Wednesday, October 15, 2014

60. Doing Laundry In Trail Towns

"Oh god, I really have to wash this rain gear," I said, lifting the rain pants to my nose, breathing a tiny breath, and then recoiling in horror. I was in Fontana Dam Inn, one of the fancier trail town hotels. This was before I was slated to head up into the Smoky Mountains, to face the reality of my own mortality. But at this point, the stinkiness of my rain pants took precedence!

"What are you going to wear while we do laundry?" Apollo asked, reasonably.

Each hiker owns less than 10 items of clothing. Most hikers have only one of everything (pants, tshirt, long-sleeve shirt). The only items in multiple are socks, as most folks have at least 2 pairs to exchange each day. Nearly all male hikers have only one pair of underpants, or no underpants. I was a bit of a princess and carried 6 pairs of underpants. Regardless, over the course of a week, every single item of clothing got filthy with sweat, rain, mud, and heaven knows what else (but hey, it's all organic!). That means that when we were in the vicinity of a laundry machine, we were both delighted and a bit flummoxed. How does one clean all of one's clothing, while also having to stand in a laundromat? Most laundromats frown on their customers being stark naked.

The only solution to this problem was to wear one's rain jacket zipped to one's throat and rain pants. This ensemble included no underpants, of course, because all underpants needed to be washed. You can always identify any thru-hikers staying in trail towns, because they will invariably be walking around in full rain gear, even though it's perfectly sunny outside. If you live near a trail town, and you see such a person, you can safely assume that their laundry is currently being done somewhere nearby, and also, they're wearing nothing but a birthday suit under that rain gear.

But then, what was I to do when my rain gear also needed to be washed?! See how many loads I could get done before the owner of the laundromat called the cops and kindly asked them to escort my skinny nekkid butt out of there? I bet I could get at least the first load started in the washer. I can see the headline now: NAKED HOBO ARRESTED IN LAUNDROMAT WHILE SCREAMING "NO PAIN NO MAINE."

"How about I just give you all my clothes, I'll stay here in a towel, and then next town, we'll switch turns? So, next town I'll do all of your laundry?" I suggested, looking at both Apollo and Dumptruck with puppy dog eyes. They agreed, which was very magnanimous of them. I went to the bathroom, jumped in the shower, and Dumptruck then collected all of my clothing. After I got out from the shower, I wrapped myself in an admittedly small towel, and settled on the hotel bed to watch Dragon Ball Z. By myself. As a grownup.

Suddenly, the hotel door opened. I didn't even look up, because I assumed it was Dumptruck or Apollo returning.

"Uhhh..." I glanced up, my eyes nearly boinging out of my head as a parade of about 10 hikers tromped into the room. I only vaguely knew some of them, as this was near the beginning of the trail. Later on, this would be a completely expected, normal experience that wouldn't even elicit the slightest reaction from me (hikers just walking into other hikers' motel rooms unannounced, like college). But this time was VERY startling, because it was unexpected. But it's just part of the hiking community that's not usually advertised on in trail guide books. There is no privacy on the Appalachian Trail, none at all. And because no one has privacy, no one cares or judges. It's actually kinda nice.

I glanced down at myself to see if the tiny towel was covering enough of myself to be decent. It was, but just barely. I immediately rearranged my facial features into what I hoped was a look of cool, hippie, whatever-ness. Like, "Oh, a bunch of strangers marching into my hotel room to watch Dragon Ball Z with me, while I am in the world's tiniest towel? That's cool. Whatever, man, we're all human." Most of the hikers didn't even flinch, but there was one young gentleman, who was maybe in his early 20's, who turned the most beautiful shade of scarlet. Some conversation was had, while he determinedly stared at a spot exactly a foot above my head.

Several hikers just sat down on the end of the bed to watch cartoons, and I quietly slid under the bed covers and pulled them up to my nose... because I was, cold, or whatever, not because I was mortified. No way, man! I'm totally cool! I was just cold! Shut up!

And that's how Dumptruck and Apollo found me an hour later, when they returned with the laundry. 

Eventually I bought a $2 "Town Dress" to wear while doing laundry.
It's a good look!

The Hunger's laundry outfit.

I urge you to check out my leg hair.

Doing laundry at the firehouse in Daleville, VA, and sewing patches on our
backpacks to pass the time. Nothing like wearing a rain jacket inside on a hot day!

Laundry clothes at Neels Gap, our first hostel stop on the trail!
Also: cat.

Wearing rain pants and a jacket, on a perfectly warm, sunny day.

Wearing borrowed clothes from a hostel. You can see Apollo carrying the
trash bag full of all our laundry! What a guy!

Whistle would like me to point out that her phone is being held in
her dress. She does not have robot breasts.
Laundry in Erwin, TN

Clever Girl