Backcountry Made Easy
What Makes a Hut Family-Friendly?
How can you determine if a hut is a good choice for your family? I was lucky enough to have been to Lonesome Lake on several occasions prior to this outing, so I knew what to expect. But not all huts are created equal.
The AMC makes this abundantly clear, rating each of its eight huts according to ease of access and location in relation to treeline. According to this system, Lonesome Lake Hut is one of two rated "easiest" because the hike requires a total change in elevation of only 900 feet, and the hut is located below treeline, meaning travelers won't be subject to the severe weather that often blows in above treeline.
Regardless of your destination, you'll want to find out crucial details ahead of time:
What's the hike like? This is one of the most vital questions of all. Read all hut information carefully, and chat with hut personnel or representatives to gather additional details. Find a specific trail description of the hike you'll be tackling. Think about your children's ages and abilities, and whether the trail sounds doable. Make sure there are no hazards, such as difficult stream crossings, that could prove treacherous. The two-year-old in our group had trouble with the trail to Lonesome Lake and had to be carried much of the way, but his parents didn't bring a child carrier. They grew exhausted and had a less-than-perfect time.
Where will you be sleeping and staying? Lonesome Lake Hut has bunkrooms that sleep four to eight people, ideal for families and groups. Kids and families find these sleeping quarters less overwhelming than the large dormitory-style bunkrooms in some of the other AMC huts, such as Zealand Falls Hut. Zealand Hut is also rated "easiest" according to the AMC, but in my mind the large bunkrooms, with bunks stacked three high, make it much less appealing to families. Young children might not like sleeping around so many strangers, and if your children have any nighttime difficulties, your family won't be too popular.
What, if any, meals are served? Make sure you know exactly what the hut provides and what you need to bring. We needed to bring our own lunches and snacks, but the hut provided dinner and breakfast, which were both tasty and hearty. To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to the food, so I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty, homemade lasagna, bread, soup, and more. My son loved the abundant hot chocolate. In the morning we had such a filling breakfast that no one thought about lunch until quite late in the afternoon.
What activities are available? Will the hut and its surroundings keep your kids entertained? At Lonesome Lake, the answer is a resounding yes. As soon as we settled in, we headed down to the swimming dock, and after dinner we headed back, where the kids frolicked as the adults drank in the glowing sunset. The hut also provided an AMC Junior Naturalist Activity Book, which the kids completed, earning AMC Junior Naturalist patches as a reward at breakfast the next morning. Naturalist-led hikes were also available, but they didn't fit into our group's schedule. Last but not least, even the end of our adventure provided another form of recreation, a picnic at a sandy beach at the Flume Gorge Visitor Center. Dipping our toes in the water was the perfect end to a weekend of hiking.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication