Sunday, June 27, 2010

Not so Privy

The Appalachian trail has shelters dotted along its length in intervals ranging from 1 mile to 18 miles depending on how easy the walking is.  The average is probably close to 6 miles in the White Mountains of New England where the hiking terrain can be pretty tough.

I have been on a few hikes along the AT in New England and stayed at the shelters where possible.  The shelters are quite big, with  3 walls and a roof and could probably sleep about 7 people.  Near to the shelter there is one or more outhouse (what we descriptively call a "long-drop" in South Africa). 

At Kingsman in the White Mountains (mile 1801.6 of the 2178 mile/3505 km
trail) the outhouse has stairs up to the entrance and advises you to "Pee in the woods" because the higher the water content in the compost is, the harder it is for bacteria to process it.

A little further north in Maine in the Bigelow range (mi 2006.6), the outhouses are built with the most beautiful view as a backdrop - but for some reason, rather than face them over the view, you sit with your back to it.  I can't quite fathom that - with a view as impressive as this, why not allow people to enjoy it while they have their morning ablutions?

A through hiker (the term for someone who does the whole trail in one go over several months) told us of a spectacular outhouse at one of the shelters that is right on the edge of a cliff and overlooks a beautiful valley.  Now THAT is my idea of a great location.

My most recent hike was up Moose Mountain.  I have a colleague who loves to hike and I have mentioned to him several times that I am looking to photograph moose (I carry my heavy lens with me in the hope of finding wildlife).  He found a link to a trail that looked pretty promising on the AT over a mountain called Moose Mountain with the following description in it:

Moose Mountain is aptly named. The entire trail is prime moose habitat, with numerous swampy areas to the sides of the trail, although the trail itself is generally dry, soft dirt. Fresh moose tracks are virtually guaranteed, and moose sightings are common on the Moose Mountain Trail, part of the Appalachian Trail.

Well - I guess the moose were not co-operating and a local hiker told us she had been walking there for years and had never seen a moose, nor were their any prints or moose droppings in evidence along there.  We did see some swampy areas which I suppose might be a good place to wait for moose but it might be a long wait.

The outhouse on Moose Mountain was pretty impressive too.  A sign at the top of the junction to the outhouse boldly announces that the (not so) Privy is off to the right.