I was asked quite a few questions when I was starting out on this trip. People asked everything from what the AT actually was to my choices of gear, but no one, not one single person, asked me what I was going to do when I had to poop. I wonder about the reasons for this.
At first I thought no one asked because everyone knew the procedure, but then I was asked how I was going to clean myself (I don’t!), so it’s clear that knowledge of hiker hygiene isn’t as widespread as I had assumed.
Could it be modesty? Unfortunate, if so, and not just because pretty much everything is open subject matter on the trail. True, there are major differences between the cultures of the Trail and of the Wheeled World, but pooping is one of those activities shared by just about everyone. Regardless of any demographic detail, everybody poops, and it seems like a shame to ignore something we all have in common. Besides, spend any significant time in the woods, and you will come upon someone having a poop. That’s a guarantee.
The final possibility is that no one asked because no one thought to. It’s so easy to forget what a service plumbing provides. Toilets are so often taken for granted, at least until they malfunction. Speaking of taking things for granted, the shelters in Tennessee are not equipped with outhouses. Hence my train of thought.
An outhouse is nowhere near as nice as a toilet, but they do serve to concentrate waste at a single point, namely, away from the water source. Given that everyone poops in the woods even when they’re at a shelter here, I felt that now would be a good time to go over the procedure with:
The Seven Ds of Defecation (in the Woods)
1. Desire – You have to want to go
2. Distance – Make sure that you’re well away from any water sources.
3. Dig – a hole. Six inches deep if possible.
4. Do – what you came to do.
5. Disguise – Fill in the hole, cover it with leaves or whatever is around, and, if you’re feeling courteous, leave a stick marking the spot.
6. Disinfect – You did bring hand sanitizer, didn’t you?
7. Discuss – Let everyone know how it went!
That last one is more useful than you might think. The quality of one’s poop is a simple and straightforward indicator of health, and any irregularly is worth noting. Groups that depend on each other’s health may find it helpful to rate their poops on a 1-10 scale, where a 1 indicates “No movement for days” and a 10 means “Stop! Why won’t it stop?”
Besides, there is always technique to be discussed. Did you dig the hole with a trowel or a tent stake? Do you go for the simple squat, or do you brace yourself? At how many points? What’s your favorite brand of TP, and how do you keep it dry? The variations are endless, and it’s always good to have a backup plan or three in case you find yourself in unfamiliar territory.
So if you’re feeling confined, restless or depressed, the next time nature calls, answer. Go outside, find a bush, and pop a squat. You’ll be feeling natural in no time, and it works twice as well in the rain. Just remember the Seven Ds, and be sure to wash your hands, since norovirus is natural too (organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free!).
One last thing: Hikers generally avoid shaking hands when greeting each other, preferring to perform a fist bump instead. There is no significance to the gesture, beyond the simple fact that we’re filthy. I think this is a fantastic idea, and that we should incorporate it into our culture at large.
Wikipedia informs me that the handshake was originally a signal that two parties were not going to try to hack bits off of each other, but I feel that the gesture is outdated for two reasons. First, this is ‘Murica, and needing to be within arms reach to kill someone is sooo fourteenth century, and second, our ancestors were barbarians without the germ theory of disease.
Face it, I’m gross, you’re gross, and neither one of us has any idea where the other has been. Sure, we could keep smearing palms together, just taking it on faith that the other has cleaned themselves, or we could just bump knuckles, *dap,* and be done with it. You’d need an impressive amount of filth to transmit a disease knuckle-to-knuckle, whereas the chances that a palm carries something…terrible…are uncomfortably high. This is such a good idea. I anticipate punching a lot of fingertips in the future.
Total Milage: 1846.2