks. Are you kidding me? We freestyled shit. On the chocolate cake, we tripled the baking chocolate and cut the cooking time in half."

Sanford declaims to all present, like a Shakespearean character strutting the boards of the stage, but his soliloquy is directed mostly at one young man. Luke Teschner, a 20-year-old croo rookie whose father worked in the huts in the 1970s, is single-handedly cooking dinner for the 20 guests at Galehead tonight. Teschner is a lanky and well-mannered kid, soft-spoken and humble. He sports a blonde crew cut and a neat black earring in his left ear, and earlier he confided that he's a bit freaked out by the whole culinary thing. "Before this summer," he says, "I never cooked anything. I mean, like nothing. At school, I go to the dining hall. But the recipe book they have here? It's awesome! You follow the instructions--this much sugar, that much flour--and it works. It's cool!"

Teschner ignores the cookbook now, though, as he bends over an index card headed "Mom's Vegetarian Chili." The card is handwritten in red Magic Marker, with a little heart drawn up in the corner. Nearby, on the stove, there are three pans of fresh herb bread still warm from the oven. Sanford steps toward them with a knife.

"Actually," Teschner says, "I only made enough for..."

But before he can finish, Sanford rips off a heel slice and starts chomping. "Dude," he calls out to his friend Alex May. "There's some knockout herb bread here. Get involved!"

Within 10 minutes, a full loaf is history. And all Luke Teschner can do is stand there and glower and hope that this chili dinner--the second meal he has ever cooked in his life--will come off OK.




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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star
tim
Mar 01, 2014

i was sooooo disappointed when i found out the price to stay at these huts. this one in the pic looks alot like the one i was at. dormitory style bunkbeds for over $100. i lost some respect for the trail association after that. this is more of a hostel and should be charging those kind of prices. $20-25 at most.

Star Star Star Star Star
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current croo
Oct 30, 2012

Thank you, Mike. Steve, as a current croo member, we do our best to personally interact with as many guests as possible not only because we enjoy it, but also because we want our guests to have the best possible experience. We love where we work, and want to share this passion with as many people as possible. You can imagine, though, that preparing meals, conducting search and rescues, packing food, and generally being "on duty" from 6 in the morning until 9:30 at night are collectively challenging for a croo of 4-5 college age students to perfectly execute. As hard as we do try to do the best job possible, and as much as we love doing so, we rely on the feedback of the guests to improve the hut experience. So, if you have feedback on the guest service, please please please leave comment cards or get in touch with the huts supervisor/manager! Many thanks to all who continue to support the mission of the AMC and huts.

Rika
Jan 06, 2011

I worked at the Joe Dodge Lodge, at the base of Mt. Washington a few years ago when I was 20, brings back some of the best memories! The hut folks are amazing...I wish I would have been chosen to be one of them!

Bill B.
Sep 14, 2010

I worked in the hut system in the 70's (Lakes of the Clouds, Greenleaf and Mizpah) and this article by Bill Donahue perfectly captures the feeling we had then. Great thoughtful piece of writing, especially the Peter Pan aspect which is exactly what it feels like.

Mike
Aug 22, 2010

Amazing place, amazing people. All croo members will risk their lives for you if you get in trouble. And what's wrong with tips. These kids work their butts off and basically make nothing...just see what happens if you don't tip your waiter or cab driver!

rcl
Aug 17, 2010

mek: go to www.outdoors.org
it's best to apply soon after nov. 1 because spots fill up quickly

Greg
Aug 05, 2010

It's a great system! I wish I'd have done something like this in my 20's

MEK
Aug 05, 2010

How would I go about applying for a job with these people? Any other jobs like this that anyone knows about? I am a 20 year old college kid and this sounds like heaven!

Steve
Aug 05, 2010

Some "croo" are good people.

Others just want you to make up your bunk, sweep out the place, and leave quickly -- after they've begged for a tip.

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