It was like a natural history museum. You know the ones, with moths pinned on boards under glass, their wings laid carefully flat by gloved hands. But some of these wings still moved, others were frozen into their museum-worthy state in the drain at the bottom of the room or slammed flat in the doorjamb. And instead of smelling like the musty goodness of knowledge, this museum smelled like mildew, sweat, and hot cement. Among other things.
I got real familiar with the bathroom two campsites down from ours this weekend.
Now, as campground bathrooms go, this one was a palace. There were no endless dark pits to speak of, no smells wafting through the camp in the night. And to my great joy, a park ranger came and hosed the whole thing from stem to stern on Monday. So it was clean. It was full of (horrible, cheap, horrible--but still!) toilet paper. There were no towels. There was no soap. So, your standard-issue green campsite bathroom. And as with all camp bathrooms, it was a sizable walk from our tent in the middle of the night.
I don't often wish to be male, but every time we camp and I have to carefully time my liquid consumption in the pre-bed hours around the campfire, I wish for the freedom, the pee-anywhere philosophy (and anatomy) shared by men. Camping with me, post-babies, is a ballet of planning, worrying, strategically placing my flip flops and flashlight so they can be found in the darkness, and very, very serious prayer to a deity who I really hope is listening, because Please God I don't want to run into any bears on my way to the John. Please, please, please don't let there be bears. And let's skip the part where you comment and tell me girls can pee anywhere. Not. Going. To. Happen. Not this girl.
My favorite moths in the night bathroom were the bright green ones, their wings looking chic and black light-ready. Rave moths. And I like those wood-looking ones, too. The moths in general don't bother me much. I coud skip the mosquitoes, sure, and the million nameless beetle-flyish bugs that congregate around the light in the nighttime. The June Bugs make me laugh simply because they're so dumb and clumsy. But in the night, as I try to hurry quickly from stall to sink and dry my hands on the sides of my cut-off sweatpants, I wonder why and how there are so many insects in one place. The enormity of their collective bug power is astounding, and I wonder how a species so (ostensibly) stupid can manage to find its way en masse into a seemingly enclosed building, in pursuit of one glowing orb of happiness.
And anyway, I feel like I would have had that whole bathroom-in-the-night thing down (moths and all) if it wasn't for Mother Nature playing her cruel monthly trick on me this weekend. As if hauling oneself down a hill to pee isn't enough, now we have to factor supplies kept in bear boxes into the equation (mustn't leave anything in the tent that could attract animals!) which means a soul-chilling scrape emanates from a large metal box just before each time I start the march to the facilities. It's like how in high school you started to realize how embarrassing it was to carry your purse to the bathroom because you knew everyone knew you had your period right then. But what could you do? Yeah, nothing. You carried your purse anyway. I was announcing to the entire camp HEY I'M MENSTRUATING, GUYS! each time I had to gather supplies and head to the bathroom in the night.
Lord help me, being a chick sucks.
But just as I was feeling sorry for myself, and annoyed with my self-appointed (by my uterus?) title as Regular Bathroom Inspector (because I'll spare you the other abdominal trauma that comes with my special monthly visitor), I read in Cheryl Strayed's Wild (which I recommend, and I promise it deals with more than this) that Cheryl had a particularly special moment of squatting half-naked on the PCT, taking care of her feminine needs with a more natural, backpacker-type apparatus (that I honestly won't even let myself Google--ew!) just as she was surprised by a fellow hiker. So, moral of the story: it could be worse.