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AMC Huts in the White Mountains

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    • AMC Huts in the White Mountains

      Before staying in the Galehead and Zealand Falls Huts last week, I really didn't know what to expect. So now that I have some experience, I'll share it here in hopes that it helps someone with their first visit to an AMC Hut. I reserved my bunk space months in advance, so I can't offer any tips for last minute or walk-in reservations.

      The croo

      The croo is the crew. Both huts had 5-person croos with one croo member having a day off. Bigger huts have bigger croos. One croo member is responsible for cooking each day. The other croo members may be hanging out, day hiking, or heading to the nearest trailhead to pick up perishable supplies. Yep... that chicken breast you had for dinner was schlepped up the mountain on the back of one of the croo.

      Check In

      On any given day, there may only be one croo member in the hut when you arrive. On weekends, the AMC offers members the opportunity to serve as a volunteer at any of their lodging facilities. The volunteer (Mike) I met at Zealand Falls explained that it's a higher tier work-for-stay: you assist the croo and check-in the arriving guests in exchange for meals and a bunk. Want to spend weekends in the Whites for free? Become an AMC member and put your name on the volunteer list!

      Anyway, after providing your name to the croo member or volunteer, you will be given your bunk room assignment and a quick rundown on the facility. There were signs in the Galehead Hut asking guests to leave the bottom bunks for those who need them.

      Bunks

      I saw 2, 3 and 4 stack bunk beds in the two huts I visited. Each bunk had a thin mattress, a pillow, and three wool blankets. Both huts also had LED lamps mounted in the bunk along with shelves and lots of hooks. There are no laundry facilities in the huts, so keep that in consideration when laying your head down on the pillow or wrapping yourself up in a blanket. The mattress provided a little less cushioning than my Big Agnes inflatable mattress, but it was much better than my Z-Rest pad.

      Lights out in the bunk rooms is at 21:30 and wake-up call is at 06:30.

      Restrooms

      Both huts had two separate restrooms. Galehead had Mens / Womens signs on the doors but Zealand Falls explained that their restrooms were not reserved by gender. Each stall was private, but you could only guess if your neighbor was male or female. ?( Interesting. Toilet paper is supplied, and there is hand soap & antibacterial lotion at the sinks. No paper towels, so bring a pack towel or use your shirt to dry your hands. The composting toilets didn't stink, and the croo cleaned the restrooms after breakfast. :thumbsup:

      Power

      Galehead Hut uses a combination of wind and solar power to charge their batteries for lighting. Zealand Falls Hut uses solar and hydroelectric from the Whitewall Brook. Propane for cooking, refrigeration and back-up generators is flown in via helicopter at the beginning on the season. I didn't see any outlets, so leave your X-Box and phone charger at home.

      Guests

      Depending on the location of the hut, you can share the space with fellow long distance hikers, weekend warriors, or people who had a leisurely stroll from a nearby parking lot. At Galehead, every guest had to put a good deal of effort into getting there. At Zealand Falls, there were families that looked wiped out because the last 0.2 miles to the hut were steep and rocky. So you never know who you will end up sitting next to at mealtime.

      Meals

      Dinner is at 18:00 sharp and breakfast is at 07:00 sharp. Both dinner and breakfast are served family style. That means each item is served in one bowl or platter and then passed from guest to guest. The croo asks each guest to make sure everyone has firsts before anyone takes seconds. If you're hungry, take a look at your potential table-mates and choose wisely! Dinner consists of soup, bread, salad, entree, dessert and coffee. Breakfast consists of oatmeal, eggs, meat and coffee. Water pitchers are also on the table and the Zealand Hut also offered powdered juice. There are no napkins, so bring a bandanna or use your sleeve.

      There is one important note about the food. If it's still in the serving bowl or platter, it's still food and can be saved or shared with hikers passing through. Once the food is served onto someone's plate but not consumed, it becomes garbage. Your typical hiker will leave a clean plate but several guests loaded up their plates and then decided they didn't want to finish their serving. The croo then has to pack the garbage out to the trailhead.

      Mid-day, the huts offer coffee, hot water for tea & cocoa and powdered drinks gratis for guests and at a cost for hikers passing through. Soup and baked goods were also available for purchase. When I arrived at Galehead, the leftover oatmeal from breakfast was free for the taking. The croo would rather give away the leftovers than haul them down the mountain as garbage.

      Potable drinking water is available to all for free.

      Post-Breakfast Skit

      Each hut croo comes up with a novel way to ask the guests to leave their bunk ready for the next guests and to solicit gratuities. The Galehead croo did a Cinderella skit to demonstrate the correct way to fold the blankets and to ask for tips if the croo did a good job in helping the guests. No suggested amount was mentioned. The Zealand Falls croo performed a song and was very clear that a $5 tip was OK but $20 was much better. They also stressed fluffing the pillows after folding the blankets. I guess no one on the croo wants to serve as the designated fluffer. ;)

      Trash

      There are no trash cans. Each guest must pack out their own trash.

      Summary

      They ain't cheap, but the AMC does provide good service for the cost of each stay. Drilling wells at elevation isn't cheap, nor are helicopter supply flights. I won't fault anyone who chooses not to stay in one of the eight huts along the AT, but I will be using them as I complete my Presidentials traverse next summer.

      Feel free to add information on these two huts or any other AMC huts along the AT.
      Trudgin' along the AT since 2003. Completed Sections: Springer Mountain to Winding Stair Gap NC, Max Patch to Franconia Notch NH and the Gale River Trail to Crawford Notch NH.
    • here are the rates for a saturday nite. week day nites are slightly cheaper. depending on your itinerary you may find it worthwhile to join the AMC ($50 individual; $75 family). make your reservations as soon as your dates are firm.



      AdultYouth (13-17)Child (3-12)
      Member$139$126$74
      Non-Member$167$134$88
      2,000 miler
    • Kathy and I haven't stayed at any of the huts because we have a dog with us. We do enjoy stopping at the huts for snacks, drinks, lunch and to use the toilet. I don't think the price is unreasonable considering what it takes to build and operate those places. Going across the presidentials we camped down hill from Madison Hut, at the Valley Way camp site. In the morning we stopped at Madison Hut, to use toilets and fill water bottles. Turns out they had plenty of left over breakfast and let us both eat for free to get rid of the food. How can ya beat that?
    • Astro wrote:

      I had been given good advice to use the Huts (both this year and in the past), but I had a hard time convincing myself to spend the $$$.

      Next year I will be using them. :)
      At least use Lakes of the Clouds. Otherwise it's a PIA getting over Mt
      Washington because it's either getting a work for stay, staying in the dungeon or hiking down a side trail a mile or two to camp.
      "Dazed and Confused"
      Recycle, re-use, re-purpose
      Plant a tree
      Take a kid hiking
      Make a difference
    • jimmyjam wrote:

      ...Also the huts compost leftover vegetable matter which is later spread over the areas to be revegetated, which is good.
      The croo at Galehead said they do some composting. The croo at Zealand Falls said they do no composting and haul everything out. Maybe because it's an easy hump out to the closest parking area.
      Trudgin' along the AT since 2003. Completed Sections: Springer Mountain to Winding Stair Gap NC, Max Patch to Franconia Notch NH and the Gale River Trail to Crawford Notch NH.
    • Wednesday I was in Mizpah, Thursday Lakes, Friday Madison. Last year I ate lunch at Galehead, and then Zeeland. Army ant and I then spent 1 nite in lakes. The lasagna Thursday at Lakes was excellent! My bunk sucked , but my bunk was awesome at Madison,and so was the chicken Marsala was pretty good.
      I will stay in them all if I get the chance, it is worth every penny. And makes your travel thru that area so much easier :D
      Cheesecake> Ramen :thumbsup:
    • CoachLou wrote:

      Wednesday I was in Mizpah, Thursday Lakes, Friday Madison. Last year I ate lunch at Galehead, and then Zeeland. Army ant and I then spent 1 nite in lakes. The lasagna Thursday at Lakes was excellent! My bunk sucked , but my bunk was awesome at Madison,and so was the chicken Marsala was pretty good.
      I will stay in them all if I get the chance, it is worth every penny. And makes your travel thru that area so much easier :D
      What was so bad about the Lakes of the Clouds bunk?

      Was not planning on bringing my sleeping bag (16oz) or pad (13oz) when I use the Huts the first week next summer, but perhaps I should. Did think taking my pillow (2.7oz) would be worthwhile. Plan on swapping out my Osprey Tallon 22 with my Catalyst and rest of my gear (stove, food, filter, etc.) at Pinkham Notch Joe Dodge Lodge.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
      Richard Ewell, CSA General
    • In each bunk room (in Lakes) there is one top bunk that has no head room. Like sleeping on the torpedo roombunk. I bought the everlite for this trip, and it has become my summer bag, I also have a sea to sea blow up pillow. The bunk has a mattress, a pillow w/case and 2 horse blankets........ but none of that gets laundered during the season.
      Cheesecake> Ramen :thumbsup:
    • CoachLou wrote:

      In each bunk room (in Lakes) there is one top bunk that has no head room. Like sleeping on the torpedo roombunk. I bought the everlite for this trip, and it has become my summer bag, I also have a sea to sea blow up pillow. The bunk has a mattress, a pillow w/case and 2 horse blankets........ but none of that gets laundered during the season.
      So I guess the word of advice is get there early (assuming first come first serve). Being June perhaps I will beat some of school vacation folks too.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
      Richard Ewell, CSA General
    • Astro wrote:

      CoachLou wrote:

      Wednesday I was in Mizpah, Thursday Lakes, Friday Madison. Last year I ate lunch at Galehead, and then Zeeland. Army ant and I then spent 1 nite in lakes. The lasagna Thursday at Lakes was excellent! My bunk sucked , but my bunk was awesome at Madison,and so was the chicken Marsala was pretty good.
      I will stay in them all if I get the chance, it is worth every penny. And makes your travel thru that area so much easier :D
      ...Did think taking my pillow (2.7oz) would be worthwhile.
      I'd pack a clean pillowcase before I'd pack a travel pillow.
      Trudgin' along the AT since 2003. Completed Sections: Springer Mountain to Winding Stair Gap NC, Max Patch to Franconia Notch NH and the Gale River Trail to Crawford Notch NH.