While most of the world is sick of Shelter At Home orders and stores and businesses being closed due to Coronavirus, those of us that run and ride and swim face a genuinely vexing problem while we try to stay healthy, get fresh air and get outside to keep from going crazy inside.
All the public toilets are closed.
At least, that’s been the case here in Illinois for months now. That means when nature calls, especially on the run, one has to improvise. Which means crapping in the woods.
I’m used to that after fifty years of being an outdoors type. And by necessity and years of earnest triathlon training, my wife’s gotten pretty damned practical about these issues too. And they are issues. To be dealt with. Sometimes urgently.
During our ten mile running route on trails from North Aurora up to Batavia or Geneva and back, there is just one bathroom that’s been available for the last three months. That’s the McDonald’s in Batavia. So that’s our first resort. But sometimes the urge to crap hits sooner than that, or later. That means hitting the woods is our last resort.
My instincts and nature knowledge point me to wide, broad leafs such as maple or oak. These work well as toilet paper even during the winter months. They may be a little chilly then, but they do the trick. During the summer months, those are good options as well. Grapes leaves are probably the best of all, since they are quickly recognizable, tear off the vine easily and typically offer a plethora of options once you’re near the plant.
Leaves of ass
In spring and summer, the danger of going to the bathroom in the woods is coming into contact with poison ivy and poison oak leaves. Both typically grow close to the ground. The classic poison ivy leaf arrangement is three leaves as pictured at right. But sometimes it grows as a vine, and can climb up trees. So does poison oak.
Both are plants that most of us want to avoid touching at all costs. Years ago I contracted a case of poison ivy that would not go away because little to my knowledge, the oils that cause the itching coated my boot laces. Every time I touched those boots I was picking up more poison ivy.
I treated it with a product that dried out the oils over a period of a couple days. The stuff is called Tecnu and I will testify that it works. It’s best to use it in the shower as I recall. You scrub it on and leave it on. It’s gritty in texture and actually feels good as you rub it on the red spots. It’s like you get to kill the rash. I like that. After a few minutes you wash it off, being careful to wash your hands with it as well. But follow the instructions on the label. Don’t trust my version of it.
Worst case scenarios
If you contract poison ivy badly from squatting down in the weeds to poop, it can spread quickly and badly. One of our female athletes at Luther College stopped to “go” during a 20-mile run and did not recognize poison ivy when she chose a plant with which to wipe herself. It spread throughout her system and she had to wear bandages all over her body.
So while you might find yourself having to take a crap in the woods while the pandemic restrictions on public bathrooms remain, I’m telling you that you don’t want to mess around with poison ivy. Learn what it looks like, and how to avoid it. The American Academy of Dermatology has information about what to do if you get a serious case of the itches. It is recommended reading if you living wherever poison ivy and poison oak exist.
It’s bad enough having to crap in the woods. You don’t want to take crap like a poison ivy skin infection home with you. It’s one of the tarsnakes of being outdoorsy that you run risks like this. A little knowledge goes a long way.