The bean burrito you ate last night will appear again today, no matter how many blocks of cheese you devour in hopes of convincing nature otherwise. As a backpacker fifteen miles by foot from any porcelain, you might be tempted to send off smoke signals for rescue at the thought of defecating amongst the trees. But once you acclimate yourself to the process, rediscovering last night’s dinner will become a pleasurable, if not an anticipated, experience.
In order to enjoy excreting in the wilderness, you must stay one step ahead of your burrito. Before urgency clouds your judgment, know your strategy. When you first rouse yourself from the tent in the morning, consider your food’s position in your digestive tract in relation to your day’s schedule. Plan to liberate it at a time that will appease your body rhythms without disrupting the day’s events, so that you don’t find yourself bursting three minutes into the morning’s hike or as you reach the middle of an empty field. If you are expecting some action, you will be able to respond calmly when your bowels begin to bellow. To appease their cries, you might prefer to slink away from the group, clutching the trowel under your shirt to conceal the purpose of your departure. Or you might feel most comfortable soliciting a trusted partner to join you in the dirty deed. Alternatively, you might skip flamboyantly away, whirling the trowel over your head and whooping with excitement.
After you bid your group farewell, the search begins. If you have chosen to forgo the conventionality of toilet paper, gather substitutes such as leaves, pinecones, and smooth rocks or sticks as you ramble through the woods, so that once you find a hideaway, you can get to work immediately. In choosing wiping materials, remember that squirrels bite, poison oak and ivy make for future misery, and rare plants or wildflowers should be admired, not desecrated.
Travel a substantial distance from the campsite and trail, because pooping in populated areas not only shocks onlookers, but nauseates those who will pass through after you leave. Avoid streams, rivers, and lakes by at least seventy steps so that your excretion does not slip into the drinking water after the first heavy rain. Seek boulders, thickets, and groves of trees that will partition you from the rest of your environment. You will soon make yourself vulnerable and will find escape difficult with your pants around your ankles, so choose a location in which you feel secure. But consider also the aesthetic appeal of your site. Pursue a place that overlooks an intricate spider web, a blooming rhododendron, a cloud, a sunset, or a series of mountain ranges that fade into the horizon.
Once you select your haven, brush aside the leaves or pine needles atop the soil, and scoop a hole with your trowel the depth of your open palm and the width of your outspread fingers (measure before you begin to eliminate). Place all gear, clothing, and materials in front of you so that you can monitor exactly what touches them and what does not. Drop your pants and squat, carefully positioning your rear over the hole. For the next five minutes or so, keep your balance, but relax. Enjoy yourself. Admire your surroundings. Listen to the wind rustling the branches. Smell the fragrance of the honeysuckle beside you. Watch ants lug bits of food through the leaves. Then wipe. Seal soiled toilet paper in a trash bag to pack out, and drop wiped-with leaves, sticks, and rocks into your toilet hole. Shovel soil back over the hole, cover it with leaves or pine needles, and top it off with a rock or small log to ensure that the area looks as pristine as you found it.
Meander back to your fellow campers, relishing the relief. You can slip among them as if you never left, march up triumphantly hand-in-hand with your partner, or burst through the group in a full gallop. After you wash your hands, reward yourself with a scoop of trail mix, a bowl of Ramen noodles, or a plate of rice and beans. Then eagerly await the twists and grumbles that will send you in search of another haven amongst the trees.