Day 17…The Four Pines Hostel (Not for the Faint of Heart)
This post could be about the Dragon’s Tooth, a great stone monolith that spirals up into the sky and from which there are said to be magnificent views.
We climbed it on Day 17, it was shrouded in mist and the climb down involved busting out some slick bouldering moves because there were cliffs to navigate. Cliffs!
Or it could be about the hundreds of pink ladyslippers lining the trail, at the peak of their bloom. Breathtaking!
But I want to tell you about the Four Pines Hostel. So you know what you’re getting yourself into if you follow the pine blazes .3 miles east.
The smell hits you right away. Open the door and walk through a wall of unwashed hiker smell. Getting through the door is the hardest part, though a rainy day helps push you into the den and the thought of a free ride to an ‘all you can eat’ home style restaurant keeps you going till the door closes behind.
The Four Pines Hostel is a donation based establishment run by a grumpy old hippie named Joe. I arrived in time to snag the last sleeping spot that wasn’t a piece of the floor of this three-car garage turned hiker hostel.
I’ve had a lot of hostel experiences in my day, from the houseboat run by a religious cult in Amsterdam (orange robes everywhere) to the hostel promising bed bug free rooms in Oaxaca, but staying at the Four Pines offered an utterly confusing mixture of all the emotions–horror, disgust, fascination, overwhelm, belonging and fun.
Let’s just focus on the furniture.
The first thing you see is a motley assortment of desk chairs, school chairs, folding chairs, even a weight lifting seat that you can’t sit in. People, mostly dudes in their twenties, are sitting around playing backgammon, sorting their food bags, shuffling cards. Honest Abe was spooning Betty Crocker cake frosting he found in the hiker box into his mouth.
Behind that is a motley assortment of upholstered furniture–sofas, recliners, love seats. All are brown. I don’t know if they started out that way but the brown is now permanent. Hikers had staked their claims, laying out sleeping bags, backpacks and six-packs. Someone was playing a guitar with five strings. Someone else was wearing only a towel.
Finally, at the far end of the garage was a motley assortment of horizontal furniture–creepy mattresses (also brownish in hue); a recliner that didn’t unrecline, cots and a couple of lawn chairs, most of their plastic slats still in place.
Mainer told me to claim a spot if I was staying, so I did–the last lawn chair in the horizontal section. The one with the most slats missing in action. I staked my claim with my own sleeping bag.
They just keep coming
We were already at capacity, yet the hikers kept coming in from the rain. Some were sent to the barn to sleep next to the pontoon boat. Others staked out the floor.
Eventually everyone who wanted a shower got one. (I dried off with my pack towel).
Then we were carted off to the restaurant in the van and whoever randomly got in the van was who you shared a table with.
Haiku built a fire to take the chill out.
A card game broke out.
Old Milwaukee was passed around.
True to form, the lights went out on the sleepover at 10:30–late for hikers, but that’s how we roll.
The people and the camaraderie are what’s making this trip transformative and magical. As freaked out as I was by the Four Pines Hostel in all its funkadelic glory, I wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s not for the squeamish. But I’m finding when I roll with things, things turn into magical adult sleepovers.
I do feel like I’m at camp sometimes!
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