Contrary to the title, this story involves neither stoners nor boners. Unless, of course, that's the only reason you are here and are going to leave now in which case it's got both stoners and boners. LOTS of 'em. Stoners and boners galore!
Actually, no, that's not true and shame on you if that's the only reason you came here. My grandma reads this for pete's sake.*
Okay, okay, okay. If we're all being honest here there are zero boners and quite a few stoners involved. But I'm not one of them, I promise, Grandma. Regardless, this story isn't really about the stoners you'll meet or the boners you won't. This story is about how Spencer and I came to be known as Vertigo and Sass.
It was an average June day in the middle of nowhere in Maine, but Spence and I had woken up bright-eyed and greasy-haired, like two dirty little kids on Christmas. It was our first town day! To an AT hiker, there is nothing sweeter than hitting one of the small trail towns located along the trail after a week in the great outdoors. Especially if, like Spence and I, the great outdoors had handily kicked your ass all day, every day, for the past seven days in a row. You see, we'd made the brilliant decision to drop onto the trail at one of the hardest sections with zero experience and very minimal training. Add to this nonstop rainfall, unforgiving terrain, and the debilitating phobia of heights I've had since childhood, and you end up with a near-death experience on a mountain with the undeservedly approachable name Goose Eye, scratches and/or blisters and/or bruises on every square inch of your body, and a world record for the most tears cried in the history of ever.
But none of that mattered today because today was town day and town day was the best day! We were only four miles from Andover, where we'd be staying at Pine Ellis Lodge, one of the hiker hostels in town. Images of showers with hot water, real beds, and food that wasn't dehydrated cow or boiled sodium danced around in my head as I deflated Spence's and my sleeping pads and pulled on my wool socks and boots. The deodorant I put on was a formality at this point - Spence and I both smelled like mustard-covered vagrants - but this was town day and I wanted to be as presentable as possible.
We finished packing up camp, inhaled a couple pop-tarts, strapped on our forty-pound packs and embarked on the 4-mile walk to the logging road where our hostel shuttle would pick us up. Since we're all excited to get to stoners and boners, I won't tell you about these four miles. I won't mention that it was pouring rain (per usual) and I was having to wear Spencer's long johns under my shorts like a weirdo freak and my rain jacket hood kept slipping in my eyes at the scariest parts and how Spencer had to stop walking and encourage me to put one foot in front of the other like a two-year old learning to walk. I won't even mention the river we had to forge with a TERRIFYING WATERFALL five feet away from where we crossed that would have literally killed us if we had slipped, and how Spencer tied a rope around his waist and then my waist like a stinky Indiana Jones because both of us were only about seventy-five percent sure I'd be able to make it across the river without plunging to my death and he'd decided he'd rather die too than have to tell my parents I died in a river while wearing his long underwear. No, no, I won't mention any of that. I'll skip to the good part where we climb the last few steps uphill and reach the logging road.
We climbed the last few steps uphill and reached the logging road. These roads are prevalent in Maine because Maine has a lot of logs and they make all the pencils in the world there or something like that. And just as our anticipation was starting to turn into impatience, a white van rumbled up and a large, Native-American man got out and introduced himself as David, the owner of Pine Ellis. He took our packs and poured us ice-cold pink lemonade for the ride. I liked him immediately, although to be fair I probably would have held the same affection for the devil himself under the same circumstances.
As we rode the 20 minutes from Nature Hell to Andover, David proved to be just as interesting as you'd hope a hostel owner in the middle of Maine would be. He had an affinity for turquoise rings and a girlfriend he visited frequently in North Carolina. His son lived in Guatemala and sent him weed candies and salves (see, I told you there'd be stoners!) and his favorite hobby was making moose poop jewelry. Yes, you read that right, moose poop jewelry. You probably don't know this, but moose poop is one of the purest stools in the world. I'm not going to go into the science behind that because I don't know it but I think it has something do with the fact that only eat berries, twigs and aquatic plants. Actually, I have no idea if that has anything to do with it at all, but all you really need to know is that moose poop dries in little round balls and it doesn't stink because it's "clean". Clean enough, in fact, to put the diamond from your ex-wife's wedding ring in it and make a necklace. At least it is if you're David.
About the time that I'd finally convinced David that I really wasn't in the market for diamond studded shit, we pulled into Andover. The entire town was so sleepy you could almost hear it yawning. It was basically just one town square -- there was a general store-cum-restaurant at one end, a café at another, a hostel we'd been warned had a creepy owner who tried to get everyone in his hot tub at another, and at the side farthest from us, Pine Ellis, a rambling two-story house with peeling blue paint, a patchy yard, and two very large middle-aged women in cutoffs fanning themselves on the shabby wraparound porch**. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. In order to gain entry into the house, all hikers must strip off everything they brought with them and change into clothes that the hostel provides. This is so that you can wash the dirt and sweat (and hot shameful tears, in my case) off the two articles of clothing you have to your name. And also because you smell too terrible to be in a confined space.
Once Spencer and I had rummaged through the cardboard box of hostel-provided apparel and picked out our outfits for the next 24 hours, we were ready to head up to our room. Spence was looking dapper in a pair of scrubs and I had an XXL t-shirt that made anyone who looked at me have to stare down the barrel of a shotgun held by a Yosemite-Sam knockoff. Underneath the image, it said "Maine's homeland security" and I am still haunted by my decision to not pilfer it when I had the chance. I followed Spence past the kitchen, where David and the two large women were already cracking open beers, and up the stairs to our room, which can only be described as a honeymoon suite from the seventies done on a budget. The walls were paneled with dark wood, the carpet below our feet was shaggy and red, and the comforter, pillowcases, and sheets were all made of red silk with gold embroidery -- all that was missing was the heart-shaped jacuzzi tub. But it was clean and cool and we may have even found it romantic had my armpits not been just as, if not more, hairy than Spencer's. But they were, and we were exhausted, so instead of making like the carpet and shagging, we fell belly-up, side-by-side onto our silky love nest and listened to David's laughter down below.
I don't know how long we laid there, cherishing our boredom and trying to forget how short-lived our comfort would be, but I know at some point more laughter started tinkering in from the window, competing with David's. Curiosity prevailed, and I dragged myself off the bed and over to the window. Outside, lumbering across the patchy yard was a group of about 10 guys who'd clearly known each other before they landed at the hostel house. It was clear from their scraggly beards they'd already been on the trail for a while, which meant they were most likely South Bound thru-hikers (more commonly known as SoBos), who climb from the start of the trail in Maine south all the way to Georgia. And based on the the amount of jorts being worn, I assumed they'd already been to the hostel box, which meant they were staying here at Pine Ellis. But what really caught my eye was a stocky guy with a mohawk who seemed to be the ringleader. He was talking so loud that even from my room I could hear his New York accent and when he turned around to face the other group members, I saw that he was wearing a pair of women's shorts with NASCAR written across the ass in rainbow glitter.
And a chill of excitement went all the way up my aching back as realized we would be staying among legends.
"Spence," I whispered, "it's the Stoners With Boners!"
*I don't know if my grandma reads this, but she recently got a Facebook page so I feel like there's a good chance she does. If so, hello, Grandma! I love you and miss you very much.
**We never did find out who these women were. David told us he didn't have siblings and his girlfriend lived in North Carolina. What I do know is they could drink even the burliest hikers under the table.