Monday, February 2, 2015

Toilets in the woods, and other unexpected finds

I snowshoed loudly through the woods. Crunch crunch crunch. This winter has been a bust so far. There's hardly any snow, and what there is, is icy and crusty. The lack of consistent snow for the last few years is really changing the economic picture of the West. And it is making us grumpy. I don't want to hike and run this much in winter. I want to ski!

I skirted some bare ground. Bare ground in January? Crunchy crunch. Then I saw it. Another homemade backcountry toilet! Gah! Why do I keep finding these? It's like there is some kind of magnetic force that draws me to these structures. People spend a lot of time on them, some even packing real toilet seats in to use. Others are simple wooden one-holers. While I am grateful that some effort is made to contain the waste instead of the dreaded toilet-paper-under-a-rock, I have to wonder just how long these people planned to stay out here. And the color choice of pink for the seat...? Other contraptions have been a lovely mix of blue tarp (for shielding the view?) and bucket. It's never pretty out there, folks.

But what is interesting is that you can think you've heard or seen it all, and you realize that no, you haven't. You can be sitting in the pub next to T, who you've talked to a bunch of times, and he suddenly says, "When I sailed from Fiji to New Zealand.."

What?! Seriously. How have I never known this?

And that's not the only thing.

With the lack of snow, we've been hiking on weekends. This weekend we got permission from some private landowners to hike on their property. Just when you think you've been everywhere, you realize that there is plenty left to see. For example, this big open ridge by Elk Mountain. Who knew all this was out there?

We hiked and hiked and hiked, for hours, because the ridge just kept going. It was warm enough for shorts. Which is pretty awesome, but worrying also. In the distance, the Seven Devils and the Wallowas looked impossibly high. We were surrounded by mountains. I live here! I thought. I really live here! I don't live in a dusty cow town or a place where it rains three hundred and twenty days a year! (both places I have, indeed, lived) I live here!

We found half-frozen ponds, fences, and antler sheds. Also, wolf tracks. But no toilets. That only happens when I'm alone. 


  1. Yeah, Mt. Hood is looking pretty bare too. If they don't get some snow soon, I'm afraid the ski areas will shut down. I'm hoping my foot is healed enough to start hiking soon. If I can't ski, might as well hike, I guess. But I've yet to see a homemade toilet in the backcountry here on Hood! :)

  2. It's sad to witness all this evidence of shifting winter conditions in the western US. As the jet stream weakens it's scary to consider the possibilities — the thawing of coastal Alaska, the desertification of California. Sorry for the downer of a comment, but all of these pictures of no snow just make me sad. :(

    (I was stalking Sierras-based Web cams today looking for a snowy place to visit, and found nothing.)

    1. I don't think it's a downer comment. It's reality and having been a firefighter, it really scares me, Yes fire can be a good force of nature but not when it is such a severe drought.
      I am going to the Sierra in July and guess I don't have to worry about snow (want to meet me on my hike for a couple of days?)

    2. I was just talking about this with a friend of mine who heads up our local USFS fire crew. My local area is actually one part of California that isn't in the "extreme drought" category due to a few really strong, warm rain systems we've had in the last few months. There's no snow at any of their weather stations (4,800-7,200 ft.) in the coastal mountains and he says that even if we received record rain and snowfall for the rest of the winter, it's not enough to pull us from the extremely scary fire season ahead. Yikes. We should get in all of our mountain playtime this winter instead.

    3. I'm already thinking about fire season too. Sometimes we get a big dump of snow in Feb and March that can make up our snowpack. Hope that happens. I'm in Flagstaff and it's about 70 degrees. Just seems wrong.

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