Day 5: A Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Warning: This post may offend respectable readers like you.

The rain finally stopped, so we walked to St. Mary Lake for a sunrise photo opp, broke camp and got a move on to Many Glacier. Our efforts paid off: we arrived shortly after 9 am and found a scenic site near the bathrooms. The camp host gave us the same speech about camping in bear country, but this gentleman upped the ante by telling us bears were constantly wandering through the campgrounds. In fact, one could be bedded down in the knee-high grass directly behind our tent and we’d never know it!

We were settled in by late morning and ready for a hike. Luke suggested the Iceberg Lake Trail which is roughly nine miles round trip. We grabbed our packs and headed over to Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge to pick up the trailhead. Still partially frozen from the day before, we overdressed for this hike and ended up peeling off layers after the first steep climb. The trail led us in and out of pine forests and along the sides of mountains overlooking wide valleys. We walked through a lot of areas we deemed to be “ideal bear habitat” and got some flack from fellow hikers about our bear bells. (Another newbie mistake?)

We reached the lake in about 2.5 hours. It was big, beautiful, rugged, windy and very cold. The teal blue water was dotted with large chunks of opaque ice. I ducked behind a bush to get out of the wind and enjoy a Cliff Bar lunch. A few overly aggressive chipmunks approached me hoping to claim a few crumbs. After taking in the view for an hour or so, we started making our way back. It began raining lightly, so we pulled on our rain gear (mine was a bright yellow poncho and Luke’s was an actual rain suit) and hit the trail.

We stopped to use the one and only pit toilet along the entire length of the trail. Wanting to be quick so Luke could get out of the rain, I rushed in and quickly shut the door without first investigating the situation. It was really dark and cramped, and I was dealing with a lot between my wet poncho and hiking pack. My intention to was hover safely above the germs, but my distance judgment was off and I landed on the wooden platform (who would leave the seat up?!) and felt myself skid on something foreign and devastating.

I shouted, “holy shit!” and frantically searched for toilet paper. There was none. So I used the cardboard roll to eradicate what I could, pulled up my pants and waddled out the door. Once outside and in the light of day, I investigated more closely and confirmed that I had, indeed, sat in someone else shit. The situation was so repulsive and disturbing that I refused to acknowledge its reality for a good half hour. As a coping mechanism, I joked that no matter what happens for the rest of my life, nothing will be as bad as walking around with someone else’s shit in my pants. (It’s true.) Once the shock wore off and reality set in, I gave serious thought to stripping off my pants, burning them and hiking back in my yellow poncho and underpants.

Despite Luke’s wishes, the only way to pacify my anger was to talk about the situation. On the hike back, I referenced having someone else’s shit in my pants approximately 72 times.

We returned to the car around 6 pm, tired, hungry and with someone else’s shit in my pants. We tried to hype up the “delicious” Mountain House meal that awaited us back at camp, until we spotted a young couple carrying a pizza box. I chased them down to ask where they had gotten it. Twenty minutes later, Luke and I were sitting in the Subaru chowing down slices of green pepper, onion and breakfast sausage (they offered bear meatballs, but not regular sausage) and drinking cans of Prickly Pear beer. It almost made me forget about the fact that there was someone else’s shit in my pants.

We returned to our campsite shortly after dark and built a small fire that was being whipped around by violent cross winds. I used half a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to thoroughly wash my pants and leg in the bathroom sink. (It was too cold to shower that night.) With a belly full of pizza and beer, I slept like a baby, despite the trauma of having had someone else’s shit in my pants.

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