Friday, August 03, 2007


I wasn’t in the act when this notion came to be. No need to get personal just thought that fact was worth mentioning in. This piece was prompted following an evening jab session at the shop enjoying a few cold ones and of course discussing a favorite topic, fly fishing. Once the topic was breeched, we enjoyed some good laughs over various commodes we’ve encountered during our fishing excursions around the world.

I went back in the archives to drum up my first noteworthy recollection. If you ever fished Silver Creek back in the early 80’s you may remember the outdoor plumbing perched at the bend in the road just past Kilpatrick Bridge. Plywood painted mustard yellow made it hard to miss. This was before the Nature Conservancy put in their luxurious facility at the sign-in cabin.

I’d used this facility a number of times before the irony of it hit me. I remember the moment well. It was one of those very hot July days when nature called. Given there wasn’t anything higher than sage brush, the walk and use of this facility was your only option. It had been so windy that we’d finished fishing for the afternoon choosing to nap or tie some flies while we waited for the evening rise.

It was only a short jaunt to the facilities. Stepping inside most days in July the heat was immediately oppressive. This day it was particularly hot. I’ll leave the odor to your imagination. Looking around once seated for the first time I noticed the bullet holes that riddled the structure. They were accentuated by the sun rays as they penetrated each opening. For a moment my attention was diverted from the task at hand to my awkward position. I’m sitting in a rather vulnerable position at the end of a dry dust road in a sweat box full of bullet holes.

That was the last time I ever used those facilities. Even if the bullet holes had not been present, it wasn’t the most pleasant of circumstances. Talk about a sitting duck.

Steelhead camps predominantly are located in cold climates. Chasing these anadramous travelers has led me to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I recently traveled halfway around the globe to fish the west coast of Kamchatcka. I’d been to Russia previously so I had some gumption of what to expect upon my arrival in this remote camp. I was pleasantly surprised by the lengths our hosts had gone to make their outdoor plumbing accommodating. I still rate their showers as the best of all time….wood heated, incredibly revitalizing after a cold wet day. Wood to fuel the showers had to be flown in, as did everything else that was built here. I’ve yet to be in a more remote wilderness.

Situated some distance from our tents situated at the distal end of a long wooden walk were two outhouses. They blended in well with the rough landscape as did everything that had been built here. By the way it’s true what they say about Russian toilet paper. It takes a little getting use to. To our pleasant surprise our gracious hosts had gone to great lengths to make sure we were all comfortable, but none of us expected a porcelain throne lined with red velvet seat covers. Any short comings these facilities may have had, toilet paper excluded, were overlooked by all as a result of these luxurious accompaniments.

For some reason, steelead fishing latrines made the grade almost exclusively. These facilities are possibly more notable due to their artic quality that many of them posses. Can’t think of a more uncomfortable or shocking experience than a visit to one of many of these frigid boxes that acompany many of our north country’s steelhead rivers in late fall. They don’t exactly lend to jumping from the warm confines of a down relieve oneself when nature calls.

Without a doubt one of the greatest outhouses on the planet is an open door affair strategically located on the Bulkley River in British Columbia. Halfway through Driftwood Canyon is one of the most beautiful camps you’ll ever spend a night in. Part of Frontier Farwest’s steelheading opereation, Twin Camp is appropriately named for its twin shitters. The view from the seat of one is simply epic. I found myself more than once lingering before hitting the river. Before you lies the most scenic of river corridors laced with fir and birch resplendent in falls colors. If you’re fortunate, one of the canyons Balk Eagles will fly by before you depart. For those superstitious souls, always a good omen to start off your day.

To say a visit to this particular commode is a pleasant experience would not be far from the truth given the view. That which we experience on the Salmon River in Idaho provides yet another.

It’s not that the Forest or Park service hasn’t done a good job of building these facilities, typical of their efforts they’ve gone a little overboard. In a pinch there’s plenty of room for a cot with all that’s missing being the kitchen sink. They definitely have a zest of over engineering and design that’s true in the facilities that dot this beautiful river corridor.

Describing the effects of November’s frigid air upon some of your bodies more sensitive body parts first thing in the morning is not exactly the most enjoyable way to begin your day chasing steelhead. The updraft in these roomy facilities is enough to literally freeze one in place. I’m not kidding. Should a gust of wind pass overhead while you’re taking care of business the ensuing waft of frigid air can literally lift you off your seat. It’s always a kick watching the first timers return from this place knowing how chilling the experience can be. It doesn’t take them long to figure out a run to the North Fork is a far more prudent option given the opportunity. That said, we all know that when Nature calls, Nature calls.

We’re all familiar with the unmentionable ones. You’ve a lingering impression or sense of the ones I’m referring to. They are those where human repugnance is beyond comprehension. You don’t even need to open the door should the wind be blowing from the right direction. Should you, you’re faced with the most unpleasant of circumstances. I’ll refrain from such disgusting detail. If you fish, it’s more than likely you’ve been confronted by such repulsive road side or river corridor latrine. I’m sure the images I may have conjured up are sufficient enough to spare any further details.

Everyone who’s spent much time in the outdoors has had an experience with such places. I mentioned to several of the coffee crew about this Blog and the stories began. We shared in a good laugh or two. Given the number of us these days, we just can’t go out in the woods in most places without having an impact. Consequently were finding more and more of such facilities. Given the habits of most people, I’m glad they are there. However, I must say I still prefer a good old squat in the woods when Mother Nature calls. Ah!

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