Shit Tents

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As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the most important responsibilities I had as a river runner was caring for the “shit tent”.  The desert southwest is beautiful and fragile.  Many people take river trips through the desert, especially on the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Although there is a large area in these regions, all of the people on the rivers get focused into fairly small locations.  There are also limited places to camp along the river.  Thus, with lots of people being squeezed into small areas with limited places to camp, you need to deal effectively with waste.

It isn’t enough to bury it, because it would get into the rivers and eventually much of the available space to dig would be filled.  The solution is the “shit tent”.  This consisted of a small and simple tent for modesty, a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a plastic bag liner, a toilet seat that balances on the bucket, and a small can of lime to pour over the contributions.  In the morning, following the general call to the camp that the “shit tent is coming down in 5 minutes”, I would bag up the night’s collection and put the bag into a large metal ammo box dedicated to this job.

I assume that everyone is familiar with the terms “#1 (liquid)” and “#2 (solid)”.  The most important rule of the river was no #1 in the shit tent.  Believe me, it makes a BIG difference.

I took 3 trips during my summer with Ken Sleight River Expeditions, and on each of these trips, I regularly reminded passengers that the shit tent was for #2 and not for #1.  Things worked well when we reminded people, and the allotted number of ammo boxes were almost always just right for the trip.

On one trip that I did not join, we discovered that the guides forgot to tell the passengers about the #1 and #2 rule.  My role on this trip was to drop off and pick up the boats and cargo.  I noticed when I unloaded the shit cans that they were unusually heavy.  So heavy that I almost needed to get some help to carry them.  I mentioned to the boatsman that it seemed like a very productive trip, and then he told me that he completely forgot to announce the rule.

I mentioned in my last post that the average temperatures in Southern Utah during the summer hover around 100 degrees, and the trip with the heavy ammo boxes was, I recall, about 6 days long.  The first stop after taking out the gear is the local dump.  Under normal conditions, the shit box is opened, and the plastic bags are just dumped out.  No problem.

Suspecting that this time may be different, I found a shovel to pry the lid open at a safe distance. This was a smart decision, because the lid burst open with all of the pressure that had built up over 6 100 degrees days, and there was a shower of #1 and #2!  Uckkk!

Despite the obvious pitfalls, the summer of white water rafting was one of the most enjoyable things I had done to that point.

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