Same place the bears go…

Darn these tight spaces. I’m trying to get the perfect picture with my cell phone camera, all the while knowing it’s not going to come out as nice as I want. Ah, the life of a photographer. At least no one is watching me. That would be truly embarrassing. Snap. The photo is as good as the artificial light and lack of distance will allow. I’ll try once more time from a side angle. Almost got it. And then the door opens…

It’s been a fun trip in the Colorado Rockies and my time here is running short. On a whim I decided to check out one of the newest REI stores in Dillon, Colorado. A smaller REI store, but it has a good selection of equipment and clothing. It also has what I need most at this time: a bathroom.

The guy gives me a puzzled and somewhat disgusted look, then starts to turn around and call the manager. I don’t blame him, I would do the same if I walked into the bathroom and saw some nut job with a camera taking pictures. As he turns around though he sees what I’m taking a picture of and stops and smiles. I quickly say: “Last shot, then I’m done here.” “No hurry”, he replies, but of course if you walked into this place you are most likely in a hurry so I snap one more photo and, to the relief of the other customer, quickly depart.

The wall in the men’s bathroom at the REI in Dillon, Colorado.  (I have no idea what’s on the women’s bathroom wall.)

One of the questions I still get is: “Where do you go to the bathroom?” “Same place the bears go”, is my standard reply. For the vast majority of man’s time on the planet you didn’t do ‘it’ where you lived. Ah, the joys of modern plumbing in first world countries. Most of us take clean toilets for granted. Not so when you’re backpacking. It’s such an important and universal topic, but one that was underrepresented in backpacking literature until about twenty-five years ago when Kathleen Meyer wrote How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art. I still marvel that a publisher picked her book up; a book that is now in its third edition!

Of course Meyer’s publication wasn’t the first book to deal with this delicate issue. The Bible has a passage on this very topic: “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement” (Deuteronomy 23:12-13). Who says the Bible doesn’t have practical advice?

It doesn’t matter your race, religion, nationality, or gender, we all have to go sometime. If you’re in the backcountry, this photo has some useful information, and something to make you smile. (Don’t miss the Alex Honnold quip.)

Adventure is often a dirty game and most of us who have played at it for any length of time have some humorous stories with a scatological component. Some of these I may share in a later post. Maybe.