Last summer, we took our girls on their first overnight backpacking trip, and it turned out to be one of our fondest memories of 2015. Seeing how well that “big” hike went, we decided that we’d do another one this summer. This time we wanted to introduce the girls to the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts in New Hampshire.
The huts are part of a 125-year-old network, mostly in the Presidential Range, providing services to hikers of all kinds—from day and overnight hikers to Appalachian Trail thru-hikers on their way to Katahdin (northern terminus of the "AT" in Baxter State Park, Maine). They are typically staffed by a bunch of outdoorsy college students (or recent grads) who spend the summer running up and down the trails hauling food and supplies, cooking for overnight guests, educating hikers on the surrounding natural environment, and putting together somewhat ridiculous (I mean that in the nicest sense of the word) skits to teach one and all to pack-out, fold your blanket properly, and be kind to our great earth.
We chose Greenleaf Hut on Mount Lafayette for several reasons. One, Pete and I have both hiked the extremely popular 9-ish mile loop several times, so there'd be no guess work there. Two, our friends and their 12-year-old twin daughters were planning on staying at Greenleaf the same night, so our girls would have company to distract them. Three, it's a really easy drive from Boston. Four, the views, should you have them, are almost as good as they get in the White Mountains.
From the Lafayette Campground parking lot, we started up Old Bridle Path which provides the shortest route to the Greenleaf Hut (2.9 miles). We made it to the hut in three hours flat, which in my opinion is pretty darned good for a 5- and 7-year-old. So either we hit the girls on a "good day" or they legitimately like this stuff (which, you know—yeehaw!).
We checked in (tip: I would book a good 2-3 months out since they fill up fairly quickly) and the girls could not have been more excited to choose their bunks. After meeting our bunk neighbor and getting a snack, we felt refreshed and headed out again to make it to the top of Mount Lafayette.
As we emerged from the trees, some ominous clouds appeared just to our south and the wind really started to whip. The girls were suddenly not so happy anymore (panic attacks ensuing), and I don't blame them … I had no interest in being above tree line in a thunderstorm.
We got lucky: the storm cloud blew in the opposite direction. We cajoled the girls to "dig deep," "take it one step at a time," etc. etc. etc., and before we knew it, we'd completed the additional 1.1 miles to arrive at the 5,200 foot summit of Mount Lafayette. I'm conveniently glossing over some epic whining on behalf of both of daughters on this leg of the trip, but once at the summit, all was forgotten and they (and we) were happy as could be.
The hard work paid off and they enjoyed their own little "Outward Bound" moments. Seeing the smile on Abigail's face as she exclaimed "Mom, I did it!" is one of those priceless moments as a parent. I was quite the proud mama!
At this point, we had to get back to the hut in time for dinner (6pm - sharp!). Fortunately, going downhill was a different story. The girls might as well have been skipping as they anticipated hot food, games, completing their "junior naturalist" packets (in order to earn the coveted patch at breakfast), and getting in their jammies and bunks.
The rest of the night was filled with playing cards and listening to stories from a couple of AT thru-hikers. And as predicted, the storms did arrive! It actually poured 2 inches that night. So to cap off another great overnight hike, we went to sleep to the sound of rain on the hut roof. Aaaahhhh ...
Side note: In the midst of the excitement (and nerves about the weather), I neglected to take a snapshot of the I Get Around card. Let's just say he wanted to stay safe in the backpack!