On winter weekends, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Winter Host Program stations volunteers in a backcountry cabin to provide trail and weather information, hot chocolate, and more to hikers in the Johns Brook Valley. Hikers are given the opportunity to come in from the cold and warm up with a hot beverage on their way to the peaks or before making the last 3.5 mile trek back to the trailhead.
Seven winters ago, I participated in my first outing with ADK, stood on the summit of my first winter high peak, and made my first visit to the “warming hut” on our way out. I was new to winter hiking back then, and didn’t have the best gear or knowledge of what hiking up steep terrain after a big snowfall might entail. It didn’t take long before I realized my water had frozen in my pack and I was carrying useless bricks of ice that offered no hydration. When the group decided to make a loop by descending to Johns Brook Lodge to stop by the warming hut on the way out, I experienced a huge morale boost as I drank hot chocolate and ate M&Ms. Who would have thought there was a HEATED place in the woods where people could stop for a break in the winter, get out of the cold, have hot chocolate, coffee, or tea served to them, and meet some really cool people?! What an amazing idea! That day provided just a small glimpse into the wide range of programs and fun opportunities offered by ADK.
Since then, I have continued to become more involved with different aspects of ADK, from leading outings to summit stewarding to serving on various committees. This year, Ted and I became Winter Host Program volunteers, and we returned to the “warming hut” at the Henry Young Cabin to provide the same enthusiasm and motivation that we’ve received as hikers in the past. Remembering my first visit to the hut, I even brought M&Ms and assorted candy to share with hikers.
We were paired with a couple from Canada, who were also new to the WHP, so we took turns with making the rounds and checking on the property and learned together. They enjoyed a relaxing weekend in the cabin, and since we had sunny weather, Ted and I went for a quick hike up Big Slide one morning for some exercise. We broke trail up the same trail I descended seven years ago, which I haven’t been on since. The fresh, untouched snow on the summit glittered in the sunlight, and with the trees blocking the wind behind us, we enjoyed looking out at the Great Range for a while before descending.
We often find ourselves leaving the Albany area at 3 or 4am to make the drive up north to get on the trail around 6 or 7am and spend anywhere from 6 to 10 hours in the cold before making the two hour drive home at night. This was such a treat to do something different; to do a day hike up a high peak that only took 4 hours total, to spend a weekend in a heated cabin in the woods, and to be an exciting part of other hikers’ adventures. I love seeing the smiles as people discover the cabin and hear we have heat and hot beverages inside. Though we didn’t see a lot of people this weekend, we did see a few people we knew, which is always a nice surprise, and perhaps we even inspired a few younger folks to consider joining ADK.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to give back, to share my passion for the wilderness with new people, and to spend time in such a beautiful place. To learn more about the Adirondack Mountain Club, visit www.adk.org.