Tales from the Trip: Readers' Adventures in Vacationland
This month: My trip of a lifetime
Featured traveler: Paul Laufer, Mastic Beach
Occupation: Restaurant manager
Destination: White Mountain Hut System, New Hampshire
Trip date: August 2002
Paul Laufer hiked the White Mountain Hut system eight years ago with his friend Danny Desario of Farmingville. It was a trip of a lifetime for Laufer, who says he gained a sense of accomplishment from the adventure. The manager of Great Steak & Potato Co. at the Tanger Outlet in Riverhead traveled about nine hours to New Hampshire in August 2002. There, he and his friend Danny hiked the hut system, where eight huts are spaced a days' hike apart. "My favorite was the Lakes of the Clouds hut on Mount Washington," Laufer said. "I remember a beautiful sunset at night, then waking through a blizzard-type snowstorm in the morning."
Hiking with limited visibility in cold temperatures, the pair became lost in that blizzard, but stumbled upon an American couple, one of which was a college professor on sabbatical, who were hiking the Appalachian Trail. They went back to the hut with them and shared some food. The couple was short on supplies because they were on their way to the post office at the top of Mount Washington to pick up a package with more supplies when the storm hit. It's important for hikers to pre-send packages, Laufer says, in order to receive them when they arrive at each hut, otherwise they may run out of supplies.
Such a satisfying -- and, perhaps, liberating -- journey may also bring difficult moments. The pair got lost on their path to the Lakes of the Clouds hut on Mount Washington, which, at an elevation of 5,050 feet, is the highest, as well as the most popular hut in the chain. Located on the southern shoulder of Mount Washington, it's one of the more difficult huts to reach because of steep, rocky terrain. The huts each have coed bunkrooms with staff assistance and a meal awaiting hikers at the beginning and end of each day.
Travelers make reservations at each hut, so rain or shine, they need to make it to each destination by the end of the day. "You're going up the mountain and you think that you see the top, but it's really not as close as it looks," Laufer said.
"You get to experience different things that you normally wouldn't experience at any other altitude," he said, adding that the best part of the trail system is that it's something a Long Islander can experience within a days drive from home, and it's inexpensive.
"You can run into the most amazing people and see the most beautiful scenery you'll never forget," he said. "This is something that everyone living in the Northeast should do."
Laufer is currently planning a return trip to the hut system.
Want to take your own White Mountain hut system journey? Visit AMCPinkhamInfo@outdoors.org for trail information and a day-to-day weather report, and call 603-466-2727 for reservations.
Price: For the five-night Hut-to-Hut vacation, member prices start at $310 for adults and $188 for children. Visit outdoors.org/lodging/whitemountains/huts/hut-rates.cfm for more rates.
While the system can be difficult, especially in inclement weather, the trail system is generally suitable for children. Travelers should allow at least a week to hike the entire route, but Laufer spent four days traveling from hut to hut. His advice? "Bring more socks."