One long sleeve shirt, one pair of shorts, one pair of socks, one pair of underwear, one camp shirt, one pair of camp underwear, one down vest. Now for the seasoning. Sprinkle in sweat, rain, mud, blood, sun, dirt, sweat, wind, smashed bugs, food particulate, and a pinch more sweat for good measure. Mix the above for 4-8 days and voila! You get a typical AT hiker wardrobe. Now every hiker adds his or her own special ingredients to personalize the finished product, but we won’t go there…not yet.
A few weeks ago we found ourselves trudging into Black Bear Hostel after a particularly nasty twenty five mile hike from Roan Mountain, VA. We arrived at the bunkhouse where our friends Stink Bug, Honey Bun, Bogie, Donna, and Ledge had arrived moments earlier. When a group of wet hikers arrive to a bunkhouse a very special thing happens. Packs lay limp on the floor after an explosion leaves clothes, stoves, food, trash, socks, boots, etc scattered all over the room. This night’s particular eruption lead me to believe our group had let the recipe marinade for a few days too long and may have added too much rain and sweat because the smell was atrocious. If you imagine a football team (post triple overtime victory for state championship) jammed into a boys college dorm room that is decorated with wet dog hair and instead of the celebratory champagne, the team is spraying chicken stock around, you might come close to what it smelled like. Laundry time.
With so little clothes group laundry loads are the best option and Donna was brave enough to collect everyone’s and toss it in the washer. As the agitators agitated and spin cycles spun we stuffed our faces with junk food and wet our pallets with cheap beer. Buzzzzz. Dryer time. More junk food. More beer. Buzzzzz. Then per usual, Lindsey continued lounging with the guys and indulged in the latest trail gossip as I folded the clothes with the girls. In the haze of junk food, beer, and dim light a switch was made during folding, a switch that reared its ugly head the next morning.
I grabbed our clothes and Lindsey, Stink Bug, Honeybun, and myself headed to our cabin for a restful nights sleep before we hit the trail the next day. Before sleep, Simon and I treated the girls to a symphony of the posterior. After a day of junk food and beer it was quite the performance. We tapped into musical depths that a man only achieves a couple times a lifetime. We hit high notes, low notes, whole notes, half notes, I even squeaked out some 32nd notes, and tied them all into beautiful harmonies. The girls were lucky to be spectators to such a performance. Exhausted from the show, we all fell into a deep sleep.
Cockadooodledooooooo!!! A slight beam of sunlight trickled its way into the cabin and Lindsey was up ready to go. The trail was calling. We all packed and drearily made our way out of the cabin. Simon and I were behind the girls when another performance was began. A synchronized underwear dance. At precisely the exact same time we fell into a grab, pull, tug, lunge, jump, shuffle, stretch show. Something was amiss in the under carriage region and we could not figure it out. Simon’s were too tight and mine were too big in all the wrong places. Then realization struck and we looked up at each other in absolute horror. A switch of the worst kind had happened the night before at folding. Then the worst realization hit. Oh no! The symphony! The sweet beautiful symphony was now a dirty awful mistake. We threw our packs to the ground and ran into the bathroom to set things straight as fast as possible.
Even though we emerged from the bathrooms comfortably in our own underwear again, there was that lurking feeling that I had Simon’s special ingredients very, VERY, close to home. Once you come that close to another man’s special sauce a bond is created. A bond that can’t be agitated or spin cycled from my mind. It will be with me the rest of the trail.