Kathleen Meyer, a longtime outdoorswoman and author, is my guest blogger today on a subject dear to her heart. Did I say “dear to her heart?” Read on.
Least Publicized Job of Wilderness Rangers
by Kathleen Meyer
Leave it to brazen, delightful writer Nevada Barr, bless her blue-sky heart, to tug beach-poop-patrol into the sunlight as part her newest novel The Rope. Faithful Barr fans will already know that this volume, predating Anna Pigeon’s long career as a park ranger, is the story of her startling summer just off the bus from NYC, signing on as a seasonal employee at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. And that Anna’s boss and housemate is one Jenny Gorman, better known as the Fecal Queen after one ghastly event in a heroic stint of cleaning human turds from the beaches of Lake Powell, where the bevies of camping/partying boaters and jet skiers ply the sand much as cats do a litter box. Of course, within the arc of the narrative, the crap brigade is but a small embellishment on the wild ride that lures Anna toward badge-and-gun-carrying rangerhood.
As I turned the final page, I began to wonder if Nevada’s readers might be inclined to question whether the description of beach-cleaning is one of her meticulously-researched details or one invented for gripping fiction? So, I’m here to tell you it’s the former. Backcountry human waste management is a serious problem in high-use areas and regions with fragile eco-systems, as in the environs of Lake Powell. And the life of the character Jenny Gorman? Well, I heavily related, having myself for nigh-on twenty-three years worn the sobriquet Shit Lady.
But back to the beaches . . . with gloves, tongs, and brimming five-gallon buckets. Although we like to joke as much as possible with the grand old English word scitian—finding it in your campsite is no laughing matter. Reports of poop-removal-by-salad-tongs reach me via many wilderness rangers. And if that’s the icky-est part of the larger story, the saddest is that when we humans don’t take care of business, so to speak, the upshot is rules and regulations. This week, in talking to Steve Horman, Chief of Facility Management at Glen Canyon NRA, I learned that in 1996, their whole approach to human waste changed, with a lovely new plan. It, thank goodness, relieved rangers of the hands-on chore by placing the responsibility directly in the laps of poopers, where it belongs. Click here: http://www.nps.gov/glca/parknews/advisories.htm and scroll down to “Lake Powell Pure – Now and Forever.” All of this offers us a lot to think about and strive for with our remaining unregulated hinterlands: get it together on our own steam, or lose the wild quality and dish out taxes for more enforcement?
Be in the know. Teach others. Thank you, Nevada Barr!
Kathleen Meyer is the author of the international bestselling outdoor guide How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art which sold more than 2.5 million copies in eight languages. Her feisty third edition, released in 2011, is packed with new information for outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe.
More about Kathleen:
KATHLEEN MEYER is a longtime outdoorswoman and the
founding editor of Headwaters, published by Friends of the River.
Her travel essays have been included in the Travelers’ Tales
anthologies A Woman’s Passion for Travel: More True Stories from
a Woman’s World and Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures:
Funny Women Write from the Road. Her adventure memoir
Barefoot Hearted: A Wild Life Among Wildlife was released by
Villard in 2001. Whitewater rafter and canoeist, sea-kayaker and
sailor, she is also a draft horse teamster, having traversed three
Rocky Mountain states by horse-drawn wagon. Ever the
nontraditional spirit, Meyer resides in an old, rather unrestored,
dairy barn in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley and is available for