Modesty, manners and appearance. Those words resonate politeness, discretion, and dressing appropriately for any occasion. Every day I strive to practice these characteristics that I want to be remembered by. But recently, I have come to the conclusion that this is not always possible. Why? Because I fear hiking has ruined me. It’s ruined my manners, my politeness and certainly the way I dress. It’s turned me into what we hikers affectionately call ourselves ~ dirtbag hiker or hiker trash.
Whenever I am on a long day-hike or a backpacking trip for a week, it’s like flipping a switch in my personal habits. My manners, modesty and appearance pretty much go out the window. My trips usually entail a survival mode so I’m not really too concerned about fashion or being classy. I can dress up pretty good when I want to. But when I’m hiking, there’s a certain type freedom I feel when I get to throw away all the con-
straints that society puts upon us.
I started thinking about some of the ways hiking has ruined me and how it has made it much harder for me to flip that switch. My hair gets tucked up into my baseball cap. Sunscreen takes the place of makeup. Hiking clothes take the place of a nice blouse and high dollar jeans. Boots take the place of my Dansko clogs. I wipe my nose on my sleeve instead of using a tissue. I drop my drawers behind a bush only if there is one available. If not, well, my hiking partners just need to avert their eyes (my poor husband!).
A couple of weeks ago, Dale and I were traveling through SE New Mexico and West Texas. We stopped in Carlsbad, NM for a few nights to visit the Carsbad Caverns NP and to hike up Guadalupe Peak. We pulled into the trailhead parking lot. The lot was filled with quite a few hikers and campers and other tourists just milling around. I still had my jeans on and needed to change into my hiking pants. Without thinking, I jumped out of the car, stripped off my jeans, grabbed my other pants from the backseat and proceeded to put them on in the parking lot, not hiding behind a car door or even aware of the people around me. I had forgotten to flip that little switch from “hiking world” to the “act like a lady world”.
There are numerous other forehead slap moments, but I thought I’d ask my fellow Hike Like A Woman ambassadors for their epiphanies, their moments when they realized they were ruined and had become a Dirtbag Hiker:
Kristin Smeltzer~ “I think hiking has ruined me!! On the way to work and I thought…not sure if I put deodorant on before heading to work. So I stop at a shop on the way and pick some up. Waiting for my connecting train, in my work gear, and just started putting it on! No filter didn’t even think “
Amanda Lucy Haskins ~ “I came home from camping for a week by myself in Cataloochee, NC. Hadn’t had a bath all week, had been chopping wood, hiking, fishing, building fires, etc. And went to the grocery store on my way home. Smelling like a cave woman and campfire.
Covered in mud, suit, dirt and who knows what else. Didn’t think anything about it until every one started staring at me and smirking. Not to mention I shop in the upscale section of town and it was a Sunday so everyone else had on their “church clothes”. Lol”
Mara Kuhn ~ “One of my best friends always worries about how we look and smell after hiking when we go out to eat. And I’m like, “nah, it’s a hiking town
they’ll understand.” He’s a guy and I’m a girl, something backwards about that 😂 But he never wants to go to the “nice” places. I just don’t care. If I saw anyone who knew me, they’d totally know what I was up to anyway”
Gretchen Elizabeth ~ “Hahaha, that’s great! About a month ago I ended up in a fancy restaurant in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. I had just finished hiking the Badlands all day, but was still feeling pretty cute in a mostly black ensemble & flowy white scarf. Unfortunately, the ENTIRE backside of me was coated head to toe in thick, hard, caked on red mud from when I took a brief tumble down the slippery hillside. It was pretty funny to watch the whole dining room double take as I walked on in”
Kathryn Petroff ~ “When I got back home from the CO Trail last fall, I had the whole day to myself without my husband and kids. That’s a rare gem of a moment to
have the house to myself. I was filthy and tired, but all I wanted to do was sit down on the ground and read. I had no motivation to peel my hiking clothes off to take a shower…not even my boots! I just sat there on the hard ground like I was at a campsite. For the next several days all I wanted to eat was my trail food.
It took me a while to readjust to the comforts of home, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until my husband pointed it out. I’m sure I’ve picked up all kinds
of interesting habits as a hiker, but living in a mountain town, they go unnoticed…it’s the norm here ~ This is a great post idea! Hail to the sweaty, stinky hiking goddesses! ~ Andrew (Kathryn’s husband)said to tell all y’all it’s totally hot when women embrace their hikertrash “
Jennifer Hewitt ~ “I just came off a 4 mile hike, it’s 87 degrees today, I’m hot, I’m literally dripping in sweat, I’m covered from head to toe in a gross suntan lotion/dirt mixture, and I’m sure I smell, but I needed groceries so here I am at the grocery store… and no f*cks are given about how I look or smell because I feel great ~ I love the smell of campfire on my clothes”
Michelle Carner Long ~ “I think, for me, I’ve kinda always been this way in some ways. I’ve never had much personal modesty. My motto “If they ain’t seen it yet, it time they did”. I’ve never been super girly, so I’ve never really dressed to impress. Though I’ve still wanted to look pretty. Age, has taken care or that vanity.
There’s no denying the graying hair, loose, sagging skin and body parts. Facebook has been incredibly helpful in letting go of vanity. I purposely put up and let stay tagged unflattering photos of myself. Aging is hard enough without being all hung up in it. As for being dirty, stinky and messy from the trail. I love it. No need to primp and tidy myself before seeing the public. As Jennifer said, I have no f#$%s to give. It’s really freeing. I too, sometimes stay in my nasty clothes once I’m home. Relishing the feeling of a job well done”
Tina M. Lanciault ~ “we were backpacking for 7 days in WY one year (about 6 of us) and we had just come off the trail, dirty and smelly after not taking a shower for seven days. We first thought we should go to our hotel and shower first before going to get something to eat. I was so hungry, all I could think about was eating a bacon cheeseburger and fries. We stood around for a few minutes and said “screw it” let’s eat and drink we can get showers later. So into the first restaurant we saw. Some people looked at us funny but I must say those where the best tasting french fries I ever had and I didn’t care then what anyone thought and I still don’t today after a day on the trail. I love coming home from a backpacking trip or camping trip and still smelling the campfire on my coat or jacket. I guess we’re all HIKER TRASH I love it!!!”
Ardeen Duckworth ~ “I love that, how the need to eat – and eat ALL THE FOOD – trumps everything else. I’m the same, I feel like Pigpen from Charlie Brown tromping into the restaurant, but nothing will stop me! And inside my head I am, to be honest, pretty righteous as I look at the lovely dressed up ladies and think of how hardcore I feel. And yeah, the waft of campfire out of the coat closet a few days later is the best!!”
ChuckandLorna Radcliff ~ Hiking or backpacking in Florida is just a hot, sweaty and stinky experience. I personally don’t glisten like most ladies ~
– heck no I sweat buckets in all the awkward places. My pants always look like I peed them, my back is drenched, my pits are huge circles of sweat, and my hair will be drenched. In fact, I put the hair up in a hat from the go, wear black hiking pants to camo the sweat but nothing covers or masks the unmistakable smell of sweat after a day or two of hiking without a shower. Last backpacking trip my hiking pants were literally ringing wet with sweat. I was hoping I had sweat my butt off, but it was still back there. I wear my sweat, dirt and stench with pride! This Grandma gets out there – that’s all that matters to me.
Lisa Munniksma ~ I prefer “dirtbag hiker” to “hiker trash,” but I identify either way. As a farmer, too, I am always meeting friends in town for a beer or just going to the grocery store and running into people looking a wreck–no one even bothers asking anymore.
In the end, I think it goes back to the basic fact that hikers don’t care what others look like – we are all equal on the trail. But when society rears its ugly head, all the stares and negativity start to flow. I cherish my dirty nails, crazy hair and sweaty clothes – granted there is a time and place for it – but, it’s a sweat and dirt earned from hard work and massive enjoyment. We are all ruined…. and that’s not a bad thing! And don’t forget to flip that switch!