Salisbury, CT is a picturesque New England village nestled among rolling hills. Boutique shops, bakeries and upscale eateries line Main Street. Patrons wandering the streets appear as if they’ve fallen from a J. Crew catalog. Meryl Streep and Joel Siegel are some of the locals frequenting the organic food market.
Upon entering this quaint setting, my friend and I deemed ourselves unacceptable to enter any of the fine establishments. Trish had joined me for a week on the trail. It was day four of her wilderness adventure and eight days since I’d showered. To say we were slightly dirty and smelly was a vast understatement in the 90 degree heat.
As a thru hiker, when faced with the urgent need to bathe but no available shower, one must turn to sinks in public restrooms. Never underestimate the power of the sink bath, also commonly referred to as a hobo bath or a whore’s bath.
We entered the restroom looking like crud that had been drug in on someone’s boot, but emerged like butterflies from the cocoon –- refreshed and no longer offensive in sight and smell. I would later discover that the sink we defiled was located in the oldest public library in the country. And yes, I felt a little guilty about that.
But after months of perfecting the art of discreetly bathing in public places, I developed what I consider the thru hiker’s foolproof guide to whore’s baths. I will share my tips and tricks with you in the event that one day you find yourself in the awkward position of urgently needing to bathe without a shower at your disposal.
First, honestly evaluate your level of filth. Are you just a tad dusty with a slight funk, or are you so foul that even your own mother would hold her nose and run away? Your answer will determine the necessary course of action.
Step 1: Find a non-sketchy public restroom … most any will do because only minor maintenance is needed. But to be considerate of others, use a bathroom with multiple sinks in order to not be the jerk hogging the only one.
Step 2: Attack the three key components — face, arm pits and exposed extremities. Scrub those arm pits with ferocity! And if arms or legs are exposed, quickly wipe off any dirt streaks. And poof … good as new in under 10 minutes!
Whoa buddy … don’t even consider stripping into your undies or birthday suite in a multiple stall bathroom! One of the most disturbing sights on the trail was discovering a middle-aged woman wearing only panties, leaning over a bathroom sink, scrubbing her body. If you feel the need to do this, then you fall under the “Red Alert ” category (read below).
Step 3: Clean up your mess. No one wants to find puddles of muddy water and used paper towels scattered about. The last thing you want is to draw negative attention to yourself … giving locals ammo to hate on thru hikers.
Let’s face it, you’re so disgusting from hiking that you should be quarantined from the public. Mothers clutch their children tightly as you pass. People cross the street to walk on the opposite sidewalk. Restaurant workers plead with you to take your food “to go.” Get thee to a sink, sire!
Step 1: Not just any bathroom will do … this might take a little bit of searching. You need one of the following: A multiple stall bathroom that includes a handicap stall boasting its own private sink, or a single toilet bathroom with a locking door. The latter is easier to find — gas stations, laundromats and public places like libraries are reliable.
Step 2: Note your resources. Is there a hand blow dryer? These are awesome for drying your hair after a sink wash. But the downside is that if there’s a blow dryer, then there won’t be paper towels (a bandanna is your next best option for a scrubbing tool). What are your soap options? The pink hand soap is OK on the skin, but leaves hair seemingly just as nasty as before being washed. Camp soap works fairly well, and bar soap leaves the hair feeling stiff and dry. The best non-bath soap I’ve used so far was JOY extra tough grease remover liquid dish soap — my skin shined and my hair felt very soft. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!
Step 3: Be bold. Ladies, don’t be afraid to climb up and sit on the sink counter in order to shave your legs (but make sure the counter is sturdy enough to hold your weight). And before you strip from your clothes, double-check that there’s no window by the sink … because that could create a whole new problem (trust me)!
Step 4: Clean up, get your stuff and get the hell out of there! You don’t want to create a line six people deep of those waiting to use the john. Discreet is the key word here, folks.