The magic of the huts

I firmly believe that the huts are magic. Out of the huts, I’m not a morning person. I’m not particularly fond of clearing tables or doing dishes, and my desire to carry heavy things up and down stairs is minimal. However, three seasons in the huts have found me bouncing out of bed at 5am to start flipping pancakes, dancing as I send hundreds of dishes flying through the sinks, and even enjoying packing significant percentages of my body weight down the Crawford Path to Lakes or up the Old Bridle Path to Greenleaf.

Now, I know that I’m idealizing. There are definitely days when the last thing I want to do at 5am—or even at six on days when I’m not cooking—is get out of bed and make breakfast; when explaining for the 20th time that we ask all visitors to pack out ALL of their trash starts to feel old; when I just don’t feel like scrubbing oatmeal out of the bottom of a pot. I definitely spent the first few weeks of this fall season in a fight with the Old Bridle Path, hearing myself whine “noooooooo” as I packed up the never ending sequence of steep ascents that cover the last mile of the OBP. But no matter what, coming around the corner and emerging into the Greenleaf yard—my backyard—brings a smile to my face.

I’ve always loved the White Mountains; I dreamed of working in the huts ever since my first visit to Lonesome as a kid and felt like I’d developed a pretty good knowledge of the area over many hiking trips. Now, I know these mountains with a new intimacy. I know every curve and contour of the Old Bridle Path and the Greenleaf Trail, the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and the Crawford Path. The names of plants and trees pop into my head unbidden and I can instantly identify the other peaks and ridges that surround me. At this point, I know the White Mountains better than I know the neighborhood where I grew up. I love looking up from scrubbing those gooey oatmeal pots and watching the morning’s valley fog disperse, revealing an ever changing patchwork of fall colors beneath. I love the energy of 48 new guests every night—and the opportunity to get to know smaller counts of 3 and 4. And, there’s nothing better than sitting outside with my croo members—my coworkers, my roommates, my friends, my alpine family—watching the stars after a long day of hard work together in the mountains.

If you talked to different croo members, you’d get different answers as to what makes the huts magical, but nobody would deny that magic. Yes, there are days when we’re tired and stressed about the quality of our soup or the weight of our packboards. There are days where all we want to do is curl up on a couch with a movie, a bowl of ice cream (which can go straight into the dishwasher afterwards) and an adoring dog at our feet. But take it from me, while the couch/movie/ice cream/dog combo is great, it can’t beat the magic of the huts. It can’t beat having your e-mail auto-reply up for months at a time or working so closely with 4 other people that everyday chores start to resemble choreographed dances. It can’t beat a daily diet of incredible sunsets and homemade bread or feeling your hard-earned muscles propelling you to the perfect perch on the side of a mountain. And while the actual percentage of our lives spent in the huts is relatively small, the magic of the huts is something that I know we’ll all treasure forever.

Emma Gildesgame

Greenleaf-Fall 2011