Gray Knob is a pretty special place offered to the public by the Randolph Mountain Club. Founded in 1910 , the RMC maintains two back country cabins, two lean-tos, and one hundred trails that wind about the White Mountains. So impressed were we by the cabin and their mission statement, we joined the RMC even though it might be years before we go back. For more information about this super- duper Hennacornoelidays recommended club go here. These are the details.
Where it is: Gray Knob is located on Mount Adams in the twilight of Timber Line (in the Presidential Mountain Range trees stop growing at approximately 4500′ which is an extremely low elevation considering the mountains share the same latitude as the French Riviera; in Colorado Timber Line is closer to 10000′).
How to get there: You gotta hike in. There are many trails that will take you there, but Lowe’s Path is the easiest. You park your car for a buck at Lowe’s gas station off Route 2 in Randolph, NH. Lowe’s store has been around for several generations with Mr. Lowe instrumental in building this path about a century ago. You then walk on the side of busy Route 2 for a tenth of a mile to the trail head. The 3.2 trail is neatly bisected by another trail called The Link. The first 1.6 to The Link is a lazy, pleasant walk in the woods that marginally gets you a little bit higher than where you started. The other half throws many a rock scramble along with inclines that will make your lungs scream. At 2.6 miles you reach a lean-to called the Log Cabin. The 3 walls and roof will keep you dry, but the bugs might also keep you company. It is $8 a night/per person to sleep there. The next .6 is mighty interesting and tired out our knuckles from gripping rocks. It took us, with packs, about 4 hours to do the trail. Most people probably do it closer to 3.
The amenities: For $20 a night/ per person (cheaper if you join the RMC, more on that later) you get to sleep on a worn out mattress set amongst a sea of other mattresses upstairs. As a snorer, I was pretty stoked to be able to observe first-hand the many different snoring methods. Downstairs is a wood burning stove for winter, two tables with benches, and counter space for setting up your backpacking stove. We filtered water from a spring .2 miles away. The cabin also has an impressive library (which I perused under flashlight) and a collection of board games. The main attraction of the cabin is that it offers easy access to a whole bunch of alpine trails including a reportedly not so hard 5 mile trek to Mount Washington. We chose a 1.6 mile hike to the summit of Adams which included a healthy dose of rock scrambles. The weather here is Artic born and is easily stirred up by the mountains. Storms come out of nowhere, it can snow in July, and you do not want to set out without rain gear and a willingness to turn back at a moment’s notice.
The toilet: The toilet is a state of the art environmentally conscious outhouse that utilizes solar power in order to maximize the composting process. To minimize waste, guests are encouraged to pee out in the woods. For #2 guests are asked to add a cup of mulch to their contribution.
Who runs the show: The caretaker runs the show. He or she collects the money each night (including from the Log Cabin and another nearby lean-to called the Perch) and makes sure no one accidentally burns down the cabin. For us, caretaker Hannah not only succeeded in keeping us from harm, but also went way out of her way to ensure that Henna had a good experience in the backcountry. This included on the first night trying to keep Creepy Man from continuing his incredibly inappropriate ghost stories and then later teaching us how to play Cribbage. Her personality and all around niceness reminded us a lot of our niece/cousin/house sitter Abby and we hope to catch up with her again. The visitors change nightly but they all were willing to share stories and other niceties.
Other lodging options up there: Crag’s Camp is more spacious, offers large windows overlooking a steep ravine, and a deck. It is a pretty easy .4 miles away from Gray Knob. For approximately $100 (again, per person) you can sleep in an AMC hut where you will get running water, people to cook for you, and an actual bed (but with no privacy; as frequent Gray Knob camper Carl said “at the end of the day you still sleep in a room with a bunch of strangers snoring). Noel