104. July 23: Mile 1456.63 Gold Creek to Mile 1482.18 Squaw Valley Trailhead
Let’s not all pretend like I don’t poop when I’m out here hiking. Contrary to popular belief, hikers poop just the same as you. Well, sort of. It usually goes something like this: hiker notices he/she has to poop, they go off trail 200 feet as per Leave No Trace principles, digs a 4×6 inch hole in the ground, squats over said hole, does their business, cleans up, buries hole, and goes on with their day.
So this morning, the above ideal series of events did not transpire in the way that they should have in any way. Five minutes after leaving camp (which would have been a perfect place to find a place to poo) I went from having zero urge to poo to Hurricane Katrina trying to rip apart the levee in New Orleans. I swear bowels do not behave the same way in the backcountry as they do in normal life.
Anyway, so I’m on this ridge. It’s straight up and straight down with the trail bench cut into the side of this steep slope and it’s completely exposed. The only place to drop of deuce is either literally on the trail or to rig up a harness and climbing rope and rappel down a bit before dropping the kids off at the creek below. Fortunately, though, I see trees not far ahead and so I clinch my sphincter and grit my teeth before proceeding with hope.
My hope was dashed upon realizing that even though there was tree cover, the trail was still essentially bench cut into the side of this ridge so the only option was to scramble up the side of the slope, through a thicket of dense bushes, and eventually to a flatish patch of dirt (kind of). I feverishly scratched at the rocky soil with my trowel only managing to dig a two inch deep hole-like thing before my trap door screamed, “I’M BUILDING SPEED AND I CAN’T STOP!” I quickly fumbled to pull down my shorts before the initial turd plunked into the dirt. Probably should have put a disclaimer on this one… Sorry mom.
Just as I was about release the Kraken, there was a sudden rustling behind me. It was probably either a deer or a Mountain Lion (definitely a Mountain Lion) and at the same time I heard foot steps and trekking poles approaching on the trail. It was Glowworm. I was only 20 feet off the trail, if that, and I wasn’t sure if she could see the top of my head or hear me grunting to push it out. Beads of sweat dripped from my brow from a combination of anxiety and the thick morning humidity.
But then, my worst fears came true. Glowworm stopped next to my backpack! You see, it’s normally standard procedure to walk past a lone backpack and not search the surrounding area as this is the universal sign of someone having a good ole backcountry shit. Unfortunately for me, though, a couple days ago we had an incident where she had past me while I was taking a dump and I wasn’t aware that she had and thought that she was behind me, but was really in front of me and so on and so forth. Anyway, point is, we agreed that we’d stop and wait if the person in front was pooing to avoid that from happening again. This time, I really, really didn’t want her to stop. Because as soon as she did, I let out a loud sputtering sound as the remnants of my dark matter made their final departure from my body. Then, just as this is all happening, another couple past the same spot and then stopped to talk to Glowworm while I’m vulnerable and drowning in a pool of my own sweat while catching dense whiffs of my excrement. And this was all before 7:00 AM!
My life did manage to get mildly better after the above debacle. The whole morning to lunch was all downhill so making quick, easy miles was extremely doable. We stopped for lunch at the bottom of the hillside next to a river and was able to wash our legs and clean our socks before attacking the eight mile climb out.
The rule of thumb is to take a liter of water for every five miles so we took two liters to make it to the next water source. I’m not really sure the exact reason but I felt so drained and weak as soon as we started climbing. It wasn’t very steep or all that hot, but there was a bit of humidity which I haven’t felt since leaving Indiana three and a half months ago. With every step I sweated more and more until my entire shirt and shorts were soaked and my straps on my pack were caked in salt. Within a couple miles I had already downed half a liter and knew I’d have to start severely rationing to make it to the water.
It was awful. It took everything in me to just keep pushing. Finally, though, around 5:00 Glowworm and I made it to the creek to fill up before hiking an additional three miles to camp. When it was all said and done, we had upped our personal best distance to 26.5 miles for the day. It’s worth noting that we did that one hour less than yesterday’s 25 miles hike. Not bad for someone who couldn’t get their shit together earlier in the day.