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AMC’s White Mountain Huts: Our Mission in Action

April 19, 2016

John Judge

For several years now, guests at AMC’s Lakes of the Clouds Hut in New Hampshire have had the opportunity to get a close-up look at a tiny alpine flower that exists nowhere on Earth except above treeline in the White Mountains.

It’s the diminutive, yellow-petaled Potentilla robbinsiana, or dwarf cinquefoil, and AMC was instrumental in its recovery from the brink of extinction and its removal from the endangered species list in 2002. Although the protected colony is off-limits, per order of the White Mountain National Forest, AMC received approval to create a viewing garden near the hut, which has helped guests learn about the flower’s success story and connect with this small but critical part of the natural world.

AMC’s huts are not only centers for outdoor education and stewardship but also scientific research. Beyond aiding in the recovery of the dwarf cinquefoil, AMC Research staff operates a cloud collector at Lakes, capturing cloud water and analyzing it to monitor acidic precipitation. I’m pleased to report cloud acidity levels are dropping, and you can read more about this important research in this month’s Field Notes.

Step inside any hut and you’ll learn more about what’s outside. Staff and volunteer naturalists provide presentations on local plants, animals, geology, and nearby natural features such as waterfalls and scenic outlooks. The huts reinforce these insights with colorful and informative wall displays, providing a sense of place in the natural environment. Guests can be sure to receive ample information on weather conditions and backcountry safety, as well as Leave No Trace ethics, so we can all continue to care for and enjoy the outdoors.

In addition, our eight off-the-grid huts showcase green-technology systems and practices, including solar and wind power, composting, and energy conservation.

Of course, our huts are places for people, and many of our guests—especially youngsters—learn about the environment through experiences that can be positively life-changing, whether it’s watching a bull moose wading in Zealand Pond, feeling the icy chill of a swim in a mountain stream on a hot summer day, or noticing for the first time new-to-them planets and stars in the night sky.

I’m especially pleased that the huts host outdoor education for young people through our A Mountain Classroom program and our Youth Opportunities Program. Littler kids visiting the huts with their families can take part in eye-opening exercises and explorations through our Junior Naturalist program, earning badges to proudly display on their packs.

Nancy Ritger, AMC’s huts and Cardigan Lodge program manager who oversees our hut-based educational materials, has an exceptional ability to bring natural history and outdoor stewardship to life. As she says: “The goal, overall, is to provide visitors with enough information to safely experience the mountain environment while also deepening their understanding of what makes the area so awe-inspiring and worthy of our good stewardship.”


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John D. Judge, President

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.