Meet the 2017 AMC Hut Croo

June 1, 2017
  • Meet the AMC Hut Croo
  • Sam DeFlitch, AMC Hut Croo
  • Ali Garvin, AMC Hut Croo
  • Nolan Bishop, AMC Hut Croo
  • Carter Bascom, AMC Hut Croo
  • Abby Avital, AMC Hut Croo
  • Eliza Hazen, AMC Hut Croo
  • Rachel Bolton, AMC Hut Croo
  • Hannah Benson, AMC Hut Croo

I worked my first season at Lakes of the Clouds Hut in 2014. Since then, I’ve been croo at Galehead and Zealand and assistant hutmaster at Mizpah Spring. As a veteran of four seasons in the huts, I know there’s nothing like the anticipation of returning to mountain living, with its challenging pack trails and community of friends.

I also know how much hut croo like to cook and eat, so, with another season in AMC’s high mountain huts about to begin, I caught up with eight of the 2017 croo and asked them to tell me, in their own words, about their favorite recipes. Some of these meals have been passed down through croo generations while others were made up on the spot one lazy cook-day afternoon—but they’re all delicious.

SAM DEFLITCH, 24
Mizpah Spring Hut, Hutmaster

“This is my fifth season working in the huts. I’ve worked at Lonesome, Zealand, and twice at Mizpah—in my opinion, a totally underrated hut with unmatched views of the boreal forest.

“When I’m not running around the mountains in the summer, I’m pursuing my MFA in creative writing at the University of New Hampshire.

“Fun fact: I can recite all of the presidents, in order, in 15 seconds. It’s the ultimate party trick.

“My favorite hut recipe is inspired by the former hut croo, actual goddess, and current AT thru-hiker Hannah Underwood. She used to make the best French bread this side of the Vermont border. It was all back to basics, but she sliced the sides in alternating strips so it was the most beautiful bread in the huts.”

RECIPE: HANNAH UNDERWOOD’S CRUSTY FRENCH BREAD
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp salt
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Begin by proofing, or waking up, your yeast in the water. It should be warm; think Lonesome Lake in July. Let sit for 5 minutes and look for clumps of yeast rising to the surface of the water. That’s how you know it’s alive. Greenleaf hutmaster Ryan Koski-Vacirca likes to say this is his favorite part of any cook-day. Many mornings, he can be seen leaning over a bowl of proofing yeast.
  2. Gently whisk in the salt.
  3. Mix in the flour. Once it begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Test the gluten development by pressing two fingers gently into the dough. If it springs back, stop kneading.
  4. Cover and let the dough rise in a well-oiled bowl for 1 hour.
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out and cut it into the desired number of loaves. Here is where Hannah’s magic comes in: Form the dough into long, thin loaves and then snip the length of the loaf on both sides so it looks like a fringe.
  6. Let the dough rise a second time, once again for as long as you have the patience. I usually managed 20 minutes. Hannah, in her infinite prowess, probably managed a whole 45.
  7. Finally dust with flour and bake in the oven at 375 degrees until golden brown. A trick to form good crust: Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven and resist the temptation to peek while the bread is baking.
  8. A good way to tell when bread is done: Knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready. Allow to cool before slicing.

ALI GARVIN, 21
Greenleaf Hut, Assistant Hutmaster

“This is my second season in the huts. Last summer I worked at Mizpah Spring, and this summer I’m so excited to be working at Greenleaf.

“I’m currently finishing my third year at McGill University, where I study German literature and environmental studies. I’m originally from Westford, Mass.

“Fun fact: I once fell in the dolphin tank at an aquarium in Hawaii.

“I genuinely love cook-days and the freedom in the kitchen that comes with them, so my favorite recipe is a play on the lemon sit-me-down cake . Instead of lemon, I use maple syrup.

NOLAN BISHOP, 22
Galehead Hut, Assistant Hutmaster

“I’m from Northampton, Mass. Although my family now lives in California, I have come back to work at the huts for the last two years. This summer will be my third season, after working at Madison Spring and Lakes of the Clouds.

“I study philosophy and English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and one of my favorite things about the huts is the time and space it affords me to read, hike, and think away from the real world.

“Fun fact: I once served breakfast to a full count [a.k.a. a full house] at Lakes of the Clouds with just one other [croo member], as opposed to the normal nine. We pulled it off then woke the rest of the croo up to help with dishes.

“My favorite hut recipe is huts veteran Becca Doll’s lemon bars. Easily the best dessert and worth all the pack weight in butter.”

CARTER BASCOM, 26
Lonesome Lake Hut, Hutmaster

“This will be my fifth season working for AMC’s huts. I’ve worked full-service seasons at Zealand during the summer, Lonesome and Greenleaf during the fall, and as a caretaker at Lonesome Lake this past late-fall season.

“I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2013 with a degree in recreation management and policy, with a focus in program administration. Once I finish this season, I will be working full-time with Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty in New London, N.H.

“Fun fact: I can legally officiate weddings in the state of New Hampshire.

“My favorite hut recipe is definitely the cinnamon buns.”

ABBY AVITAL, 20
Carter Notch Hut, Assistant Hutmaster

“This will be my second summer in the huts, after starting out at Zealand Falls last year. I was born and raised in New York City, and right now I study environmental and urban studies at Bard College, with a concentration in anthropology.

“Fun fact: I learned last summer that hut bathrooms are best cleaned to the Nutcracker soundtrack, specifically, “Waltz of the Flowers.” It is surprisingly meditative and super conducive to rhythmic scrubbing.

“My favorite recipe is a mint-chocolate buttercream frosting. You can put it on most desserts to spice them up, but my favorite pairing is the huts’ famous vegan chocolate cake.”

RECIPE: MINT-CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
1 cup butter
½ cup evaporated milk
2 ½ to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
Mint extract to taste

  1. Melt the butter.
  2. In a large bowl, alternate adding small amounts of evaporated milk and powdered sugar to the butter. Whisk vigorously after each addition, until the mixture begins to have a frosting-like texture. This recipe is used by hut croo to ensure their arms do not waste away while their legs grow big and strong.
  3. It’s very easy to adjust the flavor and texture of the frosting to specific preferences. Too sweet? More evapo. Too runny? Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes and then add more sugar.
  4. When happy with the texture, add the cocoa powder and mix until the frosting is an even color.
  5. Finally, add the mint extract. A little goes a very long way, so it’s best to fully mix the frosting after each drop and taste to avoid overminted buttercream.
  6. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before spreading on cakes, cupcakes, brownies, spoons, or your sleeping hutmaster’s face.

ELIZA HAZEN, 22
Lakes of the Clouds Hut, Hutmaster

“This is my fourth season. I have worked at Mizpah Spring, Lonesome Lake, and Zealand Falls. I grew up in York, Maine, and often spent weekends hiking or skiing in the White Mountains. This area is an integral part of my identity.

“I am graduating from the University of Montana with a degree in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. I plan on eventually going to nursing school and working in health education. For now, I am thrilled to be back in the Whites.

“Fun fact, related to my favorite hut recipe, the seriously addictive peanut butter squares, which are essentially homemade Reese’s in bar form: I once arrived back at Mizpah after a heavy pack. I unloaded and then ate three peanut butter squares in quick succession. I immediately fell asleep on the kitchen floor. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much sometimes.

“I am convinced these are the hiking equivalent of rocket fuel—or a good way to destroy your hut if a troop of Boy Scouts is staying the night.”

RACHEL BOLTON, 22
Carter Notch Hut, Hutmaster

“I graduated from Pitzer College in May with a degree in politics and gender studies. I’ve worked at Lonesome Lake and Mizpah, and I’ll be at Carter this summer.

“Fun fact: My hutmaster at Mizpah recommended I read East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. I loved it so much, I read it twice through without stopping.

“My favorite hut recipe is a pumpkin soup with a bunch of warm, rich spices, like cinnamon, and a hearty grain, like quinoa, to give it more substance. I always serve it with a side of Greek yogurt.”

HANNAH BENSON, 22
Lakes of the Clouds Hut, Assistant Hutmaster

“I’m from Jackson, N.H., and I recently graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, where I studied French and comparative literature. I will be working at Lakes of the Clouds this summer for my third season in the huts and my second at Lakes.

“Fun fact: my favorite kitchen implement is the immersion blender, and I do my best to use it in one way or another in every recipe I make—more or less successfully.”

RECIPE: CURRIED LENTIL SOUP
This is an easy but delicious soup to make when you are in a pinch. It is vegan and gluten-free, so it will please everyone—and it only uses one pot, to boot! The spices and ingredient amounts listed below are all suggestions and can be adjusted according to your taste. The lentils are the base for the soup of your dreams!

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic (fresh is best, but powder will work in a pinch)
1 ½ Tbsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
4 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger powder (or 1/2 tsp. fresh grated)
1 ½ cup lentils
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large carrot (optional)
2 stalks kale (optional)

  1. Start by briefly heating a thin layer of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot.
  2. Mince the garlic and add it to the pot. Sauté until it just begins to brown.
  3. Add the spices. There should be enough oil in the pot so that the spices do not turn into a solid, dry paste. Add a tablespoon or two more oil, if necessary.
  4. Heat the spices until they become fragrant. This is called blooming, and it’s important to stir constantly to avoid burning the spices.
  5. Add the onions and sauté until they brown at the edges.
  6. Add lentils and water. It’s an approximate 1:4 ratio of lentils to water. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring frequently.
  7. Reduce the heat, add salt, and let the soup simmer for approximately 4 hours. At that point, the lentils should be fully cooked and quite soft. Add more water if you find the lentils absorbing too much of your broth.
  8. Here is where I use the immersion blender. This step is optional, but it gives the soup a smooth texture.
  9. If using carrots, cut them into half-moons and add them to the soup. Simmer until they soften.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste then stir well before serving.
  11. Chopped raw kale makes an excellent garnish to this soup. Add immediately before serving so the leaves wilt slightly.

LEARN MORE
Inspired to cook your own meals in the backcountry? Check out the recent AMC Outdoors story “AMC Test Kitchen,” based on the upcoming AMC book Real Trail Meals.

Meet past AMC hut croos in these videos:

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Emily Bishop

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