Here's what the deal is... The whites are full of very tall mountains that are tough to climb. Much of the mountains are above tree line, putting hikers very exposed to the elements. The weather in the whites can be extreme, making it very dangerous to hike. People get injured or even killed in the Whites every year.
The shelters in the Whites can be spaced far apart at times, making camping options tight. Many of the shelters have an $8 fee to stay. In addition to shelters, there are huts run by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club). These huts are little cabins in the middle of the woods with a bunk room, kitchen, and dining room. Guests at the huts pay $80-$125 per night. Each hut has the option of taking in two thru hikers per night for a work-for-stay. The hikers do chores, or help the small crew in some way in exchange for a place to sleep on the dining floor.
There have been stories about huts turning away hikers in bad weather or late at night. Stealth camping is common in the whites, but can also be difficult, or mean the hiker has to hike several miles off the AT to get to a spot.
So, now you see why I have been a little anxious, yes?
To kick off my hike through the Whites, I stayed at the Hikers Welcome Hostel at the base of Mt. Moosilauke. It was not as nice as I had hoped. I was really spoiled at Dave's home, and this hostel was a bit dirty for my liking. However, after I sat down with some good food from the nearby market and let myself relax, I had a great time. There were four hill-hippies (hillbilly hippies) all watching Jeopardy. These men were screaming out answers after every question, and they knew all the answers. It was amazing! Baltimore Jack was the quickest in the group. I had read many books that mentioned Baltimore Jack, but I never knew he was so intelligent. It was so entertaining!
Three miles before this destination, we came to our first hut, Lonesome Lake Hut. It was 6:30. We were curious, so we asked what our options were as hikers to stay there. They already had their two thru hiker work-for-stays. There was no discount and we would have to pay $100 each to stay. (I was with Sparky) Paying $100 to stay in a bunkhouse with a bunch of other people did not entice us. I'm glad we had a back-up plan only three more miles away.
As we started walking down the path around the hut, I was startled to see a very large bear sitting in the bushes eating some berries. I pointed it out to Sparky and the two hikers on the balcony just above the bear come over to take a peek. I quickly posed to get a picture of me with the bear. Other guests started coming out to see, and I told Sparky we better leave before it gets scared down our way. No sooner did I say this, than the hut workers came out banging pots and pans together, sending the bear running right for us! It had to be about 400 lbs. I screamed and the bear slowed down looking for another route. I yelled to the hut workers to let us get down the trail a bit before sending it our way. They gave us about a ten foot head start. The bear went off the trail, into the woods, but went the same direction as we did. Needless to say, we hiked our last miles pretty fast.
First impression of the AMC huts: turned away for work-for-stay, no discount offered, and then they chased us off with a bear. Not good! Luckily, we had better experiences later.
We hiked our first presidential mountain, Mt. Lincoln, along with Franconia ridge. It was another perfect weather day!
Yesterday, we had another difficult day hiking Garfield Ridge and South Twin Mountain. We stopped in at Galehead Hut, where I bought some soup and cookies for lunch. This is what a typical bunk room looks like at the huts: