The weekend of March 21 – 22, 2015, I went backpacking for the first time on the land that Terri and I own on Shoe Mountain, in northwest Wilkes County, off NC 16 North and White Oak Church Road, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unless you trespass on the neighbor’s land, there is not a lot of hiking that you can do on our 10 acres. So, most of the trip was spent setting up and taking down camp, cooking meals, pumping water and sitting on a big mossy rock reading the biography of George Harrison.
A warning to the readers: what follows in my story is a little bit gross; reader discretion is advised. In one sense this is too much information, but I want this cautionary tale serve as a reminder to some readers who, like me, are too used to the conveniences of civilization and need a reminder when in the backcountry to be careful of everything that you do.
I have a pee bottle that I use at night to urinate into when I do not want to have to get halfway dressed, crawl out of the tent and walk a few feet into the woods. I have used a bottle for about a year with only good results. For some unknown reason, this Sunday morning, after using the bottle but before I could get it closed, I managed to spill some of the contents on my long underwear. What a wet, smelly mess! I did not bring a change of clothes, so I removed the offending underwear and got back into my toasty down sleeping bag naked [or “nekkid” as they say in the mountains].
A little while later, after the sun arose, I answered the other call of nature and went up into the woods to do “number 2.” After successfully doing my business, as I walked off, I somehow managed to step right where I had just defecated. My boots looked like I had hiked through a cow pasture. [Remember, I am now moving around in pee soaked long underwear, too.] In hindsight, I still can’t figure out how I managed to spill pee on myself, or step in poop. I have worked outdoors, hunted, fished, hiked, camped and backpacked in the woods at least a thousand times for over half a century. Most of those days I have relieved myself without a bathroom and no problem. I don’t know what went wrong today.
Anyway, I tried to clean my boots, but there was nothing at hand but dried leaves. It was too early in the year for green leaves. The dried leaves only crumbled up and made a bigger, sticky mess. I could have washed them in the nearby spring creek, but that is against the rules of outdoor ethics – it would introduce microbes and bacteria into down-stream water users.
So, I avoided getting back into my tent. I packed up camp and headed home, where I used several cleaning methods [a basement utility sink, a big brush, kitchen floor soap and a washing machine] to put things back close to normal. For those of you, like me, who are used to the modern conveniences of home, be careful how you do things in the woods.