When Nature Calls
By Rodney Page
The Northern California coast may be known for its pristine beauty, but my brothers and I know it as our summer playground. We only live a few hours away and travel regularly for our coastal campouts.
It was during one of these unforgettable getaways that my story occurred; surrounded by complete remoteness we were at our favorite location on the coast. The primal beauty and sounds of herds of wild elk, deer, eagles, sea lions and seals surrounds us, reminding us what a wonderful place we live in. The clean crisp morning air and roar of the ocean make for a perfect setting for our first hike of the day. Before we can be on our way though, we have an old fashioned camp breakfast of smoky bacon, scrambled eggs and pan-fried sourdough toast with giant mugs of hot chocolate. I love sitting by a campfire and drinking hot chocolate, it’s definitely one of my favorite things when we go camping.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Kolton and I have two brothers, one older and one younger than me. We are on a section of The Lost Coast known as Sinkyone State Park camping with our dad. The four of us are planning an early morning low-tide beach-combing hike. There are so many treasures to be found, in the tidal pools and on the exposed black sand beaches. I always carry a daypack whenever we go on these outings and it is usually packed with water, snacks, knife, sandwich baggies, microscope, 1st aid kit, and lest we forget toilet paper. As our dad says, “you never really know when the call of nature will arrive at your back door.”
We like to walk the low-tide zone down the beach, as this is abundant in the touchy feely critters we love to pick up and play with. We will examine countless items and creatures under our portable microscope, which is constructed of a single piece of cast iron in the shape of a handle. The optics are inside a brass tube that focuses by simply sliding the tube up or down. The really cool thing is that the tube can be removed and used like a telescope or as we called it our pirate spyglass. Aye, the tales of many a time we’ve been a group of beached pirates, fighting off indigenous tribes of cannibals, surviving only by our cunning and teamwork. But, that’s another story!
We boys absolutely love this time, and I mean all of us including our dad. Our imaginations run wild as we discover one treasure after another. We find California scorpionfish (also known as sculpin) in the tide pools, anemones, rock crabs and if we are really lucky an octopus or abalone. As the morning wears on and the tide begins its ever-present duty and moves back in chasing us back towards the beach, we decide it’s time for a break. We normally move up to the high-tide zone at this time to take our break, sometimes-gathering driftwood for a small fire to roast hotdogs, or simply to have a snack and re-live the morning’s adventures.
I have taken the responsibility of inventory clerk, having all of our treasures separated into baggies and made a mental note of each. I also make the camp list and check to insure everything is loaded before we depart on our trips. I think my dad appreciates my help, one time he almost forgot to pack our hiking boots! On this occasion, I did not check the daypack, my older brother Kendrick did, so unknown to us all we were missing one of our crucial items.
After consuming our meal I enjoy a rest on the warm sand, lying on my back, the rhythmic waves soon lulling me to sleep. After napping we begin the hike back, following the high-tide mark, as this is the best place to find the coolest seashells. As we are walking back winding our way down the beach, I suddenly realize I need to poop. We still have several miles to get to our camp with many uphill grades to navigate. I didn’t want my brothers to know my dire situation so I whispered to my dad, “I need to go poop”. He asked me “how bad do you need to go, could you make it back to our camp?” “I can’t dad, I’m prairie dogging right now!”
Not to worry, we’ve come prepared for such an emergency. So I follow my dad up the beach towards the cliffs and that’s a difficult task when your butt and legs are clamped tightly together. We find a suitable spot and dig a cat hole for me and I barely make the process of belt and trouser removal. My dad is opening the backpack, confidently reaching in to get our toilet paper, but none is to be found. I realize what this means and I knew I should have checked the pack this morning. There have been many times hiking one of us brothers has had to poop and use available leaves as our butt wipe. Unfortunately, there are no trees on this beach and I’m hoping for a miracle.
By this time my two brothers come up the beach to investigate what is taking so long and upon seeing me in a compromising situation Kendrick laughs at my predicament. My little brother Zack, who is in the process of potty training decides he needs to go also and without a word he drops his pants and relieves himself! My dad sees this and exclaims, “Now, I have two dirty behinds and no toilet paper or leaves for the clean up”. Kendrick in tears from laughter ask, “Well, dad what do we do now?” My dad suggests to us bare-butt brothers that we walk down to the surf, so he can rinse off our bums.
“Absolutely not! That water is ice cold!” I shout, not exactly happy with Kendrick’s finding humor in our stinky situation. Kendrick gets that look of inspiration and bolts down the beach where we had just been and he soon returns with a handful of kelp leaves. To those of you unfamiliar with kelp, the fronds are soft and smooth when wet. Eureka! What a great idea! The cool wet kelp is a bit uncomfortable, but it does beat the alternative.
My dad explains kelp is a plant that grows in the ocean and is full of nutrients and minerals that it extracts from the seawater. My brother Kendrick in spite of making fun of our situation saved the day and concludes that moist kelp makes a good emergency toilet paper. I couldn’t agree more and it doesn’t scratch your butt like the leaves in the woods can do sometimes.
We learned that sometimes things happen and we can figure out an alternative solution if we work together. Plus what a great poop story to retell around that night’s campfire, it was much funnier then.