Friday, July 03, 2015

Potty Talk

Warning!  If you are easily grossed out, you might not want to read this post!

There's no way around it, if you're going to leave an access point in Algonquin Park to canoe or hike, at some time you will need to go to the bathroom. That mind over matter super strength you think you have will not last for your entire trip.  And you're gonna hafta go.

I will be giving the female point of view on this subject.  Us girls have it a little tougher in the back country.  My number one recommendation is to go at the permit office and again at the access point.  Enjoy those flush toilets while you can!
Supreme Deluxe Back Country Potty
The back country campsites should all be equipped with a thunderbox.  Disclaimer: I haven't visited all the campsites, so I'm not positive, and I don't want to be held accountable if you end up at a site without one.

The picture on the left is not the traditional thunderbox, this is just like a regular outhouse, except it has no door.  That's okay, it's facing away from the campsite and probably helps with odor control.  And there's something icky about being in a dark wooden shed with the door closed with spiders and mosquitoes and multiple other breeds of bugs.

A regular thunderbox is basically a wooden box (much like the inside of the seat of the outhouse) with a lid.  The thunderboxes at each campsite are placed facing away from the site and when you open the lid it provides some privacy.  

One thing you should NEVER do is to use the thunderbox to dispose of food that you weren't able to eat at dinner.  Bears can smell this food and their food handling standards are quite low.  They will go into the thunderbox to get the food.  We stayed at 2 campsites early in the season last year where both boxes had been completely flipped over by a bear searching for food.  I know, ICK! But more than ick is BEAR!!!!!

Usually when we have selected a campsite to stay at, one of the first things I scout out is the location of the thunderbox.  Some of the more established campsites have a directional sign to give you a hint where to look.  Some of the thunderbox locations are quite far from the site.  This is all dependent on the lay of the land for your campsite.  The rangers do relocate boxes every once in a while.  If you're walking over a strange rectangular depression in the ground on the path to the current thunderbox, you probably just walked over the previous location of it.   

Most often the thunderbox is placed in the woods with trees all around you, lots of bushes and growth, and lots of bugs. If it makes you feel better, bring your bug spray and just mist the air before dropping your drawers. 

After having used more than half a dozen different thunderboxes I have certainly learned to appreciate the finer things that set one box above all the others. So far, my favourite spot is on an island on Catfish Lake. You sit high above the lake and you can see passing canoes. You might not want to shout or wave though when you seen them. The outhouse in the first picture actually has a toilet seat. That pushes it into "Super Deluxe" in the thunderbox classification system.  

Clean-up:  I have to confess I do bring baby wipes along on my trips.  This year I did some research and found a bamboo-based baby wipe that claims to completely disintegrate in 21 days.  I have not yet purchased special toilet paper that is environmentally friendlier than the regular grocery store stuff.

One trick I use, which does not work on a windy day, is to place toilet paper around the rim of the hole of the thunderbox before I sit down.  Okay, it wouldn't pass the sanitary standards your mom tried to instill in you when using public washrooms, but it helps me delude myself that I'm not sitting directly on the wood (like my butt is that small).  However, during very warm days, be forewarned that some of that protective toilet paper may stick to your butt and you may not notice until some time later, making you wonder...."what the heck???"

Another trick I have is to take a half-used roll of TP from home, remove the cardboard roll in the middle, and pull out the end from the middle.  I put the whole thing into a Ziploc bag with the tuft of toilet tissue from the middle near the top of the bag.  

I do carry a shovel (and I have had to use it when one of the previously mentioned thunderboxes was turned over into a swamp and thereby left as is). On an earlier trip this year when I checked out the thunderbox it was quite used and recently used.  Ick.  I went to the fire pit, took my shovel and an empty large Ziploc bag and transferred some of the ashes to the thunderbox. It worked really well.  

And last, but not least, don't forget the hand sanitizer!

Bought this at Mags and Fags on Elgin Street
And that's all the poop that's fit to print!  

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