|Mizpah Springs hut – 1965|
My favorite thing to do is mountain hiking. On one of the first major hikes as a young teen into the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire I had a very unusual and exciting experience.
It was Columbus Day weekend. That’s October 12th here officially. For the White Mountains its a peek time for hiking in the autumn season, and just past the full fall foliage display. It’s still beautiful there but many of the trees have already dropped their leaves. The nights can be every cold and easily drop below freezing.
I belonged to a college recreation club. We had a hike scheduled for that weekend. It was decided that we would climb Mount Pierce, (named for New Hampshire’s only U.S. President) and stay the night at Mizpah Spring Hut.
Mizpah Spring Hut is part of t a chain of mountain huts that are run by the Appalachian Mountain Club under license with the White Mountain National Forest. It’s a rustic hut with a modern shape built in 1965. It sleeps 65 people in bunk rooms and serves a hearty breakfast and evening meal. The only access to the hut is by a 2.5 mile hike uphill.
That Friday afternoon with everything ready, we headed up the mountain on Crawford Path. We were well prepared with warm clothing but we didn’t bring any tents. We thought we were going to be sleeping in bunk beds in the hut inside in our cozy sleeping bags. This was before the days of making reservations for the huts.
It was a beautiful crisp clear fall day. leaves were falling from the trees above us coating the trail. There were some slippery spots along the way, but it was mostly sure footing.
|Mizpah Spring Hut|
As we gained altitude we were met by several people heading downhill. All of them would inquire, “are you going to the wedding?” We heard this a number of times, and our standard reply was no, we hadn’t heard of any weddings. Finally in jest, my friend said to a group of ladies, “yah we are going (pointing to me) and he is the minister.” They gave us looks of astonishment.
Then we met the groom coming downhill. He had spent the day shuttling supplies for the wedding and the reception uphill not once, but several times. We asked him if there was any room in the hut for us. We were disappointed to find out there was no room, but he did say there were tents platforms nearby that were empty.
Now remember we’re a bunch of college kids. We’re well clothed, but have no shelter in a forbidding wilderness, for the night. Maybe you can guess what our decision was. You’re right we continued up the mountain.
That night the good people running the hut and the wedding party let some of our group sleep in the dining room on the tables and floor. Other’s of us including myself slept outside in our heavy sleeping bags on the nearby tent platforms.
I remember waking up very early Saturday morning when it was still too dark to see. I could feel something wet falling on my face. I was very warm in my sleeping bag and didn’t want to get out, but just around my nose area was exposed. I whispered to my friend, “hey are you awake? I think it’s snowing.” He tried to deny the it was snow and explained that it was only dew or frost falling from the sky.
As the morming light increased we certainly saw that it was snow as there was about and inch or two on top of us. We hustled our way out of our sleeping bags and ran to the dining room where there was a nice cozy fire in the wood stove.
The wedding party was gracious enough to let us stay for breakfast and witness the wedding.
|Winter at the hut|
Now talk about fairy tale wedding scenes… The snow had stopped just enough to allow the guests to gather outside in the clearing next to the hut. The clouds had lifted to see the nearby peaks of Mount Pierce and Mount Jackson. The bride was dressed in a full white wedding gown that she had carried up the mountain and kept clean and unwrinkled. When the ceremony began she walked down the stairs from the hut. As the vows were said, a light snow fell. It was a beautiful sight.
After the ceremony everyone went inside to the warmth of the dining room and had the reception. We never knew these people personally but they were kind enough to allow us to be their guests.
For years I kept a photo I had shot of the event. I also had a newspaper clipping someone had found in a New Hampshire newspaper of that wedding. But like many things from that long ago they are lost.
It would be nice to find that couple to thank them and let them know how vivid a memory they made of that day.
By the way, I was not the minister and did not officiate that wedding. 🙂