Last updated: July 31, 2015
The Reynold’s Creek Fire is still rolling, but access is increasing as the fire containment line grows. The Red Eagle Lake backcountry campgrounds are now accessible. In this hazy state of affairs, you might think that you’re seeing things when you’re deep in the woods and you spot an increasingly not-so-rare wildflower called the “toilet paper bloom”. What does it look like? Well, it looks like a wad of toilet paper sometimes brown, sometimes yellow, but mostly white that appears to have been carelessly left behind. It’s not just the haze…sadly these “blooms” are man-made. Harmless? I don’t think anyone who sees one would think so. It’s affecting Glacier’s beautiful, pure, unparalleled visual landscape. It’s also tempting animals like bears and deer to seek out these salty, stinky “blooms” even though paper and human defecation are not good for them.
So how do you properly poo in the outdoors? For starters, step at least 100 feet off the trail, closer to 200 feet would be ideal. Make sure that you’re at least 200 feet from a water source – more on that in a moment. Dig a cathole 6 – 8 inches deep when going number 2 and bury your poop, but NOT your toilet paper. You should put that bloom in a plastic baggie and pack it out with you. Not sure what a cathole is? Think of any kitty you’ve known. Cats dig a hole before they go and then bury it. This is exactly what you’re doing, but since you don’t have claws and tough foot pads, I would suggest a small trowel.
When you pee here in Glacier, you’ll follow the same distance requirements that you would if you had to poo. Pee on a hard surface – like a rock. This is so salt-starved deer won’t dig for that salty liquid and tear up the vegetation –killing those beautiful flowers! If you used paper to wipe, it needs to go into a plastic bag and leave with you. Why can’t you just pee into a creek? You’ve seen it on the movies… Dilution is the solution? The ground here filters pee a lot better than our alpine watershed. You’re likely going to be filtering water during your trip too – do you really want to be drinking pee even if it’s filtered? Some of our high alpine streams don’t have a lot of water in them.
However, when you are at your backcountry campsite for the night, you will find something worthy of a “glamp” location. Pit toilets! No hiking off trail, no digging holes, no finding a good rock…it’s easy to go! We REQUIRE that you use this pit toilet when at the backcountry campground, even when you’ve gotta go in the middle of the night. And it’s fine to throw your toilet paper down the pit! So easy, it should be a crime…This pit toilet program has kept the backcountry campgrounds from getting overrun by wildlife seeking that stinky, salty nutrition-less fix. Of-course this isn’t to say that the occasional marmot isn’t going to find his way down the pit hole to become a stinky poo-covered critter…this insistence on getting to our unhealthy waste is a sign of how persistent salt-craving animals can be and a reminder that we must help them help themselves. As a side note – latch those doors after use!
So, don’t be gross! Respect your fellow backpackers and also respect the animals whose home you’re hiking in. Leave no poo uncovered and pee in no campsites – so we may all experience… happy trails!