I've been meaning to write this for awhile; it was another thread I saw today on hostels and what people expected of them that prompted me to set this down:
This summer, for the first time since 1995, I didn't do much hiking. That was the bad news.
The good news is that by being home in Hanover for August and early September, I was able to meet with hundreds of hikers, some for the first time, and some who I'd met down South, or in Duncannon, or places in between.
The Dartmouth dorms were taking in very few hikers this year, and I was lucky enough to be living in an empty house less than a mile from town, so we decided to take in hikers.
We probably ended up with close to 200 by the end of the season.
All in all, it was a great experience, and some folks stayed for almost a week, which was fine. There was plenty of room, beautiful tentsites, a great swimming hole, all within an easy walk of the Trail or downtown. We had cookouts at night and big communal breakfasts in the morning.
There were very few problems, and 99% of the folks who stopped by were wonderful.
However, it's that other 1% that were truly memorable!
A few quick comments to those who'll be hiking next year, on how to be a good house guest, and how to avoid becoming the houseguest from hell:
*Clean up after yourself. If you use the kitchen, clean up afterwards, stove,
dishes, etc. Your host is not your maid or your mom.
*Likewise, try and leave the bathroom/shower better looking than when you
entered it. Don't leave the place flooded; put your towels in the right place,
*Be considerate in the bathroom, especially if you know other folks are
waiting to use it. One hour showers are not cool.
*Cleaning your boots on bath towels is also not cool.
*In fact, if it's rainy or muddy out, try and leave your boots outside to avoid
tracking too much crap into the house.
*Don't hang out in the house, especially the living room, til you've cleaned up
a bit. I.e., before lying down on the sofa to watch a double-feature, jump
in the shower, especially if it's been awhile since your last one. Your host
shouldn't have to force you to get cleaned up.
*Unless specifically told to "Help yourself to anything that's in there!" do NOT
assume that food and drink in the kitchen or fridge is at your disposal.
Always ask first. And if you finish something up, like the orange juice or
the half and half for the coffee, let your host know, so they can replace it.
*Same goes for such things as shampoo, laundry soap, dish soap, etc.
*House supplies are NOT to be carried away with you. It is NOT your host's
responsibility to wipe your behind for the next three weeks, so even if
there's eight rolls of TP under the sink, it is not cool for you to steal one.
*Obey your host's requests regarding animals. I.e., if you know dogs aren't
cool, then don't bring 'em. If your host wants them on a leash or kept
outta the house, respect this. And for Christ's sake, clean up after your
damned pet. If I wanted a yard full of dogs***, I'd get a puppy.
*Don't use computers without asking, likewise, avoid "private" areas of
people's houses. Coming home and finding a hiker going thru my desk cuz
he was looking for a pair of pliers was not a happy moment, especially since
there was a "Private!" sign on the bedroom door.
*Likewise, don't use major appliances unless you've asked. Our washing
machine was acting weird and there was a big, un-missable sign on it that
said "Please ask Jack before using!!" and of course people routinely ignored
this. End result was we were without a washing machine for the better
part of a week til we could get the necesary part to fix it.
*Respect other people that are there, both residents and other guests. If
you're going to keep late hours, respect the folks that are sleeping. If
you're planning on leaving at five in the morning, do so as quietly as
*Just cuz there's a campfire at night doesn't mean people want to hear you
play guitar and sing, especially if you're terrible.
*Don't bring people back to the house, or direct other hikers to the house,
unless you've specifically asked if this is OK. I came home from work once
to discover eight strangers in my house who'd gotten a map to the place
from some other hikers. Not cool.
*Don't drink if you're underage, and don't "help out" hiker friends who are
minors. I really don't enjoy explaining to cops or people at the emergency
room why and how a drunk 19-year-old fell off my porch and cut his head.
*Don't use illegal drugs on anyone's property unless you absolutely know
it is cool to do so. Be aware that even if it's cool with the owner, many
hikers don't want to be around them.
*Don't steal. If you want to borrow a Trail map or a shirt, I'll happily lend
you one, and will let you know if I need it back. Walking outta my house
with stuff is not cool.
*Feel free to help out around the house, i.e. if you see something that
obviously NEEEDS to be done, like drying a load of towels or doing a sink-
ful of dishes, well just do it. Sweeping a floor won't kill you.
*Consolidate your stuff and keep it in one place. If stuff gets lost or goes
missing during your stay, this is YOUR responsibility.
*If there are communal meals where everyone is kicking in a few bucks, well
do your part. Nobody likes freeloaders. If you have eight dollars to spare
for a designer six-pack, then you can throw in on dinner like everyone else.
*Slackpacking, or long shuttles, costs money. Always ask your host if they'd
like some gas money. They may well turn your offer down and say "No,
thanks" but it can't hurt to offer.
*And lastly, get your host's address and send them a card or Katahdin shot.
People love hearing from hiker guests, and are always curious as to how
your trip ended up.
And that's that. In reading this over, I see that a lot of this applies to staying at hostels as well, especially the parts about helping out, doing a few needed chores, respecting other guests, etc. Running a hostel or having a dozen house guests every day is more work than you'd think, and there's always some way to make yourself useful.
Oh, one last thing. Arriving at a place and announcing your intention to stay for ten days is not the best way to introduce yourself to your host!!
And if anyone else out there has had experiences as a host (or guest!) that they want to share, by all means chime in.