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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Outhouse of the doomed

Finding adequate restroom facilities in the wilderness could be one of the most important survival skills a fishing guide can have.
Our tourist visitors to the Olympic Peninsula are generally from somewhere else. Many of them are foreigners unaccustomed to the local cuisine that relies heavily on three basic food groups: grease, sugar and alcohol.
Add the effects of sleep deprivation and mixed medication to the stress of a vacation grudge match with the vengeful significant other and it can add up to an emergency situation that has me locating restrooms for the gastrically distressed out in the middle of nowhere, ASAP.
Call it a guide’s intuition. I can smell out a restroom anywhere. 
It ain’t bragging to say that people often marvel at this ability — until they enter the facility.
That’s when you know your vacation has hit rock bottom. When you find out later your guide had a running bet on how long you could make it inside the mother of all outhouses, the pit toilet at the Hoh Oxbow Campground.
Most folks don’t make it longer than two seconds. Anyone who stays in longer than 30 seconds is presumed disabled from the fumes.
A rescue attempt would be futile. The only first aid I know is “check for wallet.”
Not all wilderness adventurers, however, are cut from the same cloth. There are some who are able to endure the rigors of the pit toilet for periods of a minute or more and emerge from the ordeal with no ill effects.
Like the camper who was lying in his tent one night and heard a rustling sound that upon investigation, seemed to be coming from beneath the floor.
We have a saying in the deep dark woods that “a man’s best friend is a good sharp ax,” but in this case it wasn’t true.
As our camper grabbed an ax and chopped his tent floor to pieces to reveal the true identity of the nighttime visitor — the civet cat, or spotted skunk.
It is an eternal wilderness truth that you can never find a flashlight at a time like that. The tent zipper will stick when you least expect it. No matter, our screaming camper tore his way out of the tent to emerge, gasping in a refreshing Hoh Rainforest sprinkle. Unfortunately the skunk was fatally injured. The soggy camper crawled back into the leaky tent in a vain effort to find his keys, so he could start his truck and turn on the heater.
There was no way to enter the tent without leaving the ripped door open.
Big drops of rain splattered like buckshot forming a bloody pool in the middle of the tent. Dawn’s early light found our camper swathed in a leaky down sleeping bag that had been cut up in the skunk attack. He left a trail of feathers to the outhouse on his way to setting a record for staying in the longest.
After the hellish night our camper endured, the trip to the outhouse must have seemed like a day at the spa. Few others are willing to get sprayed by a skunk before going to the outhouse.
Most of the rest of the campers make a quick U-turn out of the outhouse and into the woods. This happens all summer long. Archaeologists have somehow determined that early man stopped soiling his cave some 40,000 years before the present. This hygienic revolution has yet to reach the Hoh Rainforest where public restroom facilities are a being eliminated.
It is a government-sponsored public health menace and I am revolting.

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