Working at Hermit Lake Shelters, at the base of New Hampshire’s well-known Tuckerman Ravine, can be pretty cool.
The upside? Caretakers spend a lot of time outdoors, and if they’re lucky, some of that time involves making first tracks on a bluebird powder day.
The downside? The ravine can be downright cold, and if a skier or a snowboarder gets injured, the caretaker is usually the first to respond in freezing-cold temperatures.
Highly skilled in wilderness first aid, avalanche awareness, and Leave No Trace principles, caretakers not only use these skills for the good of the visitors but also that of the ravine. Caretakers work 10 days on with four days off in between and spend much of their time interacting and educating thousands of visitors who frequent the ravine during the winter months.
This year’s caretakers are no strangers to the ravine’s gullies, chutes, and drops. Greet them with a smile and pack out your trash, and they just might tell you where the snow gods hide the white gold.
Name: Sarah Goodnow
Hometown: Mont Vernon, N.H.
Position: Full-time Hermit Lake winter caretaker
Name: Nate Iannuccillo
Hometown: Smithfield, R.I.
Position: Hermit Lake/Carter Notch Hut rotating caretaker
Is this your first gig with AMC?
Goodnow: I started as a guide at the Highland Center and then transitioned to leading AMC NH-JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) trail crew for two summers. This fall I worked on AMC’s professional trail crew, where I maintained cross-country ski trails, installed steps at Lonesome Lake Hut, and worked on a new trail in Raymond, Maine.
Iannuccillo: I worked three seasons as a hut naturalist, in 2014 and 2015. I then went on to work as the hutmaster at Mizpah Spring Hut last summer and Galehead Hut last fall. I was also a winter caretaker at Carter Notch Hut last year.
What’s the craziest question you’ve been asked by a guest?
Goodnow: How long does it take to get to the summit?
Iannuccillo: What do you do to stay sane around here?
What’s your biggest pet peeve as a caretaker?
Goodnow: When people leave toilet paper on the ground.
Iannuccillo: I really dislike it when people ask to hear stories about search and rescues. I am generally opposed to any type of sensationalization of what may have been a scary event at the time for those involved.
What’s your favorite meal to cook during your stint?
Goodnow: A rice noodle bowl with lots of stir-fried veggies and a dressing made of tahini, soy sauce, and garlic. It’s good hot or cold and with lots of sriracha.
Iannuccillo: A burrito with a lot of good ingredients, including fresh garlic.
What book are you reading this winter?
Goodnow: Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.
Iannuccillo: The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Do guests sometimes bring you treats? If so, what’s your fancy?
Goodnow: Guests often gift me treats they don’t want to carry down the mountain (that is, their leftovers). I can’t pass up really good coffee, though.
Iannuccillo: My favorite used to be good coffee, but I’m trying to give it up now. I really like fresh fruit.