What I Learned About Conservation on The Appalachian Trail

How the Appalachian Huts use energy efficient technology to help protect and preserve the environment.

My group outside Galehead Hut.

Over the summer, I hiked 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail on an Overland trip. Overland is a summer camp where participants can select different hiking and biking trips across the country. Groups typically have twelve kids and two leaders, but my group had eleven kids and three leaders. On most nights, my group camped at front country campsites (campsites with access to toilets and running water) or back country campsites (no toilets or running water). However, my three favorite nights of the trip were ones I spent sleeping in Appalachian Mountain Huts. During this section of my trip, we were hiking from hut-to-hut on a series of mountains called the Presidential Range. There are eight White Mountain Huts along the Presidential Range; their names are Carter Notch, Galehead, Greenleaf, Lakes of the Clouds, Lonesome Lake, Madison Spring, Mizpah Spring, and Zealand. I was lucky enough to stay overnight in Galehead, Lakes of the Clouds, and Madison, but we also stopped by Greenleaf and Lonesome Lake for lunch before we headed back on the trail.

My counselor’s picture from outside Galehead Hut.

There is nothing quite like staying at a hut. Each hut is run entirely by volunteers. From the time my group arrived to the time we left a hut, the volunteers made our stay unforgettable. All of the volunteers we encountered were college students from various parts of the country; what they had in common was their passion for conservation and the environment. The job of an Information Volunteer is to provide information on current trail conditions and Appalachian Mountain Club programs and memberships, have solid knowledge of the trails and surrounding area, and enhance visitors’ experiences on the trail. Because I stayed during the summer (which is part of the “in-season”) each night the volunteers served us a home-cooked dinner consisting of fresh bread, a salad, soup, a main course, and a surprise dessert. Before dinner, the crew would put on a performance, banging pots and pans together. The next morning, the volunteers would wake us at 7:00am for a breakfast of oatmeal with toppings, eggs, bacon, and a main course.

Me and my group inside Galehead Hut.

What fascinated me most about the huts was that they were extremely energy efficient. The Appalachian Mountain Club has a commitment to sustainable operations and environmental stewardship. Some of the huts utilize the latest in green and conservation technology. Everything I learned about the huts was part of the nightly talks by the volunteers about conservation. One of the rules was “everything you pack in, you pack out.” That means that everything brought to the hut must leave with that visitor (this was a way to prevent trash). You will not find a garbage can at any of the huts! Another rule was that you had to eat everything you put on your plate. Since all the meals were family style, everyone could take as much food as they wanted, and any leftovers went to the volunteers. Food was not allowed to go to waste. All the vegetables for the salad were grown in a garden behind the hut. The toilets consisted of risen seats with holes–the holes lead straight into composts–this meant none of the toilets flushed (no water was wasted). Additionally, all of the huts receive power by solar power.

The sunset the night we stayed at Madison Hut. (My counselor’s photo).

Burning fossil fuels creates a threat to the natural environment by adding carbon pollution into the air. Until greenhouse gases are dramatically reduced, rising temperatures, increased storm intensities, and coastal flooding due to sea level rise will keep occurring across the Northeast. The goal of the huts is to provide an example of how we can all reduce our carbon footprint to preserve and protect the environment.