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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
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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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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