In the succeeding weeks I lost it three times. The first time was on a chair in a restaurant in North Woodstock, New Hampshire. The next morning I went back there for breakfast. It was not where I left it on the chair. After much looking, one of the kitchen crew found it in another part of the restaurant. I was very thankful, and gave her some money.
The second time I lost it was in Littleton, New Hampshire. I was on the way back by car from Crawford Notch to Haverhill. We traveled quite a few miles down the road before I realized it was gone. I said to Mike we have to go back. He said he’d buy me another one. I said I had become emotionally attached to that one. He turned the car around, and went back. It was right where I left it hanging on the coat rack.
The third time I lost it was when Jenny, my wife, and I were driving in a car back to Cincinnati. I left it in a restaurant where we had dinner. The restaurant was closed the next morning. A clerk at the front desk of the Herkimer Motel in New York said he knew the manager of the restaurant, and he would send it to us. We left money for postage and his trouble. I plan to pack it when I do the last part of the Appalachian Trail the Summer of 2015.
Along the trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire there are eight “huts” which are larger enclosed heated places managed by a staff of two or three young people who live there. They provide one seating for breakfast and one for dinner. Before dinner the staff does a short skit, and the ten or twenty people waiting to eat clap even if they don’t get it. At breakfast one of the staff gives a weather report. There are bunk rooms where everyone sleeps: men, women, and children. There are male and female toilets rooms with sinks and water faucets. There are no showers. It is luxurious camping.
The people who stay there in September are mostly families or friends hiking together who have reservations. There are many trails and much outdoor recreation in the White Mountains. To stay in one of the huts cost as much as a motel. When a thru hiker, or a hiker such as myself, shows up with no reservation they either pay if there is room, or they work to stay which means they do dishes after dinner, sweep floors after breakfast, sleep on the dinning room floor, and get whatever food is left over after everyone eats.
I payed to stay in two huts, and worked to stay in the third. Either way I ate well. In each hut there were several long tables in the dining room. A staff person put a serving plate at the end of each table, and it was passed from person to person. For breakfast there was link sausage (once bacon), scrambled eggs, baked pieces of potato, water, and coffee. At dinner we passed around hot vegetable soup, a casserole of pasta mixed with tomato and ground beef, a salad, and bread. There was water and coffee. For the most part the food was the same in each hut. Of the people there in September two or three were long distance hikers going to more than one hut.
The huts are evenly spaced over a distance of 60 miles in the most naturally beautiful part of New Hampshire, the White Mountains. In addition to the Appalachian Trail there are many other trails in and around those mountains traveled by hikers who are not on a quest to do the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The people who manage the area protect and preserve the mountains so people continue to see and enjoy the natural beauty of them. The hut system is part of that effort. It allows people to go up there, who otherwise might not because of the distance, and stay overnight high in the mountains without the need for individual camp sites that might damage the fragile environment for the next people to see. Still, thru hikers are allowed to camp below tree line when the hut is either too expensive for them, or the staff there doesn’t need any more help. All the huts are below tree line.
The White Mountains are tougher to traverse than all other parts of the Appalachian trail, but it is nothing when compared to being up there where there is no sign of civilization in all directions.
I worked-to-stay in Galehead Hut. There was a thru hiker doing the same thing who started that Spring from Georgia and expected to get to Mt Katahdin, in Maine before the mountain was closed for the Winter. He knew there were three North bound thru hikers behind him, and he was worried that none of them were there when the staff turned off the photo electric LED lights at 9 p.m. According to him, he and the others were the last ones.
At 9:30 that night when it was totally dark another hiker came in by the light of their head lamp. I was asleep on the dining room floor by the door. The light swept over me as they went to the other end of the room. I heard no words so I assumed everyone was asleep or going to asleep.
The next morning after the work-to-stay chores were done I saw a person like us who was not there the night before. She had to be the hiker who came in after dark. The other work-to-stay hiker seemed to know her. She wasn’t extraordinary looking, but interesting. I was old enough to be her father. I went up to her and asked if she was the hiker who came in late last night. She said she was and looked around sheepishly to see if anyone was going to make her account for herself.
When I walked up to her it was to say how much I admired anyone who could hike in the White Mountains all day and into the night. She hardly looked at me when I said that, and was more concerned about the people around her. There was a middle age day hiker waiting for her people sitting on a bench next to where we were standing. She smiled when she heard our exchange. The late hikers trail name was Seeks Chayah. When I asked her where that came from she said it was a Hebrew word that meant having a higher level of consciousness. She hiked from Georgia that Summer and was mad at herself for being in a situation where she had to go a certain number of miles each day with no days to spare. To do the whole trail in one year as planned she had to be at Mt. Katahdin by the end of the second week in October which is when the Baxter Park Service closes the mountain for the Winter.
After Galehead Hut I went to Zeland Falls Hut, and after that to the Appalachian Mountain Club Visitors Center on Route 302 where I stopped for the year. It was the end of September and I didn’t particularly want to be up in those windy mountains in October. The weather was supposed to be rain the next week which meant snow up there.