(Re)building AMC’s A.T. Shelter at Speck Pond

July 26, 2017
AT Shelter
AMC FilesJohn Nininger (far right) built the AT shelter at Speck Pond Campsite with help from AMC staff.

A brand-new shelter along the Appalachian Trail (AT) has an unusual trait in common with its predecessor. For both, AMC helicoptered in prefabricated components that were then assembled on site, at AMC’s Speck Pond Campsite in Maine’s Mahoosuc Range.

Last fall, AMC staff dismantled the old Speck Pond AT shelter, which had stood for 49 years. The December 1968 issue of Appalachia noted that the then-new shelter, which replaced an even earlier version, was assembled on location of pre-cut lumber. While conceding the style was “not too appealing aesthetically,” the article touts prefabrication with lumber as more efficient and less costly than on-location construction with logs. “Prefabrication will be the method used with most of the shelters constructed in the future,” notes the Appalachia entry. But, while prefab worked as well in 1968 as in 2017, peeled white cedar logs were the construction material of choice for the current version.

“The old shelter…served its time proudly, providing shelter for hundreds upon hundreds of sleepy heads,” Joe Roman, AMC’s campsite program and conservation manager, wrote in a post for the AMC Trails Blog. “Its memory will live on to those who called it home, if only for a night. While I and the AMC Trails Department have a deep love for traditions and history, we also know when it is time to embrace the new. We couldn’t be more excited about the new Speck Pond Shelter!”

As a service to hikers, AMC staff erected a temporary AT shelter on one of the campsite’s tent platforms until the permanent structure was completed in June. The new shelter was funded by Andy Fixman and Sue Fixman in memory of their father, Marshall Fixman, an AMC member for 59 years until his death in 2016 at the age of 85. An avid hiker, Marshall loved the White Mountains, and the family enjoyed hiking there and visiting AMC huts in the 1960s and ’70s.

John Nininger, owner of the Wooden House Company and the designer of AMC’s Eliza Brook, Kinsman Pond, and Garfield Ridge shelters, fabricated the Adirondack-style shelter for Speck Pond at his headquarters in Wells River, Vt. The shelter then was disassembled, delivered by tractor-trailer to a roadside staging site, and flown to the campsite, where AMC trail crew and backcountry caretakers worked with Nininger and his staff to reassemble it.

No stranger to shelters or to AMC, Nininger was a member of the White Mountain Professional Trail Crew in the 1970s and was among those who built the Guyot and Carlo Col shelters. Some of his latest collaborative work includes the creation, with AMC staff and alums, of an Adirondack-style shelter that was the centerpiece of a 2015–’16 exhibit on New Hampshire trail clubs at Plymouth State University’s Museum of the White Mountains.

Following its stint as an indoor display, that shelter, named for the late North Country entrepreneur and benefactor Neil Tillotson, now provides refuge for weary hikers on northern New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail, in Connecticut Lakes State Park.


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Rob Burbank

Director of Media and Public Affairs
(603) 466-8155