Staying in a fall hut is a different experience than visiting in the summer. The cool, dry weather and brilliant foliage provides some of the best hiking conditions of the year. The huts start to get slower and there are times where it may just be you and a few other people enjoying the whole hut to yourselves. But, the weekends are still busy with full houses and hikers out enjoying the trails one last time before the winter weather hits the peaks. Another special part about the fall is that you may notice many groups of school aged kids, teachers and AMC instructors in the huts who are participating in a program called A Mountain Classroom.
A Mountain Classroom is an AMC program that brings students from Northeast schools into the outdoors to give them a deeper understanding of the natural world. Once the school season starts in the fall, there are many groups in the huts and I was able to spend last night with one group from St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
The hut was filled to capacity and the weather couldn't have been nicer. In groups of 10, the students, AMC instructors and teachers hiked up the Crawford path to Mizpah while learning about forest ecology, geology and Leave No Trace ethics. They arrived just before dinner, feeling happy about hiking the 2.7 miles which for many was the longest hike they've been on. Dinner was hot and plentiful and well received by all. After finishing dessert and clearing tables, the groups listened to stories about the constellations, looked for them through the partly cloudy sky and then wrote and shared their own stories of how the constellations were made. In the morning, they took a tour of the hut and observed our green technology and practices at work, then made the hike back down to Crawford Notch to go "back to school."
Although this was not your average school setting, there were lessons learned in the woods that could not have been replicated in the classroom. To see 50 young people learning about the outdoors and themselves, helping each other, looking up to their instructors and hut crew, and to see them enjoying this unique opportunity is a rewarding feeling. I am happy that the AMC is able to provide this opportunity for over 4,000 students every year and it was great to be part of it last night.