Only sixty percent of homes in 1940’s America had indoor flush toilets. Seventy percent had running water. Both amenities reached near ubiquity by 1970, the decade in which I was born, according to The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon.
Naturally, I take toilets and showers for granted. My guess is most of us do. But a recent camping trip brought me a new appreciation for the gift of potties and showers amidst the wilds and wonders of nature.
Before meeting my husband, Paul, I did not camp. But, given our first co-owned dwelling was a tent, it’s safe to say nature and I are now close friends.
This spring, Paul felt inspired to buy a hand-me-down pop up trailer. He spent hours researching prices and features. Finally, the day arrived when I heard the news: We were the proud owners of a fifteen-year-old Eagle by Jayco.
Paul committed to the project of spiffing up the trailer. Aided by nine-year-old Jackson, he set about the cleaning and tinkering. My mom, visiting from California, sewed us beautiful new curtains. I provided encouraging words and appreciative noises upon each milestone reached.
Soon our camper was ready for its maiden voyage.
Location, Location, Location
So, we set out mid-afternoon on a recent Friday for a campsite about an hour away. Arriving at around six, we had plenty of time to set up the trailer and get a fire going. The site itself was perfect. The location within the campground, however, must be assessed separately.
For anyone familiar with camping, the placement of the campsite restrooms relative to your site can be tricky. Too close to your campsite and every camper walks by, sometimes using your space as an unofficial corridor to reach the potties. On this trip, we didn’t have that problem. But we were far enough that a bike would have been handy. However distance did provide compensations.
For example, when Jack and I visited the restroom for the first time, we came across a deer standing in a green field munching on the colorful, and no doubt delicious, honeysuckle.
Later that night, when the bugs persisted in sucking our blood despite the helpful smoke cover of the campfire and generous bug spray application we headed inside our new trailer for a game of UNO before bed.
The Undeniable Joy of Running Water–Rivers and Restrooms
On Saturday, we decided to hike the trails lining the St. Croix river and ringing the prairie. At one point, Paul slid in the mud on the banks of the river and Ace, the golden retriever, decided to take advantage by leaping into the water without permission. We couldn’t really blame him; the air hung heavy with humidity. The inviting cool of the river could not be denied.
Warned that ticks and bears could molest us on the trail, we took precautions against both. Despite the bugs, possible carnivore encounters, and the stickiness, we enjoyed the eight-mile walk through the woods and grasses. When we arrived back at our campsite, we pulled ticks from our skin. Paul took pleasure in cleaving their tough exoskeletons with a hatchet. We decided nothing could be better at that moment than a cold beverage and a cleansing shower.
I went first. Toiletries and towel in hand, I set out on tired and sweaty legs towards the restroom. Freshly mopped, I was warned by the camp cleaner to watch my step on the tile. Inside the stall, I stripped off my sweaty clothes and soaped my hands. The water pouring from the nozzle overhead was both the perfect temperature and pressure to rinse off the sweat and silt from my skin.
Not wanting to waste water or time, I didn’t linger. But, I left that restroom with a lighter step. I walked back to our campsite, and took a cold beer from our cooler. Paul, babysitting the dog while I showered, took off for the bathroom for his own experience with cleansing nirvana.
Modern Miracles Seen Through New Eyes
When he returned we grilled veggie burgers and and laid side-by-side in a hammock strung between trees with bright green leaves. The campfire crackled cheerfully. We talked and ate chocolate-covered pretzels.
Later, I fell asleep grateful for skin no longer sticky, and no longer tick-y. The power of that distant shower transformed me from hot and tired to clean and comfortable.
Now back at home, with a bathroom just ten feet away, I appreciate the miracle of running water far more.
Born into the conveniences of a modern age, it’s easy to forget how lucky I am. Camping isn’t just for itself–for the trees, the rivers, and the wildflowers. It’s also because we see the things we take for granted with new eyes.
Your turn: What have you discovered a newfound appreciation for lately?