Saved by a Poop Shovel

If you’re a hiker, I certainly hope you know what a poop shovel is. If you don’t, you’re disgusting. And if you’re not a hiker, I’ll grant Grace for your ignorance.

Behold, the poop shovel. Feast for the eyes 🤷‍♂️🥴

A poop shovel is exactly what you’d probably guess a poop shovel to be. When hiking, you use it to dig a hole, preferably about six to eight inches deep, you proceed to defecate in said hole, then you fill it back in with the dirt you just dug out. 

The dookie gets to a depth where the earth can digest what you didn’t, and it’s covered so nobody needs to see your excrement. Nothing worse than taking in beautiful nature and finding TP flowers. (Best practice means you pack out your used TP 😳🥴🤯)

Our family of seven hikes with two wads of toilet paper and two poop shovels. Each shovel is roughly eight inches long and weighs a fraction of an ounce.

If you want to go down the rabbit hole of the latest technology in poop shovels, knock yourself out. We aren’t high-falutin’ enough to have the most recent iteration. We’re still slummin’ it with our older versions…

On the night of June 3-4, our poop shovels saved our lives.

Bad Ideas

“Yeah, you can make it. Go for it. Gun it.” 

It’s always risky to take your wife’s advice within five seconds of her waking up. 

It was 10:00 p.m. and we had just hiked a measly 11.4 miles. Obviously, that pace wasn’t going to complete the Pacific Crest Trail. We’d need to up our game. 

We had skipped up north just a couple days earlier to look for melted sections of trail we could safely traverse with five young kids. We successfully negotiated the short distance between Old Station from the first rudimentary dirt road north of Lassen up to another dirt road a few miles north of the Burney Dam. But we needed to find more miles. From there, the trail went up a very large mountain and the reports coming back from the top weren’t encouraging. Snow. Lots of it. So we decided to drive as far up the mountain as possible to scout. 

We had found a road that crossed the trail eight more miles up, but again, we were dissatisfied with the notion that eight miles would occupy our entire day. So we kept hunting higher and higher up the mountainside. 

By now darkness had fallen and sleep had overtaken first the kids, and then my beautiful bride. 

I came upon a small patch of snow, maybe 30 feet long and a few feet deep covering the width of the road. I spied clear road beyond. 

Rousing my wife, I received the encouragement to persevere and drove onto the snow.

Worse Ideas

We sank. Tires spun. Epithets spewed. My wife apologized. And woke up a little more. 

We exited to assess the situation. Well, it wasn’t freezing cold. Nobody was sick or hurt. But not much else was looking up. 

The entire length of the van, both sides, were sunk to the undercarriage. Not good. 

Spinning tires and pushing were clearly futile. Snapping off branches and shoving them under the tires also produced no discernible results. 

There were two options: Dig, or wait for summer. 

(Well, Danae proposed a third option, calling for help. But I insisted we got ourselves into this mess and needed to get ourselves out.)

Official assessment: “Less than ideal.”

The only digging apparatus, outside of our bare hands, were our poop shovels. Out they came, in all their crude and rudimentary glossy orange and yellow glory, all eight inches of them.

Dig In

We set to digging, and our learning curve started. We quickly realized the advantage of gloves when digging in the snow with an eight-inch spade. Also, we figured out our sleeping pads came in handy to lay on. Even Blaze, our fourteen-year-old who’s usually as useful as a carcass after 10:00 p.m., roused himself and joined in the fun.

After two hours, now past midnight, we decided to throw in the towel for the night. We put the sleeping pads and quilts on the dry ground uphill of our snow pile and moved the children from the minivan into a more comfortable horizontal position. 

After a few hours of restful sleep, we were back up and at it the next day. Two more hours were required, but we were eventually able to free the van from her icy tomb.

Free at last, free at last!

Interestingly, just fifty yards up the road… there was a massive tree fallen across the road. Even had we traversed the snow, we would have turned around a minute later.

Never Too Late to Hike!

Back down the hill we went, determined to make something yet of this day. We drove from Burney up and around several hours to another section of trail we felt confident would be snow-free. Fifteen miles felt like a good stretch for a late start. 

I pulled around and let everybody out and started arranging the necessities for a day hike. But in the midst of that, I heard the unmistakable hissing of a tire about to flat. 

Within seconds, we decided Danae and kids would hike south and I would go fix the tire, drive to the south end of these fifteen miles of trail, and then hike north. Danae would collect the van and meet me. 

I drove as a man only slightly possessed to make it into a town with a gas station as my tire was becoming undriveable. Asking around, I remembered that today was Sunday and nobody in this small town would be changing a tire today. 

I now had a well-used spare tire on the van and a family several miles off into the woods. I decided to drive the hour-plus into Redding to have the tire changed at Walmart and come back out. Five hours later, I pulled up a mile and a half short of our intended trailhead. Construction had thwarted me. Undeterred, I parked by the construction vehicles, idle on this Sunday, and walked down the vacant road and started on the trail.

Gotta Play Catch Up!

Huffing and puffing, and after coming upon bears… twice… and rattlesnakes… twice… I pulled up to the van a minute before 9:00 p.m. and a few minutes after dark. Danae and kids had made it without incident and were already making dinner and preparing our sleeping pads.

Waking up the next morning… Sometimes Dead Weight can be cute ❤️

The next day was an uneventful 15.5 miles before the mother of a friend picked us up. We were spoiled to a homecooked meal, hot showers, and real mattresses, all in the shadow of Mount Shasta.

One of our favorite parts of hiking is making new friends… and then sleeping in their houses, eating their food, using their washing machines, and draining their hot water showers 😬😁🤣🤣

Surrounded by snowfields still impassable for our diminutive crew, we skipped up to southern Oregon, with its promise of nearly 60 snow-free miles.

I swear, sometimes Dead Weight will use my ears as ersatz reins for miles.

Into a New State!

Once again, online acquaintances bailed us out and gave us some of the best trail magic… moving our van for us! We were also spoiled by once again sleeping indoors, now two nights in a row!

Between great weather and strangers opening their doors to us, we managed to go our first three weeks on trail without setting up our tents!… until Oregon 😂

On our third and final day in southern Oregon, we decided to do 21 miles, despite knowing there would be some snow, but nothing appeared to be steep or deep. Sure enough, there was snow. And the kids loved it, walking on it every chance they got.

I swear, they really do love walking (and jumping, apparently) on snow! 🤷‍♂️

As the day wound down, I made them a promise. “We have four and a half miles to go. If you can make it in 90 minutes, by 7:00 p.m., we can get ice cream.” Turns out ice cream is adequate motivation to push the kids three mph for an hour and a half 🤷‍♂️

Had our first taste of “bad” bugs in Oregon. Kids battled it with rain gear and buffs 🤯

That night, we stayed with Queen Bee’s cousin, who had an entire menagerie in her house, including a baby raccoon! Our kids were in heaven 😁

All good parents let their babies play with raccoons, right? What could go wrong?

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Comments 1

  • David Odell : Aug 16th

    Enjoy your posts. Sounds like you are having a great time. David Odell. AT71 PCT72 CDT77


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