Of Shelters and Privies and Water

Posted from Johnson City, TN where we are waiting to see a doctor tomorrow (June 1) about Mel/Backfire’s kidney stone and find out if there is a Plan B. The stone trouble started on the trail on May 20th. 

As we have planned each day of our hike on the trail, we have paid close attention to where the shelters are–not because we like to sleep in them, but because they are benchmarks along the way where there are dependable sources of water and usually a privy. They not only provide shelter from the elements, they make excellent venues for reconnecting with fellow hikers. They usually have picnic tables so they make for a great place to cook and eat–so much easier than trying to do it all on the ground!


Enjoying a meal at a shelter with fellow hikers

Sometimes, we just stop at a shelter to cook a meal and then continue hiking until we run out of daylight or energy or both, then set up our tent somewhere in the woods.

A quiet spot in the woods

I enjoy the shelters for the camaraderie, but I prefer our tent as a shelter from biting insects, foraging mice and snoring bodies!


A privy without a door! Why bother??

Most shelters have privies, but their suitability as bathroom substitutes varies greatly. Sometimes, a quiet little spot behind a tree is a much better choice because it’s a little disconcerting squatting over a ‘toilet’ a mere hundred feet from a shelter and not have a door to close. It’s more than just  a little bit scary to bare all of your private parts over a hole when there are dozens of bees zooming in and out. Mostly, it’s just hard to relax and take care of business. The only real advantage to a privy that I can see is, you don’t have to dig a hole to bury the fruits of your labor–a very hard task given all the roots and rocks and dirt you have to contend with using a teeny tiny scooper.


A handicapped accessible privy in the Smokies!

One of the funniest things I saw in all the privies in the Smokies was– they were handicapped accessible! Think about it–a handicapped accessible privy in the middle of the inaccessible woods. They had metal grip bars all around the inside of the privy and sometimes, a ramp, of sorts. Talk about a candidate for the Darwin Awards!  I guess it’s a federal law or something that all national parks have to be handicapped accessible! Brilliant!

The other thing about shelters that makes them important is they are always near a water source. Given Mel’s recent bout with kidney stones (which are often brought on because of dehydration), we will need to be much more vigilant about staying hydrated. For the first six weeks of this hike, we always made sure we had water, but not too much of it–because it’s sooo freaking heavy and it takes precious time out of our day to filter it! Because of this shortsightedness, however, we have lost even more precious hiking time seeking medical help. Lesson learned: Don’t skimp on water!


Using a leaf to capture water for filtering

Obtaining water from a stream is not always easy, though, especially if the water is difficult to reach or the flow is weak. In some streams, trail maintainers have installed small pipes which help divert the water so that it flows out of the pipe like a faucet. Perfect! But when a pipe is not available, hikers have taken a stiff leaf (like one from a rhododendron plant), secured it with a small rock and voila! it’s a faucet. We have done this as well. It’s such a simple solution, but so ingenious.


Relaxing in Johnson City, TN before seeing the urologist

Tomorrow (June 1), we visit the urologist here in Johnson City and find out whether the kidney stone has passed or if Mel needs surgery or if we need to wait even longer–we just hope this isn’t a trail ender!

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Comments 2

  • Not the Darwin Awards : Jun 4th

    The Darwin Awards are so-named because they are given to people who do things so foolish that they remove themselves from the gene pool. So for example, an incinerating privy that was so powerful that it set fire to the privy designer and killed them. It isn’t just a synonym for pointless or stupid.

  • Bob Rogers : Jun 9th

    Hope all is going well with the kidney stones.


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