We laugh even as we begin to write this article. If you cannot assume from the title, this article is about laundry in town on a thru-hike. We know it was so clear in the title, right?! Why we laugh about this is because a few months ago one of our extended family members pointed this out to us. We had never realized this about ourselves, but when doing laundry in towns that may just be one main street, usually we may just have a towel on if the laundromat is across the single street. Not because it has been our choice! It is sometimes a necessity! So, smaller the town, smaller the towel what does this mean?
"Smaller the Town, Smaller the Towel!"
When you are thru-hiking most hikers will try to carry as minimal weight as possible. This of course ties into clothing as all things in your pack. If you are carrying minimal clothing, more likely than not that means you have either one pair of pants or one pair of shorts. Having both would be a luxury! You can get away with a few town stops with the right gear by not doing the pair of pants or shorts that you are wearing in your laundry load, but eventually you can no longer ignore the cardboard like consistency that comes from accumulation of sweat, miles, and stench. With inferior shorts and pants the amount of towns you can skip is minimal without washing them, 1 or 2 being the max, depending on the length and intensity of the sections. Then they become like sandpaper rubbing your body raw, not to mention the tangible smell that you can begin to see in the air around you. Even with our ElevenSkys Shorts we love to boast that you could do an entire thru-hike without needing to wash them, and while this is true, having fresh shorts or pants is a luxury that we cannot ignore! So, eventually you have to do laundry with the clothes that you are wearing to cover your bottoms, but you don't have any other bottoms to cover your bottom! This puts you in quite the situation! Sometimes, a motel or hotel will have laundry in its complex, but more times than not, in these smaller towns, it will be a laundromat. Thus you are forced to make a decision! It becomes towel time!
Yes, sometimes towns, motels, or hostels, will have loaner shorts that you can wear while doing laundry. Yet, these tend to be on more well known trails, where the trail community has become ingrained, and the locals know the plight of a thru-hiker. On these lesser known trails, you are left to your own devices, which usually result in you, a towel, and a laundromat. There has been many a town that we have had to make the tough choice, the choice that is really not a choice at all. We brave the streets laundry bag in one hand, and the towel clenched around our waist in the other. Let us vividly paint this picture for you!
Let us spin the tale for you as the laundry continues its spin!
We will not mention this town specifically, but there was one town that sticks out in our mind to this day. The laundromat was a mere 50 yds away from the front door of our room at the motel. We could see it, we could have even potentially hit it with our dirty laundry bag if we threw it hard enough. The proximity however did not help our dilemma. So, we drew our battle plans, and executed them properly. First, it was time to get stocked with snacks and drinks. We would be at the laundromat for an hour or two, and we were ravenous thru-hikers, we would need a snack during this time. This was crucial to the mission, an essential. So, before we stripped out of our dirty laundry we went to the general store and got our necessary supplies, of a bag of Doritos, a soda, and a green tea. This needed to be the first step in the sequence because once we had changed into our battle gear of just a towel it would no longer be an option. No shirt, no shoes, only a towel, no service! The first step was complete, it was time to carry out the plan!
Putting all of our laundry into our bag, we finally stepped out of our shorts, it was a freeing experience to say the least. Freeing from smell, freeing from constraint, we were free in the wind. Next, we wrapped the tiny bathmat like towel around our waists. Why did we not use a full size towel? Well, our hiker family and us had used them all for showers, and we would not wear a dirty towel around town! Come on, we were classy! Only the best evening towel for a night on the town! So, it was a mid-thigh high towel, leaving little to the imagination. A careless breeze, or a careless step would free us to the world. The second step was now complete. We clutched our bag in one hand, and our towel in the other, opened the door to the town, and set our eyes upon our task.
How we feel in our tiny towel, Sassy and Classy!
The laundromat was so close, yet so far. A maximum of 100 steps. Yet, those 100 steps would take every part to hold ourselves in. The first step, we waved to our motel neighbors next door. The next step we waved to the one car passing down the main street. The next step, we were in a situation. The towel was hiking higher and higher upon our thighs, with little to stop it. Collecting ourselves and reigning ourselves back in, we just needed to get to the laundromat. Many steps and many re-adjustments later, we found ourselves at the door of the laundromat. Many questioning looks, many smiles, many laughs at the absurdity of the moment about the guy in the towel floated around us. Yet, we had no option! Our small towel was our companion, our privilege, and our necessity. Thus, we braced against the door, and began our laundry!
We will not tell you about the wash and the dry cycle, instead lets look upon the bench out front of the laundromat. The bench upon our weary battle worn hiker sat. The bench where the towel would forgo its true test of fortitude. The journey to across the street was but the beginning, now the test of time began. As the clothes spun away their stench inside, our towel spun its own tale. Waving to the locals as they passed, chatting away with other hikers, doing town chores on our phone for life necessities, the towel was a critical character in making all of this happen. It held us close for 2 hours, as we accomplished many of the tasks that Nero Days demanded of us. Catching up with friends and family, paying bills, editing footage, ordering new shoes, it was with us for all of it! Without that towel, we would not be where we are today. Without many of the small towels in the small towns, a thru-hike would never be possible! They are the true warriors and true heroes in this tale!
Key word here: size! Truer words have never been spoken, not the size of the towel, but the strength in their heart which is unfathomable!
The laundry complete, we will skip over the journey back to the motel. The journey of a million steps within only 100 feet. As we smiled and greeted our hiking companions, the towel had met its quota, had given all it had to give. It fell to the floor, the bravest and toughest companion we had known, to take a well deserved nap. As it lay crumpled and spent at our feet, we showed our hiking companions our fresh laundry with great excitement! They were excited for us, but were also more excited for us to realize the companion that had held us together for so long had now freed us to the world, and that we should probably put our clean shorts back on now......
" The smaller the town, the smaller the towel." Even though it is a generalization, there is a deep truth to it. With over 16,000 miles hiked, there are countless tales of us and towels going into battle together. Countless tales of the heroism that our companions have shown to hold us together. Even when we have to step over fences, go across wind-blown fields, bend over to pick up our laundry, even when we ask more than they can provide, they continue to try their hardest. We are proud to call the tiny town towels our friends, companions, comrades, and confidants. We confide in them everything. We put much faith in them, and we hope that they put the same amount of faith in us. Even after they have fought to the last breath and we have won the battle, they may lay crumpled at our feet as we exclaim unrestrained to our trail family the cleanliness of our laundry and our trail family blushes and laughs, they are not forgotten. We want them to know that they will find their peace, find their rest. The hard journey is over, we will take care of them next, we will carry them across the field of battle a second time, back to where it all happened. Back to the laundromat, back to the washer, back to the dryer, where they can relax and take in their well deserved wash. The cycle will always continues...
With tiny towels wrapped loosely around our waists and wrapped around our hearts,