Life in the Clouds

An overnight stay on the summit of Mount Washington offers weary pride and the best brownies you’ll ever taste.


All I could think about as I looked across the Ammonoosuc Ravine was what an amazing culinary combination peanuts and M&M’s are. My husband and I sat in silence on a long rustic bench, too tired to slap ourselves on the back for a hike well done—me with my new favorite snack and him eating two peanut-butter sandwiches at once.

It was the second weekend in September and we had traveled 5,050 feet (straight up) to spend a night atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in the Lakes of the Clouds Hut operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The temps were in the 30s—nearly a 40-degree drop from the base of the mountain this morning, and the rumor buzzing around the hut was of snow later in the week.

It was easy to see how this rustic abode got its name—two small glacier lakes frame the hut, and being just a mile and a half from the summit of Mount Washington, we were indeed among the clouds.

One by one we were joined by dozens of hikers seeking shelter: dads and daughters on a final trip before the new school year, a women’s hiking group, and a band of dusty “thru-hikers” (Appalachian Trail hikers), who were on their way to Katahdin in Maine.

Aside from shelter, our home for the night promised dinner provided by the “croo”—an eclectic group of teens and twenty-somethings who had come to the hut for summer jobs and experiences of a lifetime. We dined like kings on pizza, salad and a delicious brownie that could only taste so sweet 5,050 feet high. After dinner, we were treated to a sunset you only dream about: an unobstructed orange globe disappearing into the ravine, accented with puffs of smoke from the Mount Washington Cog Railway returning from its final run to the mountain’s summit.

Sleep came early and we hunkered in for an evening in coed bunkrooms, underneath sleeping bags and three wool blankets to combat the single-digit temps that were approaching. As morning broke, everyone sprang out of the drafty beds, hungry to get back on the trail. While life in the clouds is glorious, it was time to head back to earth.

>> For more information on staying in an AMC hut, call 603-466-2727 or visit www.outdoors.org.