Tue, Feb 20, 2024
Mt. Madison & Mt. Adams
by Bill Newman
Hike Length: overnight
Trails: Brookside to Airline for ascent, then Great Gulf to Spur to Randolph for descent
Date: August 8 - 9, 2004
My hiking partner, Jeff, and I wanted to find a decent hike but due to his recent ankle injury, we needed a hike that wouldn’t require full packs but still wanted to hit something with a challenge. With this in mind, we decided on a trip using one of the AMC huts. After my recent encounter with the Mizpah Party Hut (see my Mt. Pierce report), I was a little sketchy about staying at a hut. I had never stayed at one and the Mizpah experience didn’t wet my appetite. But if this were the only way for us to get out, then a hut it would be. Jeff had stayed at the Madison Hut and was very convincing that my previous trip was not the norm when it came to the hut system. The lower elevation huts were more for the party crowd, and the more difficult to reach ones would be for the hiking crowd. I will say that after staying at the “Mad Hut” my views about the huts have done a complete 180.
We started at the Appalachia parking lot off Route 2. Nothing marks this lot except the usual stick figure sign, but its size should be a dead giveaway because there are a lot of trails that start here. There was no fee for parking and we started on a Sunday morning and found a space easily. The most common and direct route to the hut is Airline, so we took the Brookside. My first recommendation is to use a topo map that is scaled to 1/4 inch equals a mile. This area has quite a few trails maintained by both RMC and AMC, and they frequently cross each other and run along side other trails. Some small trails weren’t on either of our maps. Even with a lot of markings and different colors, it can be confusing.
The Brookside trail runs along the Snyder Brook about ¾ of the entire trail to the hut, so water is plentiful until Lower Bruin. There are also some fantastic little waterfalls and some great views back to Mt Crescent along the way and there are plenty of picturesque places to stop for a snack. Our original plan was to get to Upper Bruin then side step over to Knife Edge, and then on to the col where the hut sits. The weather was a perfect 70+ with light wind and plenty of sun. But that was at the base! Never judge the ridge or summit by the weather at base. By the time we reached Upper Bruin we had already been through 2 passing rain showers and the darkening clouds were engulfing us. The base was still in beautiful sunshine.
We had stopped to take some water and to get ready to tackle the Knife Edge when a massive storm cloud came over the ridge. Winds whipped to 40 MPH and the rain began to pour down. We scrapped our Knife Edge plan, and just made a dash for the hut. The warnings about the weather are there for a reason…and we found out first hand just how quick the weather can change above timberline. The winds were now sustained at 30-40 MPH, the temperature dropped rapidly, and the rain turned bitter cold…then it started to hail - in August! Fortunately the hut was less than a ¼ mile away from the weather warning sign, so we ran instead of taking the time to stop and put on rain gear.
The Brookside is rated as a moderate hike and I would agree except when it rains. Too many wet rocks, mud, and stumps would make this a difficult one during these conditions, and we found no safe havens along the way. Apparently the entertainment for the day at the hut was to watch all the soaked hikers come through looking for a few minutes of refuge. It was pretty full with both day hikers and the people staying overnight, and like usual the hut was fully reserved for the night. We had made our reservation a few weeks in advance, so use the links on this page to check on availability. Do not go there thinking there’ll be an opening.
There are 2 rooms for bunks (4 high) that I would estimate that it sleeps 50. The dining room is where most people mill about, play cards, and trade trekking tales. We chose our bunks (first come first serve), changed out of our soaked clothes, and then went to the dining room for some hot cocoa. The dining room has some great views of both Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams depending on which side of the room you sit, and the storm clouds made these peaks look even more ominous. Great when you’re inside, not so great if you’re still hiking!
I need to go a little tangent here and let you know about the college kids that work the hut because they deserve some serious credit. “The Croo” as they are known provide important information to hikers like weather, they also clean the hut, entertain the troops, and assist anyone that steps through the door. They hike trash out and supplies in on a regular basis, and tend to the compost toilets. For those reasons alone they deserve respect, but they also make your dinner (we had hot homemade turkey soup, stuffed shells and fresh Rosemary bread) and breakfast (oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, and bacon!), and then they even clean up the tables for you when done. Keep this in mind if you stay at a hut-they took care of you, please take care of them! I’d also like to make mention that the hut system has generated a new way of hiking; family style. This night there were only a couple of kids but it’s my understanding that family’s make up the predominant nightly residents. It’s great that family vacations are now family adventures, and the AMC hut system makes it all possible.
After dinner, there really isn’t much to do. Our original plan was to bag Mt. Madison for sunset, but due to the weather, we opted to stay inside and play cards and trade war stories with the other guests. Bedtime is at 9:30 or so, but between the wind blasts both indoors and out, and the snoring, it was a little difficult to sleep. Bring earplugs.Next Page >>
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