Let me return with a bang. It's all about the sausage fest on the AT. I think I've written before that I've seen estimated figures that show the male-female ratio of hikers are somewhere between 4:1 or 7:1. It depends on the year, and I wonder how much it depends on direction (Nobo v Sobo)... Not sure.
Let's put it this way...I can count on two hands how many other women I met who were thru-hiking southbound. I can remember their names. I can picture them. On the other hand, I don't have enough phalanges to tell you how many sausages I saw. There were a lot.
Even though there were up to (oh my) 10 (!) other women hiking, I rarely saw them. I think most women have this experience, unless they purposefully stick with other girls that they meet while hiking. I, on the other hand, stuck with Sol. And then our friend Sam (Link) stuck with us. And at other times we had other sausages stick with us; like Scotch and Avalanche.
In the beginning of the hike, I knew four other women that started around the same period that we did. Sonney and Milk Carton were two young women hiking alone (Milk Carton dropped out pretty early, Sonney finished it with a friend she met on the trail, Pokemon). Then there were two women who were hiking with their husbands (Sweet Pea and Beardo, Lush and Man Party). They were some great people. I know that Sweet Pea and Beardo finished, I'm not sure about Lush and Man Party because they were pretty far behind us. Meanwhile, I saw more beards that I can remember.
At some point I completely lost all my female companions. After CT, I had no significant overlap with other women hikers. It was all dudes. Dudes of all ages. Most of the time it was Sol and Link. We hiked for 2 weeks with Link and Avalanche. Link is a 23 year old guy from Michigan, and Avalanche is also 23 and from Georgia, but he just finished college at Ohio State. It was fun having some company but there was one moment that really made me stop and question my choices in life:
Ever since I met Sol he has used this one particular movie quote in everyday conversation that is so random, it's pretty funny. It's from Dr. Doolittle, where Eddie Murphy takes away the cell phone privileges of Raven Simon, who plays his daughter. With sass, she comes back at him saying, "What am I supposed to do without my cell phone?!" (Follow the link for a pirated refresher). Sol says it EXACTLY like Raven. You can imagine...pretty hilarious. So we were sitting one morning at a shelter in Virginia with our two 23 year old companions and one thing led to another and Sol spat out his quote. And I couldn't believe it, but BOTH guys recognized the reference! I nearly fell over. They said they remembered it from the commercials for the movie back in 2001...when we were all 13. I'm stupefied by what guys will connect over.
Then, to rub salt in the wound, they continued to reminisce about how much they were all into the band Third Eye Blind at that age too. In my own ignorance I always thought that Third Eye Blind was a "girly" band, little did I know that 13 year old boys across the country loved them. It was a groundbreaking morning. It was like God was telling them that they should all be there, hiking together, at that moment...except for me, I was just the observer. The recorder of such events. I swear, my world view was upturned a little by these two moments.
So beyond learning that all 23 year old boys are the same, I also got a distinct look into the commonalities of many older men who hike. I don't want to make toooo many generalities, but we met several men from their 30's to 60's who had very close relationships with their mothers. Three come to mind, who called their mothers almost everyday from the trail, no matter where they were. They called to chat, tell them about their days and to coordinate a money drop or a mail drop. The weirdest one was this hobo from Vermont who we met in Pennsylvania. Ok, hobo is presumptuous, but he was an unemployed 60 year old man who planned to hike the AT and then continue to cross the country in the south and head north again once he got to the west coast and then just continue journeying around for as long as it took. He had very few teeth, smoked constantly, and creeped out a lot of other hikers. We spent a night in a shelter with him because, at the time, I didn't realize that I should be creeped out. He also "didn't hike in the rain" so he had been at this same shelter in PA for 3 days... yeah... Anyway, he had his cell phone and spent his evening talking on it with his mother (in front of all of us). He ended his call with a battle of "I love you"s with her and finally hung up, looked at me, and shook his head sheepishly, "Mothers!"
The AT wasn't the first time that I was a lone XX in an XY world. I spent 9 months on an AmeriCorps crew for the Nevada Conservation Corps as the only girl on a 10 person crew, and that was when I was 18-19. I've spent shorter stints on trail crews as the only girl in Vermont too. I can definitely hang with the guys. And I've spent enough time with large groups of them for extended periods of time, especially in the backcountry, to not be surprised by the things they do or say. I learned early that my little bit of estrogen is not enough to balance out the testosterone overload of several men. They appreciate that I'm a girl and will treat me with respect, but I am not enough to balance out the battle of the sexes and they miss the ladies.
I will end with a confession/warning. By the end of the trip all we talked about were dick or poop jokes. This was due to 1) We had nothing left to talk about, 2) These topics almost constantly made us laugh, 3) We are very immature. I think that these interactions are the main effect of the Sausage Fest 2011. Of course I take some of the responsibility, because it happens to be right in line with my humor. I bring this up partially as a warning, because once the videos come out in the project that Vicky is working on, you may be witness to these types of interactions.