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  1. #1
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    Default How to be a Hiker Host

    I recently started a thread that dealt with hikers being guests in private homes.

    It provoked some lively and usefull discussion.

    Here's the flip side of that, in case some of you might ever entertain the thought of hosting hikers in your home.

    1. Get 'em Clean!! Contrary to popular belief, most hikers really enjoy getting
    a good cleaning for themselves when they get off the Trail. And as a
    host, this works out to your benefit, too. So providing a decent shower
    for your hiker guests, whether indoor or outdoor, is a great idea. Towels,
    soap, and shampoo don't hurt either.

    Keep in mind that hikers are slobs. Your bathroom will get destroyed, so
    either be prepared to clean it, or give your hiker some rags or paper
    towels and ask him to clean the room himself. A small discreet sign inside
    saying "Please leave this room nice for the next person!" couldn't hurt,
    either.

    Hikers will use whatever is in the bathroom, so if you have really nice or
    expensive shampoos and conditioners, put 'em away unless you want
    them used up. And regrettably, you might want to strip your bathroom
    of presecription drugs, painkillers, etc. before opening it to strangers.

    Provide a bin or basket for dirty towels, cloths, etc.

    2. Be aware that hikers fresh off the Trail really stink, and some of this funk
    WILL penetrate your house, so unless you WANT your living room furnish-
    ings permanently funked out, you might want to keep hikers out of your
    living room, i.e. off the sofa, etc. until they've had a chance to get them-
    selves and their clothes cleaned.

    Hiker's packs and footwear are also pretty disgusting; you may want to
    keep them out of the main house.

    3. Hikers really like to get their laundry done. In most cases, they can do
    this themselves with proper instructions from you. If you DON'T want
    hikers using your machines on their own, make sure they know this. And
    it's always nice to have some spare shorts, T-shirts, etc. that your
    hikers can wear while their stuff is in the laundry.


    4. Hikers are food obsessed, and will eat anything you offer them. They will
    also eat ALL of it, so if you cook for them, or buy food, buy large portions.
    And if you don't want everything consumed, i.e. you put out a pie after
    dinner or a half gallon of ice cream and you want to save some for later,
    well make sure you actually DO put it away or it'll be gone in three
    minutes flat.

    Likewise, if you tell folks to "help themselves!" to your fridge and its
    contents, then EVERYTHING will be eaten, especially deserts, ice cream,
    and cold drinks. If you're going to have regular hiker guests, you might
    want to consider getting them their own fridge, so there's no question of
    what food and drink is OK to eat, and what isn't. And if you let hikers
    graze in your fridge, if there's something in there you DON'T want eaten,
    like your husband's birthday cake or your kid's fruit juice, then put a sign
    on it or put it somewhere safe. In short, any attractive food in a fridge
    that hikers have access to will not be around long, so be warned.

    5. Hikers will want to use a computer if possible. If you have any restrictions
    in regards to computer use, downloading, etc., make sure this is clear.

    6. Hikers will need to make phone calls, and if they don't have their own
    telephone, then they'll want to use yours. Simply asking folks to use
    calling cards, etc. will probably NOT do the trick, i.e. if your phone use is
    on the "honor system", then be prepared for $400.00 in unplanned bills at
    the end of hiker season. Better yet, put some sort of "lockout" system
    on your phone.

    Hikers may well be hearing from friends or family members while they're at
    your house. If you have any restrictions on this, like no late incoming
    calls to your house, then let them know.

    7. Hikers may be tenting or staying outside. If so, be very clear on where
    you want them to stay, and be aware that they WILL have sanitary
    needs while staying with you. If you have neighbors nearby, make sure
    hikers use common sense, in regards to nudity, peeing behind a tree, etc.
    In point of fact, the fewer or further away your neighbors actually are,
    the better off you are in terms of having hiker guests.

    8. Hiker guests will be delighted to help you with chores, house projects, etc,
    but be upfront about this, i.e. your guests are not slaves. Expecting five
    hours of work for letting a guy crash on your porch is not cool. If labor
    or work is EXPECTED of hiker guests as a condition of staying with you,
    you should let them know ahead of time.

    9. Likewise, if you expect to be paid or compensated for anything (like a
    shuttle ride somewhere, a slackpack, or whatever), then it's probably best
    to make this clear upfront, i.e. offering to slack a guy and telling him later
    that you want 20 bucks from him is to be avoided. In all likelihood, hikers
    will be all too happy to be for goods and services that you might be
    offering, but if you need to be paid for something, make this very clear.
    This includes food. If you want to have a communal meal or cookout that
    everyone present throws in on, well that's great. But to throw a big
    bar-b-Q and to then ask everyone for ten bucks afterwards will not
    generate good will. In short, never surprise people by asking for money;
    if there's something you expect or need to be paid for, always try to tell
    people about this ahead of time, so they can decide for themselves
    whether or not to avail themselves of what's being offered.

    10. Along those lines, don't get taken advantage of. If you have house rules
    about how long one can stay, make it clear. If you have rules regarding
    dogs, make it clear.

    11. Most hikers enjoy a few beers and some smoke pot. If you are OK with
    these things, that's between you and your guests. If you are NOT all
    right with this, then try and find a way of letting people know, as it'll cut
    down on all sorts of problems. And don't be shy about this. If you don't
    want alcohol or drugs in your house or used on your property, well that's
    the end of the matter, period, no explanations necessary.

    12. Along those lines, if there are things you feel REALLY strongly about as
    far as house rules, consider posting a small list of them in a prominent
    place, and ask your guests to read them at first opportunity. That way,
    nobody can say later that they didn't know about dogs in the house,
    muddy shoes in the living room, etc.

    13. A trail register or sign-in book is a good idea, as it'll help you keep track
    of who's there or has been recently, etc. Encourage hikers, if they wish,
    to leave contact information in case of an emergence, a lost item you're
    trying to get back to them, etc. And along those lines, make sure they
    know your information as well in case they need to reach you after they
    have moved on.

    14. If you lend a hiker something, be prepared to get it back late, dirty,
    damaged, or never. Resist lending money, it usually ends badly.

    15. If you loan a hiker anything while he's in the house (say a screwdriver,
    duct tape, etc.) make it very clear where he needs to bring it back to,
    or ask him to hand deliver the item directly to you. Otherwise, I
    guarantee that your electrical tape or scissors or whatever will never be
    seen again.

    16. If there are any areas of your house that are private or off-limits, such
    as bedrooms, private bathrooms, home offices, etc., make sure this is
    clearly stated, i.e. consider putting a sign on the door.

    17. Make sure your house locks all work. Sooner or later, if you get in the
    habit of taking in hikers, word will get around and you may discover that
    people have made it to your property and home that you don't know
    about or haven't specifically invited. So if you don't want to find some
    bearded stranger in your living room, lock the doors.

    18. Hikers may well want to explore the neighborhood or the town. Make
    sure they know where they're going and how to get back. They may
    want to go out in the evening. If you have a curfew or don't want
    people going in and out of the house at all hours, make sure they know
    this.

    19. Hikers will generally help out with small things, and this is often very
    useful, especially if you have several guests at a time. Be aware that
    sometimes this "help" is well-intended, but doesn't always work out. For
    example, hikers are OK folding laundry. Doing dishes......well, not so
    good. And for heaven's sake, don't give a hiker a real work project
    unless you are 100% sure they know what they're doing; otherwise, your
    plumbing WILL be installled backward; your porch WILL be horribly
    painted, etc. Also, it shouldn't need to be said, but use special care
    with power tools, i.e. just cuz you're doing some work in the woodpile,
    don't immediately assume that Joe Hiker knows how to use a chainsaw,
    etc.

    20. If you entertain hikers regularly, sooner or later you're gonna have to
    deal with sick or hurt ones, so make sure you have a good idea where
    the local health clinic is located, when it is open, which doctor in town
    might be the best or cheapest, etc. Having good info on dentists and
    veterinarians doesn't hurt either.

    21. Make sure you're taking in hikers because you really want to and
    because you think it's a fun or helpful thing to do. DON'T do it because
    of an ulterior motive, whether religious, sexual, etc. This often ends
    badly.

    Along those lines, if yours is a religious or spiritually connected house,
    your guests will certainly pick up on this. A short grace at meals is, of
    course, fine. So is inviting your guests to church on Sunday morning.
    But overly intrusive questions about their personal lives or religious be-
    liefs is to be avoided, as is forcing literature, bible readings, etc. on your
    guests. (Along those lines, your guests beliefs will usually stay their own
    but if they become a problem, by all means speak up. I once had a
    guest who was a chanting Buddhist, which was perfectly fine. His en-
    gaging in this practice in the living room at 6 AM was not fine, and I
    certainly had no qualms about telling him this).

    22. Lastly, have fun, which is the main reason to take in hikers. If you're
    lucky enough to have guests you really like, encourage them to write
    you, or stop by on their way homes. To this day, some of my closest
    friends in the Trail community are folks I encountered entirely by acci-
    dent, i.e. they either visited me at my place, or I was lucky enough to
    find hospitality in theirs.

    As always, feel free to add comments and suggestions to this, especially if you've hosted hikers in the past.

  2. #2
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    Default

    This may sound funny, but my fondest "after shower experience" was at the Dutch Haus in Montebello, VA where they provide you with a nice plush bathrobe to lounge around in while your laundry is being done. Ahhhhh, pure heaven!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spokes View Post
    This may sound funny, but my fondest "after shower experience" was at the Dutch Haus in Montebello, VA where they provide you with a nice plush bathrobe to lounge around in while your laundry is being done. Ahhhhh, pure heaven!
    yes they also make you enter in the back and require you to go straight to the shower
    Gaiter
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    Registered User Doctari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaiter View Post
    yes they also make you enter in the back and require you to go straight to the shower
    And if you doubt just how good an idea this is, take the first shower when sharing a motel room, then take a good whiff of your fellow hikers.
    Yep, we smell BAD our clothing smells bad, our packs smell bad, etc.

    Thanks again Jack. As usual, well written & good advice!!
    Curse you Perry the Platypus!

  5. #5
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    Can these 2 thread posts be compiled into an article also? Might be good to have.







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  6. #6
    Formerly thickredhair Gaiter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    I recently started a thread that dealt with hikers being guests in private homes.

    It provoked some lively and usefull discussion.

    Here's the flip side of that, in case some of you might ever entertain the thought of hosting hikers in your home.

    1. Get 'em Clean!! Contrary to popular belief, most hikers really enjoy getting
    a good cleaning for themselves when they get off the Trail. And as a
    host, this works out to your benefit, too. So providing a decent shower
    for your hiker guests, whether indoor or outdoor, is a great idea. Towels,
    soap, and shampoo don't hurt either.

    Keep in mind that hikers are slobs. .............

    22. Lastly, have fun, which is the main reason to take in hikers. If you're
    lucky enough to have guests you really like, encourage them to write
    you, or stop by on their way homes. To this day, some of my closest
    friends in the Trail community are folks I encountered entirely by acci-
    dent, i.e. they either visited me at my place, or I was lucky enough to
    find hospitality in theirs.

    As always, feel free to add comments and suggestions to this, especially if you've hosted hikers in the past.

    Are you trying to convince people not to take in hikers????
    Gaiter
    homepage.mac.com/thickredhair
    web.mac.com/thickredhair/AT_Fall_07

  7. #7
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    Not at all, Gaiter.

    I'm merely trying to tell folks what they might expect.

    Different folks have different needs and expectations; the purpose of this thread is to give some pointers and ideas to folks thinking about taking in hikers, so that they'll know what sort of things might make for a better experience for both host and guest alike.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blissful View Post
    Can these 2 thread posts be compiled into an article also? Might be good to have.
    also, maybe combine it with the "things all hostels should have" thread...

  9. #9
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    Some of the content of my post obviously applies to hostels as well tho I was specifically thinking about private residences and not commercial establishments.

    As to folks being troubled by the length of the post or confused by it, well sorry. Maybe I'll try and use shorter or easier words next time.

  10. #10
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    Hostels and private residences should take care not to overly intrude on hikers' desire for some privacy, both physical and emotional. In a word, leave them alone unless they indicate a desire to socialize with their hosts. Most hikers just want a comfortable bed, the chance to get clean, and to not have to do anything for a day or so.

    TW
    "Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond, For us who are true to the trail..." --- Robert Service

  11. #11

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    why anyone in there right mind would want to host hikers is beyond me... and I'm guessing many hostel owners ask that question of themselves from time to time.

  12. #12
    Registered User Cheers's Avatar
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    If most hosts can get around the fact that hikers are users, not necessarily in a bad way, they will be ok. It's just a fact of life that people tend to think of their own needs. Sometimes smelly, ravenous hikers amplify that selfish trait. We're only human after all, and the hiker lifestyle tends to leave the hiker needing way more than perhaps the hiker realized. Just remember, when a hiker hits town he has NEEDS, and like a junky going to score, the hiker's got to get his fix before heading out.'

    Of course this is not always the case. That is my disclaimer.

    Cheers

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    My experience hosting hikers these past two seasons has taught me to treat them like my own kids:

    1. Let them know the rules up front

    2. Then give them their freedom and privacy

    3. But, hold them accountable for their actions.

    Just a few need "Tough love"

  14. #14
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    Good post Jack. (But not all of us do that- I mean, I excersise self restraint when eating food offered to me. Well, restraint for a hiker might mean limiting myself to three servings... Okay, maybe you're right... And I always return anything I borrow, and I'm good at doing so.)

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    Something else I thought of (this is really for a business like an "upscale" hostel, or a B&B or hiker friendly Inn or hotel): if you don't want hikers dragging their packs into your beautiful clean rooms, it would be really nice if you provided a secure place to keep the packs, rather than just outside under a tarp, because a lot of hikers are understandably very protective of our packs- we don't want anyone pawing around inside them, people or animals (especially people).

    So if people don't allow packs inside, it would be really cool if there was a secure shed or mud room where the packs could be stored.

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    Can someone actually make a living running a hiker hostel, or is it always a labor of love?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ELW View Post
    Can someone actually make a living running a hiker hostel, or is it always a labor of love?
    Simple math says it's not much of a living. Elmer has made a business of Sunnybank Inn these last umpteen years but he caters to more than just thru-hikers. Ditto for Shaws; they cater to hunters in the fall and snowmobilers in winter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Tarlin View Post
    Some of the content of my post obviously applies to hostels as well tho I was specifically thinking about private residences and not commercial establishments.

    As to folks being troubled by the length of the post or confused by it, well sorry. Maybe I'll try and use shorter or easier words next time.
    I think the message can go both ways - to the hiker as well as the "innkeeper"

  19. #19
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    First thing I do is explain the septic system. Hit the shower but limit it to 5 minutes. Take another later. And fill the washing machine up, no load after load, leave the guitar setting as you found em, unless advised otherwise. And oh ya you'll get to chow down. Usually all that is gone over on the trail before I invite em over.

  20. #20
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    I have friends in Harpers Ferry who've hosted and entertained hundreds of hikers over the years. Last night something kinda special happened.....they were putting up a whole crew, gave them their whole second floor to crash on, cleaned 'em up, you name it. The hikers, on their own, went out, bought and prepared a beautiful dinner, and cleaned the place thoroughly after dinner. When they left this morning, the house was spotless. My friends were amazed. This is what it means to be a perfect guest, and it's stuff like this that encourages people to befriend hikers year after year. Wish you could have been there. And I wish this sort of thing happened more often.

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