A ten-year-old hears the siren call of Lonesome Lake Hut

Backpacking / Winter Sports

Janelle sits on the frozen pond, slowly scraping away the frosty snow until she reaches the ice.

We’re having a bluebird day on Lonesome Lake, surrounded by mountains; the Kinsmen to our west and the Franconia Ridge towering above the trees to the east. The huge hump of the Cannonball rises like a camel’s back to the north, the mountain’s ledges pour ice down toward the lake.

A scorching wind whips over the lake in relentless bursts, picking up the fine snow-ice and flinging it in tight swirls over the hard surface, like a white desert wind storm.

But the girl does not care. She’s bundled tight and turns her back to the wind. This hike to the lake and then to Lonesome Lake Hut has been a long time in the making. It’s her first time to an AMC Hut, and her first time walking over a frozen lake, both experiences she has begged for and looked forward to. And now, the day after a major storm, the mountain Gods have given us a perfect morning. It’s cold, but not frigid. Small wispy clouds lend the lake basin a true mountain feel. And the trail up to Lonesome Lake is well broken out and mellow.

Tough Cookie's first AMC Hut!

I’m not sure what she’s doing, but there’s no need for us to hurry. So I just lift my collar against the wind and sit down next to her, there in the middle of a lake, and enjoy the day.

“Ice,” she shouts after a few moments. “I found the lake.”

She brushes off all the snow and creates a one foot or so circle of pure milky blue ice. Then she lower her eye to the ice, a couple of inches above the surface.

“What are you looking for?” I ask.

“Water. How deep is the ice anyway.”

I shrug. “One, two feet,” I guess. “You won’t be able to see the water below.”

“Whoa, that’s deep.”

Later, after she has fully explored the hut, she casts her verdict on these new surroundings.

Of the four-person bunkhouse: “We could come back with Aaron, Ian and Meg and the four of us could stay in one room.”

Of the outhouse: “I can use that, it’s clean!”

Of the hut kitchen: “They cook here? It’s like a restaurant.”

We sit together at the table, sipping tea and soup, devouring cheese slices and granola. The warm sun streams through the big windows, and I watch Janelle watch the hut master, an energetic young woman with a ski hat and large, blue sunglasses.

After a moment, she asks softly, “How old do you have to be to work here?”

Dan Szczesny


Dan Szczesny is the associate publisher of The Hippo, New Hampshire's largest weekly newspaper based in Manchester. An avid New England hiker and member of the AMC's 4,000 footer club, Dan was married atop Mt. Lafayette. He also spent a month in Nepal trekking to Everest Base Camp. In May, his first book, The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie, will be released through Bondcliff Books. Join the adventure at 52withaview.com.