If you love getting out into the beautiful, pristine outdoors – or even if you want to learn to love it – you have no better host and mentor than the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).
AMC has lodgings, adventure centers, and tons of support for advanced or newbie adventurers in the most rugged and glorious parts of northern New England. As a matter of fact, it has chapters the entire length and breadth of the region, from Connecticut to Canada.
Your editor, here, is a couch-loving indoors girl who is usually found, at home, with a book in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Muscle tone? Almost nyet.
But I got tempted into a winter walk up to Tuckerman Ravine in Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire last week (December 20) and I would agree it was entirely worth the prep and the jitters.
Big, big help came from AMC and Joe Dodge Lodge, on Route 16 in Jackson, NH, adjacent to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. (map). Joe Dodge Lodge, at the base of Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail, is one of several lodges and cabins in New Hampshire and Maine where the AMC provides rooms, very hearty family-style meals, gear, instruction, and – best of all – generous help and camaraderie from staff and other guests.
(In addition to the inn-like lodges another whole category for overnighting with AMC in the mountains is the high mountain huts – for hikers who like to feel their foreheads bump the stars.
Joe Dodge Lodge ushers guests into very pleasant but no-frills private or bunk rooms with all essentials but no foolishness (eg., do not expect 16 frilled pillows on the bed). The common bathrooms are pristine. A big library with two-story windows is filled with books on the AMC and outdoor adventuring, and a living room has a baby grand piano. (It almost goes without saying: there are large stone fireplaces everywhere you turn.)
Lodging packages are very inexpensive and include hefty meals at the adjacent Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in the amiable company of people who travel from all over the country for hiking and skiing getaways.
Eventually, we had to face up to the trail to Tuckerman Ravine, a glacier-formed snow bowl that adventurous kids from Dartmouth started to climb and ski back in the 1920s and ‘30s. (There’s no ski lift; skiers carry their gear to the top.) Today, the bowl is loved by the most hearty among us particularly for spring skiing.
The walk up the trail moves through snowy woods, past winter-shuttered AMC cabins. The trail is packed, and you need micro-spikes to keep a grip. We walked on a day when temps were in the teens, and we sweated heavily. It is essential to wear sweat-wicking underwear and to be able to shed layers. At the end of the trail, look upward into the snow bowl of Tuckerman Ravine.
The trail was busy – but not crowded – with people puffing up and down, some carrying skis or snowshoes. Everyone is smiling (ok, for me it was a bit of a grim smile on some of the uphills.) It was a marvelous experience.
Another reason plan a visit to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in winter is to feed your body and mind at the International Dinner and Adventure Series, held at the visitor center every Wednesday evening from January 8 to March 18 (excluding February 19). A meal of the cuisine of various places around the world is served as you listen to a presenter talk about travel in those places. Coming up the winter of 2020 are dinners and talks about Costa Rica, Quebec, Switzerland, Namibia, Portugal, Ecuador, Belize, France, Ireland and England. Dinner is $21. Call 603-466-2727.