When staffers (a.k.a. croo) in AMC’s eight White Mountain huts take their well-deserved days off every summer, alumni (a.k.a. members of the Old Hutcroo Association) volunteer to fill in, flipping hundreds of pancakes, washing piles upon piles of dishes, and performing themed skits—better known as Blanket Folding Demonstrations, or BFDs—for overnight guests.
We talked with three former croo—Abby Mnookin, Madison Spring (’98, ’99), Mizpah Spring (’99); Noah Kuhn, Galehead hutmaster (’02); and Andy Cohen, Lakes of the Clouds (’81), Zealand Falls (’82), Galehead assistant hutmaster (’84), Lakes of the Clouds hutmaster (’85)—about what it’s like to return to work in the huts they once called home.
Why did you decide to come back to the huts as fill-in croo?
Kuhn: My parents took my sister and me up there when we were super-little. My sister would have been in a backpack. Growing up, I had it in my head that this was something I wanted to do. I actually found a message [I wrote] in an old visitor logbook saying, “Hey, one day I’m going to work here.” [Croo] was such a great time in my life. So, I got on the list.
Cohen: It’s a beautiful place to spend a little working vacation. You get to stay in touch with what’s happening in the huts today and help out the croo, because people used to do that for us.
What’s your most memorable moment from volunteering?
Mnookin: I have kind of a love/hate relationship with [BFDs]. Now that I return with my kid who loves dress-up and pretend, BFDs are really fun to do with her and the other kids on croo.
Kuhn: The best part is just getting back together with the people you used to work with years ago. The last few years at Galehead, we’ve brought guitars up. We have little impromptu concerts for the guests.
Cohen: The first year we did a croo-switch, we sort of [forgot] the BFD, and the guests got really upset. They look forward to that. It’s a big part of croo.
How has croo changed over the years?
Mnookin: It just feels like the world is changing in so many ways, and one of the things I love about returning to the huts and mountains is feeling a sense of timelessness. The biggest difference is when we were at the huts, no one had cell phones. And if they did, there was no service!
Cohen: Some people like to remember the old days, but I’m always shocked at how little it has changed.
How has returning as fill-in croo impacted you?
Mnookin: There’s nothing else like it. The depth of connection is really unique, just feeling a part of a team and that each of you is doing your part to keep the hut running. Whenever I see current croo packing in as we’re leaving, I’m filled with a little bit of nostalgia for that whole experience.
Kuhn: My wife and I met at a hut, and we have a connection to it that we don’t want to let go. My daughter is 6, and she has been up every summer of her life. My wife went up when she was 35 weeks pregnant. We took my kids up one time as paying customers, last fall, and it’s great, but being on that back side of things and showing them how that experience shapes me—I just really enjoy that.