My husband and I have been wanting to do a northeast road trip for awhile and we finally did it this year. We both grew up there, I in Pennsylvania and my husband in Vermont, and we haven’t been back during autumn for a long time. So we packed our bags and hiking boots and hopped a red eye to Boston. The east coast greeted us with a beautiful sunrise. We planned to meet up with friends that evening so we had all day to explore. Since it was getting close to Halloween we headed to Salem. We wandered through the neighborhoods and spooky graveyards, and explored old haunted buildings. I insisted on visiting the local indie bookstore Wicked Good Books and we grabbed brunch at the Ugly Mug Diner where they serve you coffee in tacky mugs. My husband’s said, Don’t let the bastards get you down. Mine said, Got lobstah?
The next day we headed north to Vermont, but first we wanted to take a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We headed to Franconia Ridge, a popular route for peakbaggers going for all of the 4000-footers in the Whites. There are six 4000-footers along the ridge and most people hike a 9 mile loop to collect them all. We didn’t have time to complete the full loop but we did part of it, up to the Greenleaf Hut on Mount Lafayette.
We started out at the busy trailhead (it was a weekday!) and followed the Old Bridle Path under a canopy of yellow. The way was easy going and we soon came upon a babbling brook completing the picturesque experience. The air was cool and the sunny skies we had earlier were beginning to cloud up. We were in mountains notorious for extreme weather, a place where you always need to be prepared for inclement weather any time of year.
As we climbed the grade steepened and the rocky insides of the ancient mountain revealed themselves. The white granite flowed down the trail like waves. There was a break in the trees and we finally had a birds eye view of the terrain. We could see Mount Lafayette above a sea of yellow, green and orange, its top obscured by clouds. Some folks headed down toward us in winter coats. I asked if they made it to the top of the mountain. Yeah, but we were socked in – cold and windy too. Good thing we weren’t looking to summit.
Soon we approached the hut. I was a little surprised, ok, I was a lot surprised. When I think of “hut” I think of a one-room structure with little to no amenities. This hut is quite different. It’s huge. It has two bunkrooms that together sleeps 48 people, a full size kitchen and a large dining room. The indoor composting toilets were immaculate and you can wash your hands! They even boasted of their all fresh & local cuisine. We wondered how they got fresh food up there as we ate our lunch outside. I insisted we share a $1 self-serve hot chocolate from a real ceramic mug, because why not?
The hut was built in 1930 and is maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club. I lingered near the bookshelf in the dining room and pulled out a trail log from the 1960s. The entries were written well before my time yet they were familiar, as our collective love of nature has been unchanged for decades. It warmed my heart. Accents from all over the world filled the air around the hut and I listened to their tales of a long day’s hike. Three miles remained of their tough loop hike.
The clouds that obscured the top of Mount Lafayette had cleared and provided us with views of the peaks along the ridge. As we descended the steep granite we passed a young man sweating buckets and carrying an enormous load of boxes filled with cartons of eggs and other food. So that was how they got fresh local food!
The sun began to lower and in doing so lit up the foliage with an extra golden glow. We looked west toward the Green Mountains of Vermont, our next stop. But first it was time to meet up with my in-laws for beer and food in the little town of Littleton at the Schilling Beer Company. The day was a wonderful start to our colorful and beer-filled road trip.