I arrived to The Hostel in the Forest around 12pm March 27. I followed a long and bumpy dirt road to the parking lot where I got out of my car, took a deep breath of fresh air and took in the view of my surroundings. I saw a dirt path marked by a sign that said "Welcome Home" and I felt a tingle of excitement in my stomach, anxious for the adventure awaiting me. I left my bags in the car and set out on the dirt path in hopes to find where I could check in, and when I walked around the corner I saw two geometric wooden domes, with a few people chatting on the deck, someone sweeping, and another person to the right of the domes walking with some chickens. I walked up shyly and asked if anyone knew where to check in when a tall staff member named Sam with strawberry blonde hair greeted me with a hug and welcomed me inside to check in.
Sam told me a little bit of history about the hostel and gave me a quick tour of the property, showing me the main common area, the kitchen, one of the bathrooms, a shower, the laundry room, and explained to me how to get to other places on the property. While in the Laundry room I grabbed two sheets, and at the end of the tour he directed me to where I would be staying. I brought my sheets to my room and claimed a bed before I went back to my car to grab my bags. As I was walking I passed another guest of the hostel who said, "welcome" as he passed, and at that moment I knew I was going to have a great weekend filled with positivity and new friendships.
Getting there as early as early as I did I was one of the first in my group for the weekend, and most of the other people there were staff members. After getting my things out of my bag, and putting my food in the community refrigerator I wandered off to explore the forest surrounding the hostel. I walked down to the lake and sat in a swing overlooking the water, and then kept on wandering down some trails they have. The weather was just as beautiful as the scenery. They have a glass house designated for yoga, it was absolutely gorgeous. I spent some time in there and when I was done I spotted a hammock next to it. I went back to my room and grabbed the book I brought and walked back to take advantage of the hammock I had found. I read until my mind strayed from the words on the page and I started to become restless, so I made my way back to the common area of the hostel.
When I got there a sweet girl from Asheville, North Carolina introduced herself to me and said, "did you see the rattlesnake?" She went on to tell me that Sam had killed a rattlesnake in the back and they were skinning it, I immediately went back to check it out! Sure enough, they had a headless rattlesnake on a cutting board and someone was in the kitchen looking for an exacto knife. They cut a careful line down the belly of the snake to skin it in a way not to damage the beautiful pattern of its scales. After they peeled the skin from the body they gutted it, cleaned it, battered it, fried it, and we ate it! I ate rattlesnake snake this weekend. Seriously.
After that crazyness I went back to my bed, put my book away and changed my clothes because the temperature went down and I was getting cold. I spent the rest of the evening reading, wiriting, playing the guitar and relaxing in the beautiful forest. As it got later in the afternoon new guests started to trickle in, and even though I had only been there a few hours I felt sort of responsibility to welcome them as I had been welcomed by the the kind strangers when I arrived. It just felt like what you were supposed to do. What a wonderful environment to be in where people feel a responsibility to be kind to one another, to welcome them with open arms, and to be unafraid of striking conversations and getting to know eachother. I met such interesting and wonderful people at the hostel. There was a couple there on the road from Yosemite National Park, they had been on the road for a month and a half, and were driving around the country until they only had enough money to get back to California. I also met a girl named Kim who was there Friday-Sunday like I was with her friends. I think Kim could be my favorite person I met there. She was really sweet, she was from Atlanta, Georgia, and she had a dry sense of humor that I loved. She sort of reminded me of myself in a way and I felt a level of closeness with her even though we had never met before. She was with 6 friends, who I also really enjoyed talking to. Her friends Arian and Scott were big hikers and backpackers and I learned a lot from them. Everyone was so great. There was a group of five that came, but the only one I remember the name of was Courtney, she was a ton of fun. She was loud, nice, and always making a point to include everyone in the group in conversation and in the games we all played together.
Every night Jeff, the kitchen manager on staff prepared a vegan meal for everyone that was served in the community dining room. They would ring a 30 minute warning bell and ring it again when dinner was ready. At the final bell everyone gathered in the dining room, where we held hands in a circle, and everyone was quiet for a few moments to listen to the sounds of the forest before we went around one by one to share what we were thankful for. Then Jeff would tell us what we would be eating and we would get in line and serve ourselves for dinner. The first night we had brown rice with red quinoa and lentil dal. It was delicious. I sat with Kim and her friends, and we all chatted and laughed through dinner, and afterwards everyone got together and cleaned the kitchen and dining room. We blasted music through the kitchen, had a rotating dish washing and drying assembly line, people sweeping, others wiping down counters, we all joked and laughed as we cleaned and we were done in a flash!
Once the kitchen was clean we all gathered around the campfire and played games to help us connect with eachother, which turned into people telling stories, people telling jokes, and we talked and laughed together all night long. It was so much fun. Such a restful, rejuvenating, and exciting day. I walked back to the room with Courtney and her friends, we all stayed in the same place, and went to bed. I climbed in my bunk, got underneath my covers, and drifted off into sleep with thoughts of what the next day would bring, my adventure wasn't over yet.