Sooner rather than later
Aspen, CO Colorado
We had just turned off the Tom Blake Trail onto Aerobic Nightmare, and her goal was to mountain bike all of it without walking. I had no illusions of riding the trail to the top without walking. She’s the one with the tight little muscular body who would chide me unmercifully if I walked.
My goal was to get ahead of her and out of her vision, then run like hell to stay ahead of her. The problem was I popped off at the first tree root well within her line of sight. As I took off running and pushing my bike, I could hear her voice behind me with words that were not to be misconstrued as terms of endearment.
Unlike Hemingway’s old fisherman, who dreamed only of lions on the beach, my dreams are somewhat more tangible; hence I would continue riding with the tight muscular one as long as possible.
When we got to the top, she had ridden all of it. We decided to take a rest break before continuing on to the Government Trail. I also had to go to the bathroom.
I walked about 200 yards away from the trail to find a bathroom spot. On the walk, I gathered smooth rocks and sticks for toilet paper. I used one strong stick for my digging tool. After finding a private location, I excavated a cat hole approximately 8 inches down and 4 inches across.
After returning, she looked at me and said, “You’ve spent way too much time in the woods.”
I don’t think it was a compliment.
If you spend enough time in the outdoors, eventually you will have to urinate and defecate. The majority of people I know have no problem peeing outside. Not so with pooping. If you feel a little constrained about this issue, you’re not alone.
I’ve heard the record for a National Outdoor Leadership course student is seven days without defecating. Students have been evacuated off courses for fecal impaction.
The best suggestion I can make is to go sooner rather than later when camping. It takes some preparation to go to the bathroom in the wilderness. It should be obvious: It’s not like at home where you can wait until the last minute, then rush to the bathroom. When you’re outside, you need to plan ahead.
I normally walk at least 10 to 15 minutes from camp, or 200 to 300 hundred yards; the same distance applies to trails and water sources. Many of our local trails follow narrow valleys, so prior planning is crucial to maintaining these distances.
No, I don’t use toilet paper. It takes longer to decompose, and burning all used toilet paper does not work because of the moisture content in the feces. If you must use toilet paper, triple bag it and pack it out.
It may sound obvious, but it’s highly imperative not to come into direct contact with your feces. It poses a serious health risk. Some people do not appreciate how important it is to avoid all contact with human waste. Entire cruise ships have been evacuated after hundreds of passengers became ill from Norwalk virus, an illness associated with poor personal hygiene.
The National Outdoor Leadership School had its own version of the Norwalk virus, which is called the Mung. Some NOLS courses in the past have had half the students evacuated because of the Mung. The victims experience flu like symptoms.
For NOLS, the remedy seemed to be getting all course participants, including instructors, to wash their hands with soap on a regular basis and definitely after bathroom breaks.
One of the most beautiful spots in the Rocky Mountains is Snowmass Lake. An incredible high mountain lake with soaring peaks all around. On closer examination around the northeast side and east side of the lake one will find that campers have not been practicing leave no trace bathroom skills. Around most of the camping spots, one will find toilet paper and feces not buried.
I would encourage planning ahead, to take longer walks, bury your waste at least 8 inches, and to stir the feces with a stick to speed the decomposition process.
The future may be to close off such beautiful spots to let them recover or to have all campers pack out their human waste, which is the trend in many popular climbing locations.
Later in the summer, we went backpacking together and she found the opportunity to practice her own, leave no trace bathroom skills.
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