This week marked the beginning of the end of the 2008 full service season with the closing of Lakes and Madison and the return of Carter to self service for the winter. The fall season was short for these huts, only 3 weeks, which was just enough time for the crews to move in, get comfortable and then endure the difficult task of closing the huts for the winter.
The process of closing a hut actually starts about three weeks before the last night it's open. Extra food is used up, boxes are collected and saved, and walls are scrubbed. This is all a build up to the last day they are open and then all hands are on deck for three straight days of floor to ceiling cleaning and emptying out the hut. Everything from mattresses, to walls, floors, refrigerators, pots, pans, sinks, and bathrooms are scrubbed by hand to ensure a clean hut is left for the opening crews in the spring. Some years this is done when it is 35 degrees and raining while other years like this one, the weather is warm and sunny with just enough breeze to dry everything out. Once all of the kitchen supplies are dry, they are bagged and stored in the attic and everything else (food, blankets, recycling) is stacked in a pile by the door to be airlifted out.
While the hut crew is busy cleaning, the construction crew takes down weather instruments and wind generators, completes last minute projects, disconnects pipes, and finally boards up all the windows and doors. It's a real team effort for those few days and when it is all over with, the hut is empty and ready for a long cold winter.
Although the high huts are closed until 2009, Mizpah, Zealand, Galehead, Greenleaf and Lonesome will be open for full service until October 18th. There should be plenty of cool weather hiking and foliage viewing before the snow comes so get out there and enjoy the fall.