Any hiking adventure for me begins with the excitement of planning out the route I am going to take to get from here to there and back again. During a recent adventure to Madison Spring Hut (part of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s High Hut system) I was reminded that it is all about the choices we make along the way. Reaching the Shapleigh Bunkhouse late at night on Friday I checked in with the last remaining attendant on duty and was careful to make as little noise as possible as I found my bunk. Awaking the next morning it was clear the weather would be a continual factor throughout the weekend. Departing from the Highland Center in the morning after a full breakfast and after picking up a sandwich to pack for lunch I made my way to the Appalachia trailhead about 20 minutes away by car. I had a few different choices of trails that would take me to Madison Spring Hut where I would spend the night and narrowed it down to either Valley Way Trail or Airline. Valley Way, while easier, would not lead to the stunning views my guidebook advised Airline would. Airline would be steeper and more treacherous, a much more difficult hike in general. Those views were what I was after though, and so the choice was clear: Airline it was.
The hike did prove quite challenging. About halfway through I was seriously questioning my decision. But I carried on, put one foot in front of the other, and upon passing treeline was able to find a nice place to stop for lunch and enjoy the view.
I didn’t stay put long, however, as some weather was fast approaching. Had I not made the choice to reserve my bunk at Madison Spring Hut I would have been in quite a predicament. As I began the approach to the hut I could now see in the distance I couldn’t help but marvel that just up ahead awaited a shelter in the clouds, with a bunk and hot meals to boot. A welcome sight, indeed.
I had originally planned to drop off my pack and make the summit before returning for dinner, but the current weather conditions prohibited that plan. I removed my boots and made myself at home, taking the opportunity to take some images from around the hut instead. The traditional turkey dinner that was served by the Croo was perfectly prepared and the conversation with companion travelers equally enjoyable.
After a hearty breakfast the next morning and a hilarious skit performed by the Croo it was time to depart. The weather was still an issue and the way down (as discussed at breakfast) seemed an easy choice: Valley Way.
As the seasons change and summer turns to fall I am reminded that it is the choices we make along the way that lead us to the tomorrows we find. While two trails may lead to the same destination, the experience along those trails can be quite different and end up leading to different perceptions of our destination. I am continually thankful for the opportunities and experiences these decisions provide and look forward to the adventures to come.
To view these photos in full resolution, as well as more photos from this trip, please visit my archive.
Until next time – CH