A Wedding in the Wilderness

On of the things I love to do is mountain hiking. I'd like to share with you a very unique experience I had on one of my first major hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

It was Columbus Day weekend. That's October 12th here officially. For the White Mountains its late in the hiking 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 and 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 run by the Appalachian Mountain Club under license with the White Mountain National Forest. It's a small rustic hut that sleeps 65 people in bunk rooms and serves a heart breakfast and evening meal. The only access to the hut is by a 2.5 mile hike uphill.
Mizpah Spring Hut

That Friday afternoon with everything ready, we headed up the mountain on Crawford Path. We were well prepared for warmth expect we didn't bring any tents. We thought we were going to be sleeping in bunk beds inside 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.

As we gained altitude we were met by several people heading down hill. 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 hadnt heard of any weddings. Finally in jest my friend pointed to me and told one couple that I was the minister. There were surprised looks.

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.

That night the good people running the hut and the wedding party let some of our group sleep on the dining room tables and floor. Other's of us including myself slept outside in our heavy sleeping bags on the nearby tent platforms.

Winter at the hut
I rmember 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. Breathing is such and essential part of life. I whispered to my friend, "hey are you awake? I think it's snowing." He tried to deny the snow and explained that it was only dew or frost falling from the sky.

As the light increased we certainly saw that it was snow as there was about and inch 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.

There was almost a fairy tale wedding scene. 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 where 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 I have of that day.

By the way, I was not the minister. :)
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