The summer before I embarked on my collegiate adventure in Chicago, my brother Dave took me backpacking for the first time. Well, let me go back. It was “backpacking” in the sense that yes, we did indeed load up backpacks with tents and food and camping stoves and many socks and trek out into the natural world. But it was in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This wasn’t exactly Tibet. But it was my first such trip doing anything remotely like this and the Black Hills is a gorgeous place to spend 3 days traipsing around the woods.
We headed out in the summer months, a damn fine time to do it. After the first day of hiking, we set-up camp, cooked our dinner on the camping stove, and enjoyed some simple brotherly comradery. My brother is 4 years older than me, so we never went to the same school after St. Margaret Mary’s parochial elementary school. When he was high school, I was still at St. Mag’s. When he was starting college at Creighton University, I was a freshman at Creighton Preparatory School. We never really had any of the highs or lows involved with brothers who were in the same school at the same time. I don’t remember why he suggested we make this trip, but it was a helluva an idea and we’ve been pretty close ever since.
Our first morning in the “outback” (seriously, Mt. Rushmore and it’s tourist trap Keystone, SD were literally just over the next tree line) we munched on some trail mix and fruit for breakfast and I made my cup of instant coffee. My brother is a not a coffee guy. I am a coffee guy and sipping my mug in the woods really does have a special air of “This is Livin!” about it. However, anybody who does drink coffee knows of its diuretic effects. When you are hiking all day, your digestive system is kicked into 3rd gear and coffee ups that to 4th. Shortly after we began hiking, I informed my brother of my physical demands.
“What do you do when you have to ahhh …”
“Take a dump?” he asked and produced from his bag a roll of toilet paper and a garden shovel. “Make sure you dig the hole deep and cover it with dirt when you are done. And go pretty far into the woods.”
Okay. No problem. All part of the adventure, I guess. I shuffled off into the woods while he turned and sat on a rock. I walked into the woods, did my thing, shoveled some dirt onto the pile, and returned to the rock. Dave stowed the shovel and T.P. Within a minute of us heading off again with Dave in the lead, I heard him exclaim “Dude! I said go far into the woods!” I walked past where he had just been and saw my deposit not 10 feet from the trail. And apparently I hadn’t covered it very well because there was 3 dozen or so flies buzzing around the pile. Okay, first time. I’ll know for next time.
The next morning, same routine, except this time, two days of walking in the woods had kicked my system into 5th gear. Again, not 5 minutes after we started hiking, I needed to act and act fast. I rooted in Dave’s pack, got my supplies, and squelched my cheeks together as I baby-stepped into the rough and found what I thought was a suitable spot. With my ass in the air and my shorts around my ankles, I heard giggling. No, wait, this wasn’t giggling, this was gut laughs. I turned and, again, I hadn’t walked far enough it the woods. But this time, I hadn’t just not walked far enough. I had also walked in the wrong direction. I was squatting pretty much smack in the center of a small crossroads in the paths with my bare ass exposed in many directions and Dave was just nearby practically doubled over with laughter. Whatever. I finished and at least this time, I dug a deep hole and covered it with dirt, rocks, a few branches and a dead groundhog I found nearby. Later that day, Dave and I stumbled upon a lovely little lake with a park restroom (I told you it wasn’t much of a “backpacking” trip). Dave smiled at me, took the t.p. and went to go use the relatively nice facilities offered by the South Dakota Park Service. Shitting in the woods: Andy – 2, Dave – 0.
On this our third day, Dave looked at the little map he had obtained and determined that we could either take one path and hike for another day or take another path and be back at our car in a few hours. We opted for the second alternative and, upon returning to the car, used another restroom to change clothes and proceeded to the nearest bar to the park and put down a few beers. Well, even that isn’t really true. We went to Keystone and put down many bottles of the white man’s firewater (Dave’s words, not mine. And actually he confessed to that being a horrible thing to say right after he said it). The next day, we said goodbye to the Black Hills and headed for the Badlands and my first real brush with death.