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National

Unique Summer Job Hidden In The White Mountains

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

In New Hampshire's White Mountains, hikers face extreme weather and rugged peaks. But they can also find backcountry hospitality at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club's high huts. Along with hauling up food and supplies, hut employees serve as stewards of the alpine terrain.

New Hampshire Public Radio's Todd Bookman went to learn more about this unique seasonal job. And he sent this audio postcard.

TODD BOOKMAN, BYLINE: Greenleaf Hut sits on the shoulder of Mount Lafayette. Unchecked winds and 4200-feet of altitude leave the trees up here twisted, dwarfed. It's a beautiful spot to hike up to. Seasonal employees, called Croo, make the 2.9-mile trek twice a week. They use pack boards to carry up supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yeah. So a packboard is essentially a wooden frame. It looks kind of like a ladder. It has hooks, and so we strap boxes and garbage bags and all sorts of - pretty much anything can be strapped to a packboard.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I have two turkeys and some grapefruits.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Generally, the loads are between 150 to 250 pounds spread out over four or five of us.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Sometimes I love packing, but it's a pretty serious love-hate relationship going on.

BOOKMAN: Up at the hut, day hikers and overnighters seek refuge from the ever-changing elements.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Weather up here is not small talk. It is big news.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Things can blow in pretty quick, and the clouds can be really intense and roll up and funnel through the ridge, and everything gets really loud.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIND BLOWING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Working up here in the huts, people get very close, and sometimes romantic relationships do come out of this job. I am dating the Madison Spring Hut hutmaster, and so she is over on the other end of the hut system. If we wanted to see each other, we'd each have to hike 20 miles. She'd be heading west, and I'd be heading east. It's definitely very easy to fall in love with people up here.

(SOUNDBITE OF COOKING)

BOOKMAN: Nick Anderson and his crewmates work 11 days on, three off. They stir the composting toilets. They answer questions about trails and ecology. And they cook.

(SOUNDBITE OF COOKING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Oh, my God, how am I going to cook for 30 people, 40 people, 90 people?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: I really, really, really, really, really enjoy cooking.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: We make food that we want to eat because we eat it as well.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: We are going to start out the evening with a tomato vegetable soup, followed by a (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Doing dishes for 40 people is the best. All you really do is wash dishes, really quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Keep moving, yeah, that's the motto of diving dishes up here in the huts.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: It's a lot of fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: Lights are out at 9:30. Guests get scratchy blankets and some rest before tomorrow's hike. The croo gets a little less sleep.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: It's 5:45 a.m., and I'm making some sourdough pancakes for breakfast. It's very early.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #8: I do this job not simply for the place but for the people. Every summer, I meet better people and new people, and they keep me coming back. It just happens to be so that this is on the side of a mountain, in northern New Hampshire.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SARAH FISCHER: Good morning. Breakfast is in half an hour. It's going to be a great day. Yay.

BLOCK: That was Sarah Fischer playing her accordion at the Greenleaf Hut in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The rest of her croo are Nick Anderson, Emma Gildesgame, Eric Gotthold, Emily Leich and Seth Bishop. New Hampshire Public Radio's Todd Bookman produced our audio postcard.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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