Cruising with the ‘Croo’
Photographs and text by H. Lincoln Benedict ’09
Over the pre-meal din and at the top of their lungs, the staff cries, “Dinner!” All becomes quiet, and the first course of the evening meal at Greenleaf hut, 4,200 feet above sea level in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, is served.
Run by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Greenleaf is among eight high-mountain huts staffed by about 50 college-age men and women, known as “croo.” Last summer, five Batesies were hut croo, a number tied with Middlebury for the most in the huts.
- View a multimedia story by student photographer Lincoln Benedict ’09
The oldest huts have sheltered hikers overnight since the late 19th century, though things aren’t as spartan as they used to be. “We give our guests a five-course meal, an educational program, and plenty of entertainment,” says Lonesome Lake croo Carrie Piper ’09 of Lower Waterford, Vt.
At dinner, for example, the croo might stage a funny skit that explains hiker etiquette, like leave-no-trace, and mountain lore. And it’s not all an act. The croo tend to have a keen environmental ethos and a reputation as, well, college kids — crazy, frank, and hardworking. Hut food is hauled up on croo backs, and even under 100 pounds the croo will still pass you on the trail. “Some people think we exist in a fantasy world up here,” says Madison hut croo Amelia Harman ’11 of Southport, Conn. “But life is very real. People depend on you.”
“They’re goofy yet responsible adults, and I highly encourage them to have fun,” says AMC hut manager Eric Pedersen. “Humor helps them through the hard work. And from the comments we get, the guests really love it.”
During work hours, the croo generously give time, tips, and insights to visiting hikers. At the same time, the croo cultivate their own mystique, defined by what visitors don’t see. Terms like “raiding,” “hut traverses,” and “MadFest” float around, but if asked directly what these phrases mean, the croo members are coy. That’s the way of the croo.