Today's miles: 19
Total miles: 403
Today was remarkably similar to yesterday. Katie and I hiked with the same group we had been with the past few days: Papa Bear, Rotisserie, and Milkman. We were used to setting our own schedule and hiking as we pleased, often meeting up with people in camp or on trail. We've seen lots of "hiking groups" like the Chain Gang who all stick together, but we've never really been part of any one of them. For the first time it feels as though we have our own little hiking group: we wake up together, pack up together, take breaks together and find camp together. I love it. It's like our own little family.
Left to right: Papa Bear, Rotisserie, Bramble
Today we spent the day climbing mountains and crossing over the Angeles Crest Highway. Twelve times, to be exact, throughout the course of the day. It was actually pretty entertaining, because at each road crossing we were rewarded with small civilized conveniences: picnic tables. Outhouses. Campsites. Water spigots. We got rather spoiled and made sure to take full advantage of every convenience as we happened upon it. I don't think a group of people has ever pooped so much in one day. In fact, we utilized so many privies that we came up with our own 1-5 rating system for them. 1 being "I would rather shit in the woods" and 5 being "the closest to a flush toilet the backwoods has to offer." An outhouse gained points for lack of smell, lack of bugs, cleanliness, and a supply of toilet paper.
Speaking of outhouses, a friend of mine wanted me to write a post about the particulars of going to the bathroom in the woods. I think it's one of those topics that everyone wants to know about but no one wants to ask. If you have a particular distaste for poop talk, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this post and skip the details. As for me, I've been living in the woods for almost a month now and I have lost all filters for social appropriateness and tact, so forgive me for anything I'm about to say. Out here we really only talk about four topics: The Trail, Food, Pooping, and Sex. And pooping takes up a shocking amount of that conversation time. We're all just basic creatures at the heart of it, I have discovered. We have very simple instincts.
So, if you're coming along with the potty talk, here goes: peeing is a fairly simple affair. Boys don't even take off their packs, they just turn slightly off trail and "water that tree/rock/stump." I swear, boys pee SO MUCH. They're like dogs marking territory. Everywhere. It's ridiculous. Girls are a little more selective. We take packs off to squat, but toilet paper is a waste of time and effort. No one I know uses TP when doing onesies. Just drip dry, pull up pants and go. No need for digging holes, creating trash, or touching anything with dirty hands. Those who don't like the drip-dry method use what's known as a "pee rag." Basically, it's a bandana that is used for just that purpose. Most people carry multiple bandanas, so it's good to color-code them so you know not to grab the wrong one when you're in a hurry.
Twosies takes a little more effort. One must find an appropriate spot behind a tree, use a trekking pole to dig a six-inch cathole, and... um... do your business. From there you have a couple options. You can use toilet paper, a backcountry bidet (ie, a little squirt bottle), or wet wipes. TP and wet wipes require you to bury the trash or pack it out. Packing it out is the preferred method, since nothing really biodegrades in the desert. So, creating less trash is better (because who wants to carry out poop paper?). A lot of people swear by the bidet method since it's cleaner overall.
Hopefully that helps answer your questions but feel free to ask if you have any more. I promise there is hardly anything that offends me anymore. (Remember that poop talk is 1/4 of all our trail conversations. Sometimes more. No joke.)
Ok back to our regularly scheduled program.
**THIS IS A SAFE ZONE. NO MORE POOP TALK FROM HERE (relatively)**
The five of us, Rotisserie, Papa Bear, Milkman, Honey Bunny and I, were having a rather relaxing day, enjoying picnic sites, breaks, and chatting with each other as we meandered slowly along the trail. By 3:00 we had only gone 11 miles, but we were having a good time. We spent the afternoon slowly climbing up hills, and at 5:00pm we arrived at a Boy Scout camp where we stopped for dinner (outhouse score: 4. Well done, Boy Scouts) and then decided to push on a bit farther since we hadn't done very many miles yet.
By 7:00 we had trekked 19 miles and crossed the highway one last time. We found a small spot for camping near the road crossing (outhouse score: 3) and sat at the picnic table for the evening sharing Skittles and chatting before bed.