. . . well, let me confess, it’s me! At one time. Of course, I wasn’t organized enough then to think this far ahead, to pause at the trailhead and ponder What do I do when I have to go? Or you would have glimpsed only a streak, as I fled to my comfy couch—adjacent to the little room with the flushing apparatus and the solid door that locks.
Etched into my memory are some colossal disasters in this department, but the mental file of my first attempt remains irretrievable. Probably a case of grand suppression. I’m supposing what registered right off was an across-the-ages, helpless alienation from my hunter-gatherer ancestors and then a deficiency in the adept squatting muscles of even the clumsiest bear. My agility for assuming such a position was well atrophied—as is most everyone’s nowadays—a side-effect of our refined lifestyles, roosting on porcelain thrones. Toss into the mix a second handicap, which sticks with me to this day: lack of even a rudimentary sense of balance. I think I missed that gene. Surfboards? Skateboards? Walking a straight line? No point in trying. And so it was, my acquisition of outback squatting skills took place slowly, over decades, by trial and by error. Indeed, a lot of the miserable latter. In How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, many of my misadventures are offered up for mirthful scrutiny (alongside those of numerous, stout-hearted, anonymous others), all for the instruction of still others. So, the word is “Take heart!” If someone as bumbly as I can master woodsy squatting with a bit of grace, you can too.
Wee warning: In the broader sense, managing human waste in the wild has evolved into a complexity that requires acquaintance with a range of spiffy products—as in, trowels and bags and tubes and funnels—a raft of wilderness sanitation ethics, and varying regional regulations, not to mention an ability to read landscape and understand soil types. Yet putting all that aside for now, closer in is an important little thing called technique. So I’m grabbing Philip’s gracious invitation to blog today, as opportunity to pass along a few tips.
On Pooping in General
Bad aim? Can’t ever hit the hole? Try: shitting first/digging later. (Right beside it and rolling it in, with a few leaves or a clump of dirt or t.p. against your trowel to keep it free from soiling.)
Or, employ a pack-it-out bag that you can spread out and not miss.
To steady yourself, plunk one bun on a handy rock or log. Or hold onto a sturdy branch.
The three double bagging systems currently on the market contain a poo powder patterned after the substance used in NASA’s shuttles, which allows for disposal of the bags in the regular trash.
Help for Mother Earth
With so many of us tramping the backcountry, our Mother (not to mention the next person down the trail) would love it if, in dropping our drawers, we also kept her in mind. To that end, we’re obliged to learn the art of stirring, originally devised by the National Outdoor Leadership School.
OK, you’ve dug your one-sit hole, 6–8 inches deep, in soil with lots of humus, and 200 feet from any waterway or dry wash. You have in your hand your trowel and a stick you picked up on the way to your place of easement. Next, scrape the sides of the hole to loosen some dirt that, after you finish squatting, you will—now, buck up!—stir into your turd, sort of like mixing crumbled crackers into meatloaf (using the stick, which you can drop in the hole). Conclude by covering it all over and tamping it down like a good gardener planting a tree. A robust stirring brings soil bacteria into greater contact with your deposit and thus speeds decomposition, which otherwise takes over a year. Lastly, salute our Mother, give yourself a big pat on the back, and don’t forget to pack out your t.p.
Hints for Women-in-the-Woods
Yep, we’re more in need of backcountry assistance than men. It’s a cultural and physiological phenomenon: girls rarely grow up hunting and fishing with dad, and then we lack that dandy appendage, designed (sorry guys, skip the rest of this sentence) for keeping your socks from yellowing.
So, dear sisters, to insure a comfortable, relaxed pee, get a head start in locating a rock and a log (or two rocks, or two logs, or a rock and a hillside; you’ll soon be getting creative at this). Then perch toward the front of one—kind of hanging your cheeks on it—and prop your feet on the other.
What’s more, actual “pointers” for women have recently blossomed. If, after practicing in the shower, you just can’t get the hang of stand-up peeing on your own, as women in many poorer countries learn in childhood, then employ one of the nine or more FUDs on the market: Female Urinary Directors, or feminine funnels. They come in a jolly selection of colors and shapes, as throwaway or washable-reusable, and sometimes equipped with extensions to partner perfectly with bulky winter clothing. I love mine for cross-country skiing.
Everyone now—ready, set, go? No more finding yourself riveted to the bank, while a flotilla of rafts swing into the current, or stalled-out at the trailhead, musing Where would I go to go?
Go? Go revel in the wide-sky world of wonders.
About Kathleen Meyer
KATHLEEN MEYER is a longtime outdoorswoman and the founding editor of Headwaters, published by Friends of the River. Her travel essays have been included in the Travelers’ Tales anthologies A Woman’s Passion for Travel: More True Stories from a Woman’s World and Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures: Funny Women Write from the Road. Her adventure memoir Barefoot Hearted: A Wild Life Among Wildlife was released by Villard in 2001. Whitewater rafter and canoeist, sea-kayaker and sailor, she is also a draft horse teamster, having traversed three Rocky Mountain states by horse-drawn wagon. Ever the nontraditional spirit, Meyer resides in an old, rather unrestored, dairy barn in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley and is available for interviews. Visit her Website www.KathleenintheWoods.net and hop onto her blog Shooting the Shit.
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