The Best Work-For-Stay Ever

The Best Work-For-Stay Ever

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. 

Lake of the Clouds Hut (not where the story takes place)

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.

A hard earned meal

It was, I’m quite positive, the best work for stay ever. 






Twelve down and only two more to go! I was really fortunate to have perfect weather nearly every day in Vermont, and it made for some really great days of hiking. Here are some highlights from the past week or so:

Camping on Glastenbury mountain 

On one of my first nights in Vermont, I decided to camp on top of Glastenbury Mountain. There was an old fire tower on top of the mountain, and the view from the top of the tower was the best I could remember since the Smokies. Looking back into Massachusetts I could see Mt. Greylock and the ridge I had just come from, and looking north I could see Stratton and the Green Mountains of Vermont awaiting me. I couldn’t help but smile as I stood up there and thought about how far I had come, and the incredible mountains that still lay ahead of me. I cooked my mac n cheese in the tower that night and enjoyed a stellar sunset. The next morning I woke up early and took my coffee up there for an equally impressive sunrise. It was an awesome night and morning, and it got me uber stoked to be in Vermont and New England.

Birthday golf in Manchester Center

I celebrated my 25th birthday last week in Manchester Center, Vermont. It wasn’t my favorite trail town, as it seemed to be mostly an outlet shopping destination, but I did manage to find an awesome motel to stay at. The Palmer House hotel gave me a hiker rate of $85 for a double room, which I split 5 ways with my friends Captain Planet, Library, Wook, and Rainbow Mama. We had way too much fun playing a round of golf on the motel’s par 3 course, then ordered pizzas and wings and watched some mindless television in the room. The next morning I picked out a new book at the Northshire Bookstore and hiked 10 miles or so up the trail. All in all it was a pretty great birthday!

Rutland, Yellow Deli, and Killington slackpack 

When I passed through Rutland, VT, I got a hitch into town to pick up a couple of packages and resupply at Wal Mart. The Twelve Tribes run a Yellow Deli and Hiker Hostel there, right in downtown Rutland. I wasn’t planning to stay the night there, but when I stopped in at the Yellow Deli for a sandwich I ran into Otter and Fish N Chips, who had stayed there the past two nights. They filled me in on how they were able to leave the majority of their gear there all day and slack pack 18 miles up and over Killington by taking advantage of a local bus route. I was quickly convinced to stay the next two nights there and take advantage of a free slackpack. Bebop also ended up showing up there the next day, so it was fun to catch up with him again. Their religious beliefs and practices aside- they treated me really well, and even fed me a delicious breakfast for free. It was definitely an interesting experience staying with them, but I got a kick out of watching them all interact with each other and wondering how it all worked. I wouldn’t dare ask them about it! 


Also, Vermont was GORGEOUS. So many great views, spectacular stretches of forests, and pristine lakes and streams. After a month and a half of pushing through the somewhat lackluster Mid-Atlantic section of the trail, it was really great to be back in some tall mountains and captivating forests.

Yesterday morning I crossed the border into New Hampshire, and spent an enjoyable day in Hanover. I spent a couple of hours at the pizza shop, where the thru hiker special is a cheese slice and a 20 oz PBR for $0.80 (yes, eighty cents). I resupplied at an awesome Co-Op in town, and set up my tent just beyond the tree line, about 200 yards away from the co-op and right behind the Dartmouth softball fields. I hung out there for a little while and Otter, Fish N Chips, Wook, Scarecrow, and Muffin Man showed up and set their tents up nearby. A little later we all headed back to the co-op for dinner. I pigged out on a giant Greek salad, a sushi roll, and two more slices of pizza. After dinner we had a few cold ones on the outfield fence while watching the Dartmouth softball team practice, and then hit the hay. Tonight I’m camped about fifteen miles north of Hanover.

In just a couple more days I’ll start the White Mountains. In only 5 more weeks I’ll be standing on top of Katahdin. Where has the time gone…

More soon!