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  1. #1
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    Default Regarding the Huts in the Whites -- Illegal to Turn You Away?

    I have heard that, due to the tempermental weather in the White Mountains of NH, it is illegal to turn anybody away from the huts there. First of all, is this true? And secondly, what does it mean in practice? For instance, if I show up and say I don't have any money/a reservation, will they let me stay?

    I maybe should mention that I'm a thru-hiker, and I don't necessarily plan to be one of the first two hikers to arrive to get work-for-stay, and I'm certainly not willing to pay the ridiculously high fees.

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    Yes they should house you and feed you for free. And then they should call rescue because you are obviously not prepared to be in The Whites and need to be taken to safety.
    The trouble I have with campfires are the folks that carry a bottle in one hand and a Bible in the other.
    You never know which one is talking.

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    don't know where you heard this, but it is not true. Last year a number of hikers were turned away, even in cold wet weather. They will sometimes take more than two work for stays (last year at Lake of the Clouds there were at least 10) but I watched several get sent packing from Madison. Do mention that you are a thru-hiker, but don't expect to always get accepted. By the way, work for stay means work. I didn't get out until 9 or 10 if I got breakfast duty.

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    It would be irresponsible to assume theyd let you stay, regardless of conditions, which you should already be aware can be pretty severe, as well as changing rather quickly. People pay up to $100 a head to stay, there is not unlimited space. They will accomodate to the best of their ability in dangerous conditions, but theres only so much space. I wouldnt plan on staying at any of the huts.RMC has several camps on the north side of Mt Madison, you can camp at valley way, or osgood. but dont assume the huts will take you in, even in bad weather.

  5. #5

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    If the AMC didn't have a policy of only paying guests stay (and the occasional thru-hiker if they are feeling generous, but even thru-hikers have to pay in one form or another), the huts would be over run by hikers who didn't want to pay, but still wanted to use thier facilities.

    Also to some extent, maximum capacity laws come into play. It its illegal to exceed the limit. When I was a summer caretaker at the RMC Crag Camp, (many years ago) I had a policy of not turning anyone away. The cabin was rated for sleeping 15. I would often have 30, and a couple of nights I had over 50! Finding places to put all those people and thier gear was a challenge! Stacked them in like cord wood.

    However, these days the maximum capacity rules are enforced (Forest service insisted to renew the special use permit). If the place is full and you show up late at night, dripping wet and hypothermic, you will not be allowed to stay. You will be able to dry off and warm up, but once that happens, your out of there.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  6. #6
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    Concur - don't expect a work-for-stay. Make an itinerary with stays at some of the pay shelters and some of the free tent platforms and maybe The Dungeon at Lakes of the Clouds. If, for whatever reason, you do get a work-for-stay, that is good. Just don't expect it. (If you are in the midst of a large group, try to stagger going thru and don't forget that SOBOs might be going thru at the same time.)

    For planning purposes, I usually suggest to hikers to 1/2 whatever they think is their hourly average for travel thru the Whites (if you think you currently do 3 mph, expect to do 1.5 mph in the Whites).

    Do stop at the huts for soup and baked goodies.

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

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    Obviously, if it is really crazy ass stormy out, any port in a storm. Common sense.
    You should still be prepared for it though, and not be dependant on huts etc. Gone With The Wind Notwithstanding.

  8. #8
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    the huts and the trail the AT uses were there long before the AT was a trail and before there were "thru-hikers". you make a choice to hike the whole thing in one shot. plan accordingly and don't expect special treatment cuz you're on a vacation

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by dgposey View Post
    I have heard that, due to the tempermental weather in the White Mountains of NH, it is illegal to turn anybody away from the huts there. First of all, is this true? And secondly, what does it mean in practice? For instance, if I show up and say I don't have any money/a reservation, will they let me stay?

    I maybe should mention that I'm a thru-hiker, and I don't necessarily plan to be one of the first two hikers to arrive to get work-for-stay, and I'm certainly not willing to pay the ridiculously high fees.
    That's crazy By that reasoning it would be illegal to camp in the Whites.

    BTW, potentially deadly weather can happen anywhere/anytime; nature just sucks that way.

  10. #10
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    Maybe I need to recalibrate my entitlement-o-meter, but that original post (the past line in particular) just rubbed me the wrong way. The huts are nice things: well-staffed, hot food, and other human conveniences in the middle of a sometimes-harsh environment. If you're unwilling to pay what they ask, just move on. You'd be a fool to be passing through the Whites without enough gear (layers/shelter/bag) to survive in the event that the weather stranded you between huts, anyway.
    Though much is taken, much abides, and though
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    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts.

  11. #11
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    Old Magnus scolded them formally for supposing there was any danger to an active young fellow from a spring gale, whether by sea or land; yet ended by giving his own caution also to Mordaunt, advising him seriously to delay his journey, or at least to stop at Stourburgh. "For," said he, "second thoughts are best; and as this Scotsman's howf lies right under your lee, why, take any port in a storm. But do not be assured to find the door on latch, let the storm blow ever so hard; there are such matters as bolts and bars in Scotland, though, thanks to Saint Ronald, they are unknown here, save that great lock on the old Castle in Scalloway, that all men run to see - may be they make part of this man's improvements. But go, Mordaunt, since go you will.

  12. #12
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jersey Tim View Post
    You'd be a fool to be passing through the Whites without enough gear (layers/shelter/bag) to survive in the event that the weather stranded you between huts, anyway.
    I don't believe that is the point. Most 'thru-hikers' are probably carrying the necessary gear. By the time they get to the Whites, they have heard about the conditions, the weather, the ascents and descents, the huts and their associated expenses and, of course, the work-for-stays. Doing a work-for-stay appears to have become the accepted norm for getting thru the Whites without much expense.

    I suspect that very few 'thru-hikers' will, as I have suggested, make a plan, since they haven't done so at any other point on their hike. Instead they'll likely just go thru and 'expect' a work-for-stay. I betcha Pack Rat and Phatt Chapp could count on one hand the number of hikers that have asked for advice before hitting the Whites . . .

    See you on the trail,
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgposey View Post
    I have heard that, due to the tempermental weather in the White Mountains of NH, it is illegal to turn anybody away from the huts there. First of all, is this true? And secondly, what does it mean in practice? For instance, if I show up and say I don't have any money/a reservation, will they let me stay?

    I maybe should mention that I'm a thru-hiker, and I don't necessarily plan to be one of the first two hikers to arrive to get work-for-stay, and I'm certainly not willing to pay the ridiculously high fees.
    Incorrect. They can, and will, turn you away. Regardless of the weather. They are under no legal obligation to let you stay there.
    Don't take anything I say seriously... I certainly don't.

  14. #14
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    There have been challenges over the years to AMC when people arrive at the hut and are "too tired to go on" or dont have the proper gear to go on. The hut crew does have the right (as a private facility) to refuse to let someone stay. If the individual wants to push it, I expect they can call up fish and game for a rescue and most likely end up paying for that rescue.

    The reality is that the hut crews try to work out a solution for anyone who ends up on their doorstep as long as the individuals dont get an "attitude" ,unfortunately sometimes the solution is to suggest the hiker head on down a side trail, if they dont have a flashlight, the hut will sell them one. Everyone of the high huts above treeline have "escape routes" where someone can rapidly drop down into the trees. Its rare that threatening conditions will last all night (or even more than a couple of hours) so there is no real need for someone to have to stay at a hut. There are up to date forecasts at every hut so unusual weather conditions shouldn't be a surprise. Do note that many of the guests at the huts are on hut to hut trips or weekend trips, if the conditions are nasty, some of the hut to hut hikers and weekenders will elect not to go to the next hut therefore freeing up spaces, which are made available, albeit at some cost to the last minute guest. I have never in 20 years of living in the area heard of a situation where an obviously injured hiker has been turned out, I have on the other hand heard of several overly dramatic morons who mis-planned their hikes and decided that they needed to vent their spleen for all the hear after being refused a spot. They usually disappear from the hiking community soon after.

    In no case should a thruhiker get in this situation, they should know their abilities and have a plan on where they are staying that evening, generally, there are numerous sidetrails that will drop them below treeline and into somewhat open woods in an hour or less if they cant make their intended place to stay. If they get injured enough that they cant proceed, the hut crew will start the rescue process.

  15. #15

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    I reached the Madison Spring Hut after season. Severely fatigued and hurting, I wasn't expecting anyone to be there and planned on staying outside in the small foyer. To my surprise when I arrived, there was a caretaker there closing the hut for the season. He refused to let me stay and sent me down the trail to the Valley campsite, where I further injured myself along the way. At that point, I needed to leave the trail and end my thru-hike. To literally add insult to injury, I was reading Trail Journals a few days later and saw where the same caretaker, invited another thru-hiker to stay the night if he washed dishes.

    At that point I swore, never to listen to a caretaker again. I understand the need for rules in the high country and the damage that can be done to the fragile environment, but when a group like the AMC brings thousands of hikers to the area every year, are they doing the environment any favors?

  16. #16
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    Good thread. And Ender is absolutely right. Just like hotels, these places have no obligation whatsoever to lodge people who can't (or more likely, don't want to) pay for their services. It should also be pointed out that there are hundreds, if not thousands of perfectly good places for hikers to legally overnight in the White Mountains, and the properly prepared hiker, especially one who's planned his/her daily travels well, and who carries a current map of the area, including side trails below treeline.....well these folks don't seem to have problems in the White Mountains. But as for expecting the AMC to lodge (at a discount or more likely, for free) people who are ill-prepared or ill-equipped, well, no, they're under no obligation to do so. Alternate argument: If I arrive in downtown Boston on a rainy night, without having made any previous plans, without having looked into lodging alternatives, and with only 10 bucks in my pocket, is it reasonable that the Ritz Carlton put me up for the night at their expense? Um, no, it isn't, and they wouldn't.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sly View Post
    I reached the Madison Spring Hut after season. Severely fatigued and hurting, I wasn't expecting anyone to be there and planned on staying outside in the small foyer. To my surprise when I arrived, there was a caretaker there closing the hut for the season. He refused to let me stay and sent me down the trail to the Valley campsite, where I further injured myself along the way. At that point, I needed to leave the trail and end my thru-hike. To literally add insult to injury, I was reading Trail Journals a few days later and saw where the same caretaker, invited another thru-hiker to stay the night if he washed dishes.

    At that point I swore, never to listen to a caretaker again. I understand the need for rules in the high country and the damage that can be done to the fragile environment, but when a group like the AMC brings thousands of hikers to the area every year, are they doing the environment any favors?
    What did your situation have to do with the environment or AMC rules?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sly View Post

    At that point I swore, never to listen to a caretaker again. I understand the need for rules in the high country and the damage that can be done to the fragile environment, but when a group like the AMC brings thousands of hikers to the area every year, are they doing the environment any favors?
    pretty hard to damage granite. the "environment" in the whites ain't being harmed

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    pretty hard to damage granite. the "environment" in the whites ain't being harmed
    Not that I'm going to impact them more than the hordes the AMC brings in, there's delicate lichens and fragile plants.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobqzzi View Post
    What did your situation have to do with the environment or AMC rules?
    According to the AMC rules there's no camping near the Huts, I believe under the auspices of protecting the environment. Probably more like their pocketbook.

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