A few years ago when I was living in SF, I came across a blog post from a Boston blogger I follow, dear anna, who wrote about her family’s recent hike – affectionately called a hut to hut. She explained how along the Appalachian Mountain trail sits these small huts along the trail in the sky, and from then on I was intrigued.
Fast forward to this year in Boston, and I knew I wanted to try hiking the huts, but I was still nervous about it. I was talking to another friend about my desire to do it, and she mentioned Backcountry Yoga, an organized hiking experience with yoga that she had been on before. Backcountry Yoga was founded three years ago by Laura Loewy as a passion project to connect yogis with the outdoors. Her business has bloomed into multiple overnight experiences each year in New England, as well as recent additions of a long weekend retreat in Colorado, and a Yoga and Surf retreat in Nicaragua.
So after some encouragement from this friend of mine, I decided to book the weekend away and hoped for the best.
I drove the three hours from Boston early Saturday morning with a case of the butterflies just like I felt when I was going off to camp when I was thirteen. Except instead of being the only girl at computer camp who wasn’t afraid of the outdoors, I was with a group of six other girls in the same boat as me: we loved hiking – and yoga – but wanted some guidance when doing an overnight hike for the first time. After meeting the group and finding our fearless leaders for the weekend, we were ready to get to the trails.
The first leg of the hike was directly up to the Mizpah hut where we were staying and was a straight shot from the Highland Center in the White Mountains where we started. We got our sea legs and started to get to know each other’s names better, and made our first stop to reset ourselves and get ready for the weekend with a meditation at a beautiful waterfall. Laura led us through a guided mediation helping us to center ourselves before the rest of the hike – encouraging us to head into nature with the best intentions.
We continued up to the hut, where we checked in, emptied some of our things, and then made the hike up from there to Jackson, the first of our three summits of the weekend. We hiked up to Jackson (4,052 ft) – thankful to not have our packs – further and further away from the hut. It was amazing to look back and see how far we had come already – the white dot in the distance on the below pic on the top left is the hut where we were staying.
With few people around the summit, we lay down some towels, took off our boots and got into downward dog. The yoga throughout the weekend was primarily the restorative type, and t it was amazing to center your breathing and your movements on the top of a mountain.
After the yoga and a few photo opps (we had the pleasure of having photographer Chris Kolasa on our trip) we walked back down, ready to check out the hut more fully. We stopped again for some yoga, then right as the clock struck six headed into the main cabin area for the best food you can imagine at 4,000 feet. The people who work at the huts – aka the Croo – usually college kids on summer break from the New England towns – have to bring in – and out – all of the food and trash from the hut. Sometimes carrying over 100 lbs – it’s so cool to see the same process more or less in place for the last 125 years. I loved the hut experience – it’s totally something I would do again. It’s sort of like adult summer camp – they put on skits, you eat delicious food, you can BYO up the mountain – you just have to worry about potential snoring bunkmates. 🙂
We finished the evening watching the stars, then headed to our bunk beds to get a good night’s rest for the next day.
We awoke in our bunk beds to the Croo singing, and gathered our things before heading down to breakfast. We enjoyed the only oatmeal I’ve ever liked in my whole life, as well as eggs and sausage. One thing is for sure, we didn’t go hungry at the huts. After breakfast, we stretched out and began our day with another full yoga session. I have to say the yoga portion of the weekend surprised me in how much I really enjoyed it. It was a crazy good experience to be taking a deep breath of fresh air, stretching out, lifting your face to the sun and hearing the birds chirp in the distance. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for other outdoor yoga opportunities.
After our morning yoga, it was an immediate ascent to Mount Pierce. This was a pretty steep hike, and I felt a little lopsided with the pack. The backpacker pack sort of feels like there’s a koala on your back. You kind of forget about it – but then you get off balance and remember it’s there again.
Once we made it to Mount Pierce (4,311 feet), it’s a quick break for a snack and a great view, and then onwards and upwards to Mount Eisenhower (4,780). Eisenhower was MUCH more windy than the others – and made me wide eyed thinking about how windy it would be up on Mount Washington, the highest of the Presdientials and the highest peak in the Northeast (6,289 feet). We lucked out for sure with the weather when we were there – true blue sunny skies – but even then you never know what to expect. We passed a few signs that said “Warning: this area has the worst weather in America.” – these mountains prove that just because it’s nice on the ground doesn’t mean it’s the same weather once you get up there.
After Eisenhower, it was down, down, down. This was probably the longest and hardest part of the trip. I feel like my body is prepared for hiking up (thanks field hockey) but the downward is always an interesting group of muscles and can be hard on the knees. We took a nice, slow pace though, and were able to enjoy the conversation now that we were all long lost friends.
Overall we hiked about 15 miles and three 4,000 summits. I made some good friends, and truly enjoyed the weekend. It make me much more comfortable with hiking and the huts – and I think it’s something I’d feel comfortable doing without a guide in the future. That being said, I’d also totally go on another trip with Laura and Joel at Backcountry Yoga. They are good people, and they attract good people, making it an awesome experience for anyone.