I could hear my stomach gurgling, and I clenched the necessary muscles with every ounce of my being. My eyes darted across the bouldered hillside, frantically looking for a spot, any spot, where the hundreds of high school students who would soon be coming up that trail would not be forced to encounter my giant pile of poo. I had nothing with me. I looked down at my feet, my eyes coming to a halt as they encountered the bright band outlining the top of my ankle socks.
I would never be able to look at a lonely, matchless sock the same way ever again.
I had agreed to lead a hike later that afternoon, that I hadn’t been on in ten years. To give myself a refresher on the route (it was not clearly marked), I’d gotten up early, slipped on my shoes, thrown on my backpack, and slipped soundlessly out of my cabin, careful not to wake up my 7 sleeping girls. Carrying nothing but my hammock, I headed down the boardwalk to find the trailhead.
The camp was still sleeping, and aside from the calm whisper of the gentle waves, the only thing to be heard was a low grumble in my stomach. I’d been eating camp food all week. That grumble was pretty normal.
“I kind of have to pee,” I though. Oh well, this shouldn’t take long, I’d be fine.
The hike was an easy 1 mile scramble to a viewpoint overlooking the Princess Louisa Inlet. I knew I could be out and back in 45 minutes, which is why my backpack contained a hammock rather than food and water. I could survive anything for 45 minutes.
My stomach grumbled again in disagreement.
I found the trailhead, and began hauling my way up the rocks. It felt good. With each step, I thought of the best ways to show the kids how to progress through each stage.
Step here, don’t grab that, put your foot here.
I scanned the landscape, memorizing the necessary details.
My stomach churned again.
I soon found my mindset shifting from best hand and foot placement, to best location for digging a hole.
I had to be close to the top. I told myself I’d be find, just stop thinking about it.
I made it to the top in great time, and was greeted with a view of the Princess Louisa Inlet, a glowing soft pink reflecting off the water as the sun crept up the horizon. It was stunning. I snapped a few pictures, took off my backpack, and started to pull out my hammock. The hammock was barely out of my pack before my stomach gave a very defiant grumble.
I clenched and froze. The sensations that I was feeling were anything but ideal.
I shoved my hammock back into the pack, slung it on, and didn’t even wait to snap the straps in place before I bolted down the mountain. I was in trouble.
I was moving as fast as my feet could safely carry me. Unfortunately, sometimes descending is much more time consuming than ascending. This was one of those times. Partly because I didn’t want to slip and die. And partly because occasionally I would have to stop and clench, praying harder than I’d ever prayed before, that I would not create a warm, runny mess in my own underpants.
I was in full-on panic mode. I did not know how many more seconds I could go without exploding. Like I had mentioned before, I’d been eating camp food all week. I’m a fairly regular individual, and sneaking out of the cabin that morning had altered my normal morning routine. The exercise certainly was not aiding my situation. It was the perfect storm. The perfect, warm, smelly, unpredictable storm.
Now, I’ve done my fair share of pooping in the woods. I can dig a cat hole like nobody’s business. I put cats to shame. I’m not afraid to squat behind a bush and cover up my business when I’m done. I’ve gone on a 6 day trip with no toilet paper. Snowballs and leaves, my friends. Those are things that are not unfamiliar to me. There really isn’t a poo scenario that should shake me.
But this. This was different. For one, this particular scramble was up a very steep ledge, and the trail was almost completely comprised of boulders. Not exactly prime hole digging country. And then there was the camp food aspect. And finally, I’d messed with my routine. Never mess with your routine. Your body will revolt. And that is exactly what mine was doing.
I know my own body pretty well. I know when things are going to be quick and easy, and when I should lay off the spicy food. I know when it’s going to be a 3 leaf situation, or a 5 snowball situation. A 5 square situation or a 20 square situation.
This. This was going to be firehose required situation. You know the kind of situation I’m talking about. The kind of situation you would never admit you’ve ever had. But you know. I know you know.
And I had nowhere to dig a hole, no leaves, no snowballs, and no squares of toilet paper.
Time was running out. I had to determine my options.
Option 1 – clench, pray, descend, sprint. Risk: pooping my pants and permanently ruining my favorite pair of athletic shorts.
Option 2 – pull down my pants and poop. In the middle of the trail. Where hundreds of campers would undoubtedly encounter the most horrifying thing they’ve ever seen, as they made their way to Inspiration Point.
My passion for Leave No Trace was putting up a good fight against my increasingly unpredictable digestive system. But I really, really didn’t want to poop my pants.
I imagined the reaction of the first group of hikers to encounter my unfortunate morning jaunt. They’d smell it first, and try to figure out who farted. What if someone stepped in it? What if someone tripped and put their hand in it?
All the images flying through my head were horrifying.
I started frantically grabbing at any form of shrubbery, trying to compile an adequate amount of…wiping material. There was nothing. There were a few jagged rocks small enough to pick up and pathetic pine branches that don’t even live up to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, but other than that, my options were out.
I looked down at my feet.
I stared at the brim of my socks, barely visible above the top of my clearance Sketchers.
My socks. They were my only viable option.
I don’t remember consciously making the decision, but I found myself flying down the mountain at a dangerous pace.
Well, going any slower would have been more dangerous in other aspects.
I clenched, and I darted, trying not to jump and land with too much force. I didn’t need gravity working against me too.
There has to be a God, because I made it back to my cabin in time.
I remember sitting there, on that porcelain throne, staring at my shoes, never having been more grateful that both of my socks were still on my feet.