The Joy is in the Journey

White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire USA

Our journey began early Friday morning. My husband and I woke up with that excitement you get when you’re a little kid that found out you have a snow day.

Mostly Cloudy
↑66° / ↓49°
↑66° / ↓50°
↑69° / ↓54°
Partly Cloudy
↑60° / ↓39°
Partly Cloudy
↑64° / ↓37°
↑62° / ↓42°
Chance of Rain
↑61° / ↓55°

This feeling of freedom combined with mystery of what the day will bring. We smiled at each other, jumped out of bed, practiced yoga and began packing. A few days ago, we made a reservation for a one night stay at Lonesome Lake Hut. We wanted to stay for two nights, but Saturday was sold out despite the snowy forecast and freezing temperatures. Turns out, we are not the only wild and crazy ones. The truth is, hiking is one of the activities that brings us close together. Everything you think you need to be happy (modern day luxuries) fades away and you are left with what truly is important (food, water, shelter, love). When you can find happiness in life’s simple pleasures, your priorities begin to shift. This is one of the many reasons why I love spending time in the great outdoors.

White Mountain National Forest

Lonesome Lake hut is one of eight huts, part of a hut system, that is spaced along 56 miles of the Appalachian Trail. These huts date back to 1892, offering hikers lodging and services with some of the most incredible views of the White Mountain National Forest. During late fall, winter and spring, the huts which are owned and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club, are self-service. A caretaker maintains the huts while hikers take advantage of the accommodations, cooking utensils and kitchen. Rates start as low as $34 night for non-members. During the summer, the huts are full-service where guests enjoy home cooked meals prepared by the caretakers, lodging and educational programs. Another great resource worth mentioning is the AMC offers a Hiker Shuttle during the summer making the trails and hut system accessible for those traveling without a vehicle.

White Mountain National Forest

Although we had some familiarly with the trail, this would be our first time spending the night at Lonesome Lake. To add to the adventure, we were bringing along our almost-one-year-old son, Levi. We packed up the car with the essentials: Osprey Kids Carrier, winter sleeping bags, water, food, reading material, snowshoes, headlamps, micro-spikes, clothing layers, waterproof hiking boots and diapers, of course!

White Mountain National Forest

Lonesome Lake Hut is located in the Franconia Notch region of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA. After a two-hour scenic drive, we arrive at the trailhead located at the parking lot of the Lafayette Place Campground. The 1.8 mile trail to the hut was well-marked and slightly packed down from previous hikers. Our snowshoes proved to be invaluable as we trekked through several feet of snow. It was snowing when we arrived and continued to snow through most of the day. The trail starts off relatively flat as we hiked through a birch and beech tree forest, adventuring across two wooden bridges along the way. About a half mile in, the trail begins to ascend but there is a nice switchback that eased the haul. Once we arrived at the lake, the trail flattens out and its 0.4 miles to the hut. It’s the perfect hike for beginners and families with kids. Not too challenging but enough to get your heart pumping.

White Mountain National Forest

We arrived around 2pm and warmed up by the wood burning stove. There was a group of hikers relaxing from the night before. They welcome us and offered a packet of Ritz crackers to go along with lentil soup that we brought in a Thermos. Levi loved the crackers. We shared stories of our hike, where we are from and what brings us to the Whites. Turns out, these guys work at Electric Boat and live in Connecticut. We would later meet hikers that traveled from Pennsylvania and Delaware.

White Mountain National Forest

The hut itself is warm and cozy offering items for sale. We indulged in freshly baked brownies made that morning by the caretaker, a Snickers Bar, Hershey’s and hot cocoa; each for $1. Ok, I may have a love for chocolate! 🙂 There was also a highchair (totally unexpected), acoustic guitar, board games, playing cards, books and a hiker guest log dating back to the 1950’s.

White Mountain National Forest

There would be a total of 40 hikers that arrived throughout the rest of the day. There was a group celebrating a birthday, a father and son, a solo hiker and groups of friends. We shared stories, food, and drinks into the evening. There are a few lights powered by solar energy that stayed on until around 9pm. The sleeping accommodations are bunk houses which are separate from the main hut. These are not heated, but offer mattresses and pillows for guests. We bundled up in our sleeping bags, Levi tucked into mine, as we drifted off for the night. If there is one thing that makes you appreciate a hot shower, warm bed and attached master bathroom, it is a night without those luxuries.

White Mountain National Forest

As we hiked out the following morning, I took a deep breath of mountain air, observed the snowflakes glistening on the branches and noticed Levi gazing over my shoulder. In that moment of stillness, I was reminded that the joy is in the journey. Life is about awakening to who you already are, being grateful for what you already have and enjoying more, with less. Take this time now to go travel, explore and finding joy in life’s simple pleasures.

White Mountain National Forest

About the Author:

Sara Lehmer, founder of Free Spirit Yogi, is a yoga instructor in the New Hampshire Seacoast Community. With a great lust for adventure, Sara enjoys traveling, exploring the outdoors, plant-based foods and sharing her passions. During a semester abroad in Australia, she found the joy of incorporating yoga into her everyday life. Deepening her yoga practice, Sara spent the next five years practicing daily, attending workshops and learning everything she could about the yoga philosophy. Taking her first steps towards teaching, Sara began donating her time offering classes at Portsmouth Yoga By Donation. She also volunteers as a yoga instructor for students attending University of New Hampshire, as part of their UNH Inner Peace Yoga Club. She believes in giving back to the community and sharing the powerful benefits that yoga, travel and good food provides.

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