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Hike-NH.com Hut Experience – The Madison Spring Hut

Madison Springs - Click to Enlarge

As you may have read from the Mt. Madison Trip Report, our hike to the Madison Spring Hut was fraught with challenges and difficulties, so arriving at the hut was quite a relief. Read on and you’ll see what it’s like to spend a night in these jewels of the mountains.

At about 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon, we arrived at the Madison Spring Hut. We were immediately greeted with the friendly sign that you see below, welcoming us to the Madison Hut. As we entered, we met a few people that had arrived before us. One, a professor at Dartmouth, was enjoying a book, while others were milling about trying to figure out how they were going to survive a night without the distraction of their TV or Internet connection (sense the irony there?). We entered through the dining area, naturally next to the kitchen, which is where two of the hut "Croo" were preparing food. We dropped our packs and grabbed a seat at one of the tables.

Click to Enlarge

Right away one of the Croo members (Alex) offered us free oatmeal-chocolate squares and invited us to grab some hot cocoa. The squares were free, but the cocoa required a $0.75 donation. Being cheap bastards, we grabbed some oatmeal squares and drank some of the Gatorade we brought. We settled down for a few minutes and rested.

After approximately 45 minutes, we thought it would make sense to grab a bunk, since more people were starting to arrive. We were promised a nearly full hut (it holds 50 people) so we got moving. There are two bunkrooms at the hut, and since someone was already snoring in one (it was about 5:00 PM at this point) we thought we’d take our chance in the other. When we walked in, we immediately noticed the high ceiling and big windows – it was really a nice room. Bunks were stacked four high, making the highest bunk a little bit of a challenge at about 12 feet. We grabbed two lower bunks and spread out our sleeping bags. The hut gives you three wool blankets, which you can use any way you want (get creative, you only live once). We quickly learned that there is no space under any bunk to stow your gear, so you need to find some space along a wall (and there ain’t much).

Da Croo - Click to Enlarge

At this point dinner was quickly approaching, so we made our way back to the dining area to relax and enjoy the feast. Croo members Pete and Alex promised us more food than we could possibly eat and we were ready for the challenge. Once we found a spot, we sat and talked, and watched as people started pouring into the hut for the night. After another hour, we quickly realized that we were different in some way from the other people arriving at the hut. At first it was difficult to identify, but it slowly became obvious that we were about the only two people there who hadn’t found it necessary to pack up some form of alcohol. We spotted Nalgeneâ bottles filled with wine, flasks of whiskey, and even a can of beer or two. We were astounded that people would hike four miles into the mountains and trade water for alcohol. But then we found out that most of these people were a group of lawyers – no wonder they needed the alcohol, they probably hated being around themselves (kidding guys! You will not sue, you will not sue . . .)

Dinner was excellent. Vegetarian chili (which we were dreading, but turned out to be very good), baked bread, peas and carrots (Forrest would have been in heaven), garden salad, hot cocoa, water, and bread pudding for dessert. Everything was well prepared and the right temperature (chili=hot salad=cold). All in all, dinner was very good.

After the feast it was time to relax, digest, and chat with the other folks in the hut. We talked with our professor friend about a number of things, the lawyers about nothing in particular, and even met some guys that work in our industry. Everyone was very cordial and conversations were easy. Just before dusk, the resident naturalist, Brian Howser took those of us who were interested on a little hike up to the tarn just above the hut. The weather had subsided and the winds had dropped below 70 mph, so we attended with pleasure. We learned about Diapensia, and other mountain plants, the tarn and how it was formed, the moss covering some rocks, and a variety of other things. Brian was very patient and answered everyone’s questions. A quick walk back at dusk and we were approaching dark.

Tarn Nature Walk - Click to Enlarge

Once the group got back from the nature walk, several people packed it in and hit the bunks. We don’t like to try to sleep before 9:00, so we stayed up for a while and chatted with the hut Croo and some of the other guests. Around 10:30 we decided to hit the hay.

Now, the end of that paragraph may have sounded peaceful and tranquil, but that is anything but an accurate portrayal of the scene as we entered the bunkhouse. Upon opening the door, we were assaulted with a chorus of snoring. At least three people were having an "I’m louder than you are" battle, and there were no signs of a peace agreement. We hopped in bed anyway, hoping our exhaustion from the day’s hike would take over and we would find sleep anyway. Yeah, sure. Whatever.

After two hours of snorts, sniffles, grunts, and other bodily noises (we had chili, remember?) Chris was wondering if it weren’t possible to set up the tent outside, and Rob was wondering why he had left his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson at home. Trying to sleep was miserable and next to impossible. Hut veterans had probably brought earplugs and managed to get at least some sleep, but for us that was next to impossible. From 10:30 PM to 6:00 AM, we each got about 2 hours of sleep. No exaggeration.

As promised, at 6:00 AM the hut was called to arms by Mr. Howser as he strummed his guitar bringing everyone slowly out of their slumber. Breakfast was at 7:00 AM sharp, so we got up and dressed.

At 7:00, we were greeted with pancakes, turkey sausage, oatmeal, coffee, tea, water, and grape juice as well as the usual accoutrements. Again, the food was well prepared (if not a little bland by nature) and the Croo did an excellent job.

Shortly after breakfast, people began to pack up and head out, leaving the hut fairly quiet. We soon followed suit.

Overall, the hut experience was fairly good. The Croo was very accommodating, made us feel comfortable, and provided a very relaxed environment in which to rest. Obviously we could have done without the 50 dB snoring fights all night, but that would probably have been tolerable had we thought to bring earplugs. So if you take nothing else from this page, take this:

BRING EARPLUGS!!!!! and your trip to an AMC hut will be more than enjoyable.


Copyright © 1999-2008
Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy