I recently went to a Boldly Went outdoor adventure storytelling event in Portland. Since then, I’ve been thinking whether I have any exciting stories about my outdoor adventures to share in that type of format. The problem is I don’t have any stories with much “gnar factor.” I’m not very sendy. I like to be prepared. I do a lot of research. I’m conservative in my decision making, because either I’m the least experienced or I am alone.
It was only about a year and a half ago that I went on my first backpacking trip, but as I live this life of being an itinerant-worker-outdoor-adventurer, I think that I may already be forgetting how hard and scary things I now think are easy once were. And maybe I am less excited to report back to you about my trips because they just seem ordinary now. So before I forget, here are some things I used to be super intimidated by. Funny (and sad) to think that these sorts of things kept me from enjoying the wilderness earlier in my life.
1. Peeing and pooping in the woods
It turns out that, as long as there are not a lot of other people around (e.g. not trails in day hiking distance from Tokyo), peeing and pooping in the woods is very pleasant. It’s cleaner than most public restrooms, and the view is going to beat your bathroom at home. When I am hiking and need to pee, what I usually say to my hiking buddies to indicate I am stopping and wandering off trail a bit is “I’m going to find somewhere scenic to pee” and it’s true! Further resources and funny stories here.
2. Finding a campsite in the backcountry
Before you actually do it, you read about it and have no idea what other people are talking about. You should camp on durable surfaces; you should camp on established camp sites; you shouldn’t camp on the top of a ridge (too windy); you shouldn’t camp at the bottom of a valley (cold air sinks); and on and on. In the end, campsites are like any other kind of real estate, each one has it’s pros and cons and it comes down to personal preference. Maybe you are willing to take a more exposed campsite for the great view; or maybe you have to pick a less flat spot that is more sheltered from the wind. After a while, you start getting an idea of what looks like a good campsite to you. It’s like learning to find street parking in a new city (which is actually much harder).
Sounds scary. But in my experience, if you are hitching near a place that is popular with hikers, and look like a hiker, it’s totally not a big deal and doesn’t feel sketchy at all. Most often, the people who pick you up are hikers or otherwise adventurers themselves. Keep good hitchhiking karma by picking up hitchhikers yourself.
4. Not showering every day
When I was in law school, I remember telling my friend Erica I could never go camping because I have to wash my hair everyday. I’ve found that if physical activity is stimulating enough and I’m tired enough at night, going to sleep dirty and itchy scalp becomes a non-issue. It helps to adventure in cool places where you won’t sweat too much. If I do get sweaty it helps to jump into a cool lake or towel off with a bandanna. My hair does still start bothering me after 3-4 days so I like to bring a wooden comb on multi-day trips to help me manage the grossness. Ostensibly it helps distribute hair oils, but it’s really just a way to scratch my scalp that feels good.
See, if I can become outdoorsy, you can too!