A few days ago, I had my first work-for-stay experience at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts within White Mountain National Forest. I could have never imagined what would ensue, but I’m pretty sure that I ended up getting the best WFS arrangement of any thru-hiker, ever. I’ll preface the story by acknowledging that many of my thru-hiking peers, especially those who have done a WFS at one of the huts, will have a hard time believing this. Regardless, this really did happen, exactly like I’ll tell it.
Throughout the White Mountains, the Appalachian Mountain Club operates semi privative huts just off the trail. The huts have large bunk rooms, a full kitchen, and a communal dining area. They vary somewhat in amenities and size, and are typically run by a “croo” of 3-5 college aged kids. For $130 per person, guests can reserve a bunk for the night, as well as dinner and breakfast at the hut. As a favor to thru hikers, each hut also offers a couple of work for stay opportunities each night. Hikers are expected to contribute a couple hours of labor, usually washing dishes or cleaning, in exchange for a heaping plate of the leftovers from dinner, and a spot on the dining room floor to lay down their sleeping pad. For the sake of those involved, I’ll leave the name of this hut out of the story.
I pulled into the hut around 4:00 PM after a 15 mile day out of Lincoln, NH. As I approached the hut, I found a girl who was working on the croo there and asked her if I could help out with anything. She told me the work for stay spots had already been filled by other thru hikers, but if I hung around a while they might be able to find something for me to do, or at least share some of the leftovers with me. The food was what I really wanted, so I figured it was well worth waiting around.
After sitting patiently on the bunch outside the hut for almost three hours, I began to worry that she had forgotten about me. Or perhaps she hadn’t forgotten, but had realized that there wouldn’t be enough food for me and didn’t have the heart to tell me. Just as I was getting ready to move on and attempt to find a campsite before it got any darker, the girl came back out to the porch and told me they had found a task for me. I followed her into the kitchen, where I met the other two girls who were working croo there. One of the other girls said to me, “We found something for you to help us with! Tonight is our last night together here as a croo. We’ve worked together all summer long, and tomorrow morning the three of us will be split up and sent to different huts for the fall season. As a tradition on our last night of the the season, we take a photo wearing nothing but our aprons. For your work for stay… we need you to take the photo.”
I couldn’t quite believe my ears, but I quickly agreed. Before I could gather my thoughts, dresses and shorts were hitting the kitchen floor, and the three of them were standing there bare ass naked. They slipped on their aprons, handed me one of their iPhones, and told me to follow them out to the roof where we would take the pictures. As the sun was setting over the White Mountains, I photographed the three of them in their aprons on the roof of the hut.
After climbing through a window back into the hut, I piled a plate as tall as I could with stuffed shells, salad, peas, and bread. I sat at one of the tables in the dining room and a ate every bite of it with a ridiculous grin on my face. I slept on the floor next to the table, and headed on my way early the next morning.
It was, I’m quite positive, the best work for stay ever.