Had I known that we would be welcomed by a forest full of naked butts on our first hiking club adventure maybe I would have thought to invest my time in another club all together.
It all started when my friend Jaclyn and I decided we wanted to go on a longer than average walk, in the woods, wearing special weather proof attire, amongst other people who would be doing the same exact thing except with cooler gear. The solution would be the Washington, D.C. area’s capitol hiking club. For a mere 20 bucks you could catch a bus up to Shenandoah Valley with 40 other people and snacks. Snacks? Now that’s a fucking steal.
Early in the morning we got up to catch our bus at a downtown location for a 8:00 AM departure. It wasn’t difficult to figure out who was in our group – khaki hats, khakis, general hats, poles and giant water bottle backpacks were a plenty (basically, nerds). I looked equally ridiculous wearing an old pair of hiking boots that I found in my parents basement. They were my mom’s from the 80’s, splattered purple and teal high-tops with about 10,000 miles on them. They would later end my hiking career.
As we gathered on the bus everyone seemed pretty zenned out and unsociable. There was one girl around our age who had a hiking skirt on (I didn’t know these existed) who was friendly enough to introduce herself. We had a brief exchange of – Where are you from? What are you doing here? Is this your first hike? etc.. and then the conversation just ended – no fizzle out – just over.
Jaclyn and I preceded to laugh violently at nonsense for the next 30 minutes until our two hike leaders stood up for announcements at the front of the bus. First the male hike leader went to speak into the mic so Jaclyn and I started a slow clap applause as he stood up – naturally, everyone else joined in. He then briefly went over the map of the hike and explained the three hikes (we interjected by starting an applause) and then mentioned the history of the hike (to end with an applause that we initiated) and moved on to further explain the hiking elements (to which his sentenced was greeted by yet a fourth applause).
I love clap.
It was now the woman hike leaders turn to do a little intro. She quickly hopped on the mic to plead, “Hi All, there really isn’t any reason to clap – so, if we can please keep all the clapping until the end – that would be great.” I cannot believe she made an announcement about our over-clapping…..
An hour and forty-five minutes had gone by and we chatted the whole way on a bus of silence. The woman leader got back on the mic to announce that we would be arriving soon. We clapped (this time I think pretty warranted). She sighed in defeat and sat back down. With such announcement came one very natural response – we should go to the bathroom on the bus as there wouldn’t be any other opportunities to do so. Surprisingly, Jaclyn and I were the only ones heading to the rear of the bus post announcement. I also do not want to pee in a smelly blue watered cave of assholes but what other choice do we have? I was confused but also not complaining. Less is less in the world of bus toilets.
We had arrived and immediately were split up into male/female groups. The men would wait at an opening by the bus and the women would carry on down the path. Jaclyn and I were lagging a bit behind from using the facilities on the bus but then caught up to the group to be greeted by a forest of women’s butts – all kinds of butts. Backpacks were scattered in the pathway as what I later learned is a hiking technique to signal people that you were off in the forest – perhaps peeing. What was not understood – was the pack technique really necessary when 25 women were a mere 4-6 ft into the woods? I could literally see everyone in plain view and easily do a headcount if I wasn’t tripping over backpacks. It seemed a bit ridiculous. Why didn’t people just pee on the bus? Why did everyone have to pee at the same time? So many questions to be left unanswered. After the last 76 year woman finished – the hike leader then blew a whistle which notified the males that it was okay to head down.
I get it. I get all of it. But it’s fucking weird.
Finally, after an aggressive pee session in the woods, we could set out on the actual hike. We trailed off down the, well, trail and one man asked me if I had been drinking. I was having trouble controlling my legs whenever going downhill. I chuckled and carried on flailing down the hills like a giant drunk baby. I accidentally kicked a few branches along with four rocks at a few of our fellow hikers but I can only trust that they know how the elements go and controlling my legs was just not something I could do. Not in these ‘effing boots.
We were nearly done with the short hike and we were planning on continuing on to at least finish the intermediate one. That was until the whole bottom of my 1980’s hiking boot peeled apart from the shoe, crumbled and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Geezus. That was dramatic. And also, just great. Because this was a helpful thing to happen on a hiking trip. The only time I’ve ever REALLY needed shoes. I tried to bind my shoe back together by using a number of hair ties. The hair ties kind of worked so we could at least get out to the road. We had to cut the hike short and head back to the bus which was also a mini hike of 2.5 miles away. I walked along the road barefoot until we saw the bus parked in the middle of the road by an open field of dried hay.
When we arrived the bus driver was playing her nieces performance debut DVD on repeat – apparently she sang a Christmas special with Patti LaBelle in 1992.We decided to lay outside the bus in the street just to alert some more danger and attention to ourselves. Some other stragglers came walking up as the short hike was ending. One woman came and insisted on opening up the hummus snack immediately that was to be served to the whole group at the end of the hike. I wasn’t really sure why she was asking me but…das cool. I also gave the green light to open up the cooler of beers.
As we lay sprawled out on the pavement like a couple of sunning farva beans, one woman came marching through and was clearly looking for an interrogation. She sat by where we were laying and started to rattle of 55 questions. Where you two from? You’ve hiked before? (fine questions) Where do you work? (ugh…) Do you think you’ll want to get married and have kids? (none of your beeswax devil woman) What’s your five year plan? (fuck you).
I wanted to do both of two things – 1.) Clothesline her face 2.) Ask – who the hell is you?
I think she was trying to figure out if we were lesbians or not. I mean cant a couple of gals get dressed up in boots and khakis and have a fucking day of adventure without being lesbians? Not that it mattered anyways. After we listened to how successful her kids were and her travels to Guadeloupe – I finally stopped responding. I’m all for being polite but when randoms start asking me about my five year plan I get fucking edgy.
Two and a half hours later the bus departed to pick up the hikers that were on the advanced hike. We pulled up to the parking lot we had started at and everyone looked really accomplished. I made sure to walk around to everyone to explain the shoe situation and that’s why weren’t able to participate. “See, my shoe? I mean it just broke off…” People tried to sympathize but they also didn’t know who I was so I could have just been some crazy from another trail.
Finally, it was snack celebration time. Since the beginner hikers had eaten most of the food already there was slim pickins. There was one guy who was circling the chip bag for two minutes. He would look in the bag fluff it’s outers and then look back in. I thought what the fuck? Jaclyn thought to inquire.
“So, just trying get the best chip there hey? I totally get it…hahaha.”
Guy responded, “No.” “There are germs. Germs everywhere. I’m trying not touch the other chips.”
“Oh. Right. Well, carry on.”
I think we needed to leave. These weren’t our kind. After the celebration was over we were dying to get out of there. We had nothing to celebrate and we had drank most of the beers anyways.
On the ride back the tables had turned. We were defeated and exhausted and were looking to sit in silence sprinkled with naps. The head honcho of the trip (you could see that the other hikers looked up to this woman) had a captive audience so she decided to have a story time about all the hikes she’d ever done.
The best part of her storytelling was how each would start off.
“Ladies…Gentlemen… I want to tell you a little story about a friend of mine…his name was Mt. Kilimanjaro….”
Oooos and aaahhhhsss from the crowd while we were just cracking up.
“Mi amigos. What’s that? Base camp? We’re talking Everest right? Yes, I’ve done it. Lost a baby toe but it’s all in the climb”
I just wanted to be like……
When stories of the Himalayas ended, we reflected on the day. It’s safe to say that I think we will be hiking on our own in the future – communal peeing just ‘aint my jam. But we did catch this fellow hiker passed out in one of our pics. That will last a lifetime.