Mother and child Part 1
When I spent a summer in Seward, Alaska, I wasn’t exactly prepared. My first night there, me and some friends slept at a campground at the beachfront area. Now, at this point in my life, my experience with camping of any kind was minimal at best. Yes, I had gone “backpacking” once with my brother through the Black Hills in South Dakota. To use the term “backpacking” is being pretty generous. Yes, we slept in a tent. Yes, we used camping stoves and water filters to obtain potable water. Yes, I employed a sleeping bag. However, as far as backcountry camping goes, the Black Hills lacks. We did all the things you do when you are backpacking, but we also ran into two restrooms in the rec areas on our travels. Unfortunately for me, I have been a morning coffee-drinker since my early 20’s, and as anyone who drinks coffee regularly will tell you, sometimes it can be a race against the clock on finding a lavatory within 20-30 minutes after the first cup. In The Bush of the Black Hills, it was no different. My brother, however, is not a coffee man, and hence did not have the same sense of utter urgency as myself when it came to this particular necessity. He could go for as long as it suited him before he felt the need. I wasn’t so lucky.
“What do you do when you have to, um …”
“Take a dump?” he asked brightly. He went into his pack and fished out a garden shovel and handed it to me.
“Make sure you cover up the hole with mud when you’re finished!”
This whole trip was a new experience for me and I was determined to be as “outdoorsy’ (a term I have come to hate in my life), so I bucked up and headed off into the woods. I wasn’t entirely clear on where exactly I was supposed to conduct my morning constitutional, so I found a spot up the trail from where we were and dug, squatted, and shoveled. No fuss, no muss.
As we packed up our camp and started hiking, my brother decided to tighten his boot laces. He found a log off the trail and mounted his foot on it.
“Dude, you’re supposed to dig a deep hole.”
I approached him and the swarm of flies congregating around my fresh pile of crap. Okay. My first time doing my business in the woods. No problem. Won’t make that mistake again.
The next day, my body was adjusting with stark alarm at hiking all day and eating meals especially high in fiber. This time, I had a Speedy Delivery to drop off. Noting my experience of the day before, I vowed that this time I would dig a deep hole so no evidence at all could be seen. I trotted off as my brother packed up our camp. Finding what I thought what a suitable spot, I made my deposit. About half-way through my squat, I heard him laughing hysterically. I turned my head and discovered that the place I had chosen for my second communion with Mother Nature was about 15 feet off the trail and in wide open view of Dave and anybody else who happened along to gaze at more “scenery” than they bargained for. I sighed deeply. When I was done, I shoveled and we headed out on the trail. Round about 3 P.M., we found a lovely little lake in our little “outback” and a lovely little public toilet my brother used. Shitting in the woods: Me- 2, Dave-0.
So by the time of that first night in Seward, AK, I certainly wasn’t totally green, but I had a lot to learn. For instance, I hadn’t brought a sleeping pad. Nor did I know what a sleeping pad was. I would find out the next day that a sleeping pad is a swatch of foam rubber about ½ inch thick, 6 ft. long and 2 ½ ft. wide that prevents your body from being in contact with the cold, hard earth beneath it. So, my errands for that day became a sleepless, groggy trip to the Recreational Equipment Incorporated in Anchorage two hours north to purchase a tent for myself, a sleeping pad and other sundries. Also on my list was a new pair of cross-trainers as I planned to make running again on a regular basis one of my goals for the summer.