Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
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Today we feature a guest blog from Maureen L. of Berkeley, CA.
We all care for the infants we love, and we all care for the dogs we love, right? Including responsible disposal of solid waste. I’ve done plenty of both. So why not do the same for ourselves in fragile habitats? It’s not always possible to schedule peristalsis before heading out on a long hike. I find my body’s habits change when I’m more active and eating more. When I’m hitting the trail very early, I don’t sit around waiting for breakfast to digest.
Yes, I carry my trusty folding metal shovel. I’m not relying on any plastic shovel. Mine has the cute brand name “U-dig-it,” and where I can bury solid waste, I do. But so many trails in Yosemite are a challenge in this department. Not much space to get off the trail on many parts of the Half Dome hike. It’s the same for Upper Yosemite Falls, the trail down to Glen Aulin and the series of amazing waterfalls along the Tuolumne River, the Four Mile Trail, much of the High Country … even if one can get off the trail and away from water, 200 feet away says Leave No Trace, there’s no way to make a “cat hole” on granite! All of the trails I’ve mentioned are heavily used, too. In the winter, it’s sometimes possible to dig down to bare soil in a tree well, but I don’t count on being able to do that.
So, I carry lots of plastic bags – my SF Chronicle bags and trusty zip-locs. I also carry a small can of the amazing “Poop Freeze” spray created for use with dogs, which seals and solidifies solid waste. Then I double or triple bag it, and use alcohol gel and/or individually wrapped “Wet Ones” wipes.
If my homey methods strike you as inelegant, there are commercial products with amazing and supposedly environmentally friendly powders that do a nifty job at “containing and neutralizing” solid waste. Restop calls their top-of-the-line product a “Personal Portable Sanitation System.” If you get a permit to hike the Zion Narrows with an overnight stop, the Park Service issues you Restop gear, as the trail is the Virgin River between spectacular narrow walls. At the Leave No Trace website, you can purchase a pack of 5 pack of Restop 2 solid waste pouches for $14.95 or a single one for $2.95 or a Cleanwaste GO Anywhere single use kit for $2.95. The Restop site has links to other sites that sell theirs.
I wish the Park Service would site one of their cool solar powered composting toilets at the base of Subdome, like the ones at the top of Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. But until they do, I’m prepared to “pack it out” if I need to. Leave No Trace points out that proper disposal of solid waste is a social concern and a disease-prevention concern. The spread of giardia in the Sierra is partly due to improper human waste disposal. Think I’m over the top? Well, I have farther to go in this dimension of Leave No Trace. The amazing stuff in the commercial kits turns liquid into a gel muy pronto, but I’m not yet using these sorts of kits for liquid waste in Yosemite.
Editor’s note: 100 feet from any trail or water is generally accepted. You can also use your hiking pole tips to dig a cat hole. You need to carry out your toilet paper in a zip lock also. Don’t bury or burn it. I see too many wisps of TP behind rocks, Ladies! Mts. Whitney and Shasta MAKE you use human waste disposal kits. For the Half Dome hike, don’t eat weird stuff the night before and use the outhouses! Use hand sanitizer also.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Clear your mind of can’t.” – Samuel Johnson
*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com