AT to AMC
Dearest friends, followers, supporters and sponsors we have decided to head back to Georgia! I know, I know, we just finished walking away but we miss it so much we figured we'd walk back.... haha, yeah right! How about a 25 hour bus ride from Boston to Knoxville. That may not sound appealing to some, but it's a hell of a lot quicker than 141 days. I've updated you guys on the grand finale that was summiting Katahdin, and on the rigorous journey that got us there; now I'd like to fill everyone in on what we've been doing up in the white mountains for the past 45 days.
Let's start by imagining a mountainous alpine landscape littered with sparse vegetation and rubble all around. A hairline trail splits suburb sized boulders as it winds its way up and over a 4,000ft peak and then plummets down an old washed out ravine. You've been meandering along this trail since sun up soaking in all the grand vistas this heaven on earth has to offer. That cold breeze kept at bay by the sun all day prys your cap from your head, and you soon realize that sightseeing is time consuming work. The sun is much lower in the sky than it normally is at 5 o'clock down in the valley, but not to worry you should only be a mile or so from your car. An hour goes by and you still haven't reached the trailhead. The sun is flirting with the tops of the mountains to your left now, but there's still ample light to make it down. Another hour passes and the only light remaining is the afterglow over the peaks. You should've made it to the car by now. The fact that you haven't most likely means you took the wrong trail somewhere along the way and are now turned around but not lost. You rummage through your bag for the headlamp you're sure you brought, but come up empty handed. Oh well! With some trail mix, a cell phone glow, and a stick you decide to keep walking for another hour or so. You'll definitely hit a road by then. Wrong! It's quarter til eight and you've now accepted that you're lost. Not only are you lost, but what was a heavenly landscape during the day is slowing turning into a hellish terrain where pitfalls seem to be waiting around every corner. That slightly annoying breeze has now turned into gale force gusts and seems to get colder with every bellow. Instead of continuing to hike down you turn around and start hiking up thinking that if you can only see some lights you'd find your way.
After some time and considerable effort you make it to the top of the peak where the gusts are twice as powerful as before and the temperature seems to drop by the second. The thin windbreaker you brought feels like a wet plastic bag against your sweat soaked skin, and you're beginning to shiver. You can't stay on this peak much longer, but you have no clue where to go from here. Then you see the faintest glimmer of light shining in the distance. It's not bright enough to be a city. It's not moving so it's probably not a person. Either way, it's the only light you've seen for hours so you decide to take your chances and head its way. After stumbling across what feels like an endless boulder field you see something too good to be true; a house in the middle of nowhere. At this point you begin to accept the fact that you might be seeing things so you don't get your hopes up. Holding your course you continue to head towards the light and begin to hear voices. Now you're sure you've lost it. Starting to feel a little more than worried about your current situation you unknowingly pick up your pace. The voices are growing louder and are beginning to take form. Laughter, you're hearing laughter. Is this all some cruel prank being played on you? You look up and see people inside the house you thought you imagined, and they're laughing! It can't be. You know you're in the middle of nowhere and if there is a house out here there's probably no good reason for it, but driven by dire circumstances you knock on the door. You're greeted by a tall man with long hair wearing a tutu and a pink bike helmet. He says his name is Joe but you can call him Goose. He welcomes you in, sits you down, and comes back with hot soup and a wool blanket and says ' Welcome to Lakes of the Clouds, everything is gunna be alright! '
If you had the patience and constitution to make it through my horribly told story then you already know one aspect of our work for the AMC hut system. Mountain hospitality! Every day we had people who experienced some if not all aspects of the aforementioned tale of disinterest, and relied on us for respite. We lived in the White Mountain National Forest and always welcomed hikers into our home with a smile. If people could survive solely off smiles than our jobs would be complete. Most folks, however, need a bit more sustenance than grins. So the second part of mountain hospitality was preparing two meals daily for all of our guests and offering people just passing through fresh baked goods as well. We served breakfast and dinner daily and each meal was completely home made. Dinner started with fresh bread and a slow cooked soup followed by a delicious tossed salad. After finishing the first two courses the main entree was dished up followed by a wonderfully decadent dessert. The entrees ranged from turkey, chicken, beef, and pork to enchiladas, stuffed shells, and lasagna. Breakfasts were equally as extensive. Every morning eggs, sausage, pancakes, oatmeal, and coffee were served with a delightfully entertaining skit. All part of mountain hospitality. However, with all that food being served daily there was a lot of waste produced! That's where the second aspect of our jobs came into play; mountain conservation.
Once again, if you were stubborn enough to finish reading my monologue earlier you noticed that the person hiked for quite some time before finding a hut. That's because these huts we worked at were in very beautiful and remote places that folks couldn't simply drive their cars to. Everything coming and going from the hut had to be carried on our backs. All the delicious turkey, beef, and lasagna mentioned earlier came into the huts on our backs. That also means that all the trash had to leave on our backs as well. Two to three days a week we loaded up our pack boards with garbage and recycling and headed down the mountain.
There are other parts to the job as well, but I really want to focus on the conservation efforts of the AMC because they are, on a large scale, representing what PackingItOut is all about. They believe wholeheartedly that if measures aren't taken to preserve our natural resources then they won't be around for future generations to enjoy. We hiked 141 days with that same goal in mind, and were fortunate enough to work for such an inspiring organization that constantly strives to perpetuate that mindset.
We finished the AT feeling accomplished but very worn down. It's nice to feel that same sense of accomplishment now, but feel inspired to continue spreading the word to always pack out what you can. Large or small scale it all makes a difference.
I'd like to thank all of our supporters once again for sticking it out with us on this grand adventure. We have some very exciting things planned for the upcoming months, and would love everyone to continue following packingitout's journey.