Neither Rain, Nor Boots

Today it rained hard in the Whites. It was also a packday for the crews. Each Wednesday and Saturday everyone but the cook ties a load of trash and recycling onto their packboards and heads down the hill. At their packhouse they meet a truck from the storehouse and exchange their trash and paperwork for new paperwork and fresh supplies. In these boxes among other things: cheese for lasagna, bacon for breakfast, and clean towels for the kitchen. The packboards weigh 10-15 pounds, and the packloads anywhere from 30 to 100.

I drove over to the Madison packhouse to deliver some necessities that didn’t make the airlift. On Route 2 I had to keep the wipers on high. The tractor trailers headed east threw walls of water across the yellow lines. At the packhouse Beth Weick, Nate Blauss, Karen Thorpe, Catherine Klem and Taylor Burt were untying soggy loads of cardboard and trash. Beth is the Hutmaster and a former competitive figure skater. She is short and tough. Nate hiked the AT last year and began working at Lakes after his hike ended. He does not like overheated feet, so he hikes in sandals. All 2,174 miles of the AT, and all his packing in the huts (photo). Taylor is the Assistant Hutmaster and just returned from a trip to the Antarctic. Karen is the hut naturalist, a Mainer and a marathon runner. Catherine is new crew, and once rode from Crawford Notch to Hanover on her bike while carrying a whitewater kayak on her head. Left to cook at the hut was Dave Kaplan, who just graduated from Cornell with a degree in mechanical engineering. Before working in the huts Dave used to spend his summers doing high-level research with lasers at MIT. He also has helped design race cars and off-road trucks which drive themselves.

I handed over a 10-gallon cookpot, a box of kitchen knives, and 2 mattresses. The eight pillows, two trash cans and 10 plates needed are still on order. The crew was shivering as they tied the boxes on the boards. “We won’t be cold on the way up” Beth said. Then they hoisted on their packboards and walked into the rain.