I kept this one clean, folks. No crotch talk!
Being a hiker AND having a vagina can be extremely inconvenient.
If that sentence grossed you out, just stop reading now. Because it’s about to get way worse. I only wish someone had told me these tricks before I started hiking. So to you women who have questions about how to manage your vagina while hiking, camping, or seeking other outdoor adventures, I invite you to benefit from my heard-earned wisdom.
Let’s start with the easy stuff…
Problem: You have to pee and you don’t have a penis.
Solution: Get a penis. Purchase the GoGirl, the Little John, the pStyle, the SheWee…lots of cleverly named options here. Basically, these products create a penis for you out of plastic. It’s a little awkward at first, sure. But after you get the hang of it, you’ll be thanking GOD for plastic!
Real-life example: Port-a-potties and pit toilets. I hate them. The plastic penis saves me from hovering my genitalia over a vat of cooking feces (and the flies that eat the feces then land on my vagina…fucking gross).
Problem: You forgot your plastic penis and you don’t want to hover your genitalia over the port-a-potty.
Solution: Disposable cup. If you’re near a port-a-potty or pit toilet, it’s assumed you’re at a trailhead or campsite. So grab a disposable cup and head to the port-a-potty for some privacy. Pee goes in the cup, the pee goes out of cup and into the toilet, the cup goes in the garbage. Brilliant.*
Real-life example: I entered the pit toilet at the Peralta Trailhead and was greeted by a turd sitting on top of the toilet seat. Someone had also smeared the turd so there was a visible brown trail of shit everywhere. Lucky me, I hadn’t planned to use the toilet anyhow. I brought an empty Starbucks cup and then I filled it to the top line…almost a full venti!
Problem: You’re using your plastic penis on the trail and a stranger unexpectedly catches you in the act.
Solution: None. That person is left to wonder forever about your anatomy. Unless that person is a lady. If that’s the case…time to show and tell, girl! (P.S. This is why I only use the plastic penis in a port-a-potty situation.)
Real-life example: Also none. But I imagine I’d be so worried about the person’s resulting confusion about my gender, that I might chase them down to provide an explanation. “No, no, I swear, I’m a girl! See? It’s right here!”
Problem: You got your period.
Solution: Tampon, duh. Think ahead and bring tampons on every single hike no matter what. You’ve got your first aid kit, right? Add at least 3 heavy flow tampons to that thing. Done. Problem solved forever. And here’s an unexpected perk: Tampons make excellent kindling for fires. Just spread the cotton, throw on a spark and watch that thing ignite.
Real life example: Lou and I used a tampon to start a fire while camping. Brilliant invention, I say!
Problem: You got your period and you don’t have a tampon.
Solution: Uh, get the hell off the trail. It’s not like it’s going to get better. If things get crazy, however, open your backpack and look for anything useful. Handkerchief? Kleenex? Gauze? Hate to say it but you’re going to have to do it middle-school style and start filling the crotch of your pants with anything absorbent. And if you see another woman on the trail, good God don’t be shy. Ask her if she’s got lady supplies handy. She will help you.
Real-life example: A friend of a friend hiked into the Grand Canyon and she got caught without a tampon. By the time she arrived to the campground, the poor woman was a mess. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!
Problem: You got your period, you HAVE a tampon, and now you have to change it on the trail.
Solution: Grocery bag. Always carry at least one one white plastic grocery store bag in your pack. You’re going to use that bag much in the same way you would use it to pick up dog poop. Only this time, it’s like the dog poop has a string attached to it and you have to pull it out of your dog’s butt-hole then catch it with your bagged hand. And also, your dog lives in your pants. Sounds complicated but it can be done. In fact, I’ve mastered this maneuver and can successfully make the big switch without even removing my pants. I feel proud.*
Real-life example: Too many to count. I’ll tell you this much though, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I see photos of the top of the flatiron.
GENERAL VAGINA PROBLEMS
Problem: Swamp vagina.
Solution: Bring Kleenex on every hike. You’re just one discreet wipe away from feeling fresh again!
Real-life example: When a hiking partner and I finally confessed to this unfortunate side effect of having a vagina on a summer desert hike, we forever called the resulting incident, “The Great Wipe-Out.”*
Problem: Cameltoe, moose knuckle, turtle paw, frontal wedge…whatever you want to call it.
Solution: Embrace it. I prefer yoga pants to traditional hiking pants when I’m out on the trail and while I try to be conscious of vaginal fabric bunching, the reality is, I often stop caring. I’m sweaty, dirty, thirsty, and tired. And, most likely, I had to degrade myself with doggie-bag tampon changing or pissing in a cup while staring at a smeared turd. Now I have to obsess about my cameltoe? Whatever.
Real-life example: I’d rather not know. If you’re reading this and you’ve hiked with me, please refrain from commenting. Thank you.
That’s it! I can only hope that writing this blog post will help all the other vagin–I mean–women looking for outdoor adventures!
How do I know so much? Well, my vagina and I have hiked over 100 trails in Arizona. Then my vagina and I wrote a book about 81 of them called Take a Hike Phoenix. For less vulgar, more G-rated writing about hiking, please visit my other blog, liliatakesahike.com.
*I adhere to a very strict pack-it-in-pack-it-out policy. There’s no excuses on this one, hikers, and it includes the icky stuff. Littering is bad and, also, are you really going to make a park ranger pick up your tampon, piss cup, or vag Kleenex for you? Don’t be cruel!
“That trail SUCKS!” my husband Lou said the other day as we drove past Papago Park.
He was referring to the Eliot Ramada Loop on the west side of Galvin Parkway. The trail offers a paved portion for the first half mile until you reach the Eliot Ramada, a large shady structure poised between the massive, erosion-pocked red rocks called the Papago Buttes.
The trail is easy.
Easy for us anyway. Because, save a few creaky joints and Lou’s “arthritis” in his toe (eye roll), we are young, able-bodied hikers in the prime of our lives.
Not everyone has the luxury of hating that trail, however.
About four years ago, I convinced my grandmother’s caregiver and a few family members to meet up for a hike. With a heavy blanket tucked around her limp body and gray curls poking out from under her fuzzy beanie, GJ (our nickname for her) felt the chilly December air as we took turns (okay, brother Alan did most of it) pushing her wheelchair along the paved trail in Papago Park.
It was hard work.
Shortly after our family hike, GJ had another stroke. A big one. And it pretty much kept her at home for the rest of her life.
After my mother’s stroke earlier this year, we ventured to Papago Park once again for weekly hikes. Mom could walk okay but I had to keep a hand on her belt so I could yank her straight if she started to lose her balance. We started with the paved portion, taking breaks at each bench. We made it to the ramada. After a couple weeks, we braved the uneven terrain of the surrounding dirt trails. Eventually, we could walk the whole park.
Today, Mom is hiking the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A, a much more challenging trail, three times a week by herself.
Papago Park is where my GJ got out of the house for one of the last times. Papago Park is where Mom healed from her stroke. Papago Park doesn’t suck.
This is the very same speech I gave Lou after he made his callous remark. Needless to say, he recanted his comment.
Nobody fucks with my trails. Nobody.
Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of this hike on my Everytrail.com page which shows a loop we created one day. A detailed review of a Papago Park hike is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores fall 2013 and is now available at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.
“I am having the worst time on this hike!” I said a few weeks ago.
My voice was in that high-pitched place where ladies’ voices go right before they’re going to start sobbing. I was having the worst time because we were hiking at about 8,700 feet elevation in the middle of a Flagstaff, AZ monsoon shower on the Elden Lookout Trail.
This is the part where I sheepishly admit to making a dumb mistake with my hiking plans. I know better. I know that I shouldn’t hike in the afternoon in monsoon season in the Arizona high country. Because that’s how people get struck by lightning.
But when we entered the trail head late that morning, I didn’t mention any of this because I didn’t want to piss off my husband, Lou.
Just a few weeks prior, Lou and I got in an argument at the Grand Canyon. We got off to a late start on the Bright Angel Trail and though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I was already terrified that a lightning-filled monsoon storm would roll in and trap us mid-hike. Lou, who doesn’t share my chilling fear of indiscriminate sky swords that deliver pure death, was frustrated with my anxiety.
“If you’re not willing to take risks then we shouldn’t even leave the house!” he snapped.
For the next 2 1/2 miles into the canyon, we voiced our bitchy retorts and snippy comments between the brief moments when other hikers weren’t in earshot. Other hikers would pass, we’d both smile and say hello, then a few seconds later I’d hiss, “I’m just saayyying I don’t want to be rescued or DIE on a trail a month before my effing hiking book comes out!”
It’s a ridiculous way to have an argument with your spouse.
To top it off, we were missing some of the most spectacular views on planet. I finally convinced Lou to turn around just before we hit the 3-Mile rest house.
On the way out, I was wishing for clouds after just half a mile of climbing. It was early August and insanely hot in the canyon. We were soon dribbling water over each others heads. To hot and miserable to care what others thought of us, we made loud and gross moaning sounds as the cool water trickled down our backs. After we finally crawled our way off the scorching trail, we went on with our happy trip at the Grand Canyon with me repeating, “Yes, you were totally right.” throughout the remainder of our visit.
So when we hit the trail late on Mt. Elden in Flagstaff, I decided to shut up and climb.
We saw the clouds rolling in when we neared the lookout tower (our turn-around spot). We pushed ahead, made a quick tour of the structure, then hauled ass down the trail. Then the rain started. Our strategy was to descend as quick as possible and the minute we heard thunder, we’d take cover and wait out the lightning storm (this is what the experts recommend).
I was convinced that I wouldn’t hear any thunder because I’d be too busy getting hit by lightning and turning into a dead person. Or worse, I’d be too busy becoming a widow.
After 30 minutes of repeatedly imagining my husband’s tragic death while trying not to slip on the slick trail, my high-pitched, lady-about-to-lose-it voice burst out of me. Lou gave me a reassuring hug and we pushed on.
Ten minutes later, the skies cleared and I was a carefree little hiker.
“We won’t do this again,” Lou said. I assumed he was finally beginning to share my fear of lightning. Then he said, “we won’t do this again because I never, ever want you to have a crappy time. Especially when we’re on a hike.”
Check out photos, gps information, and other details of the Mt. Elden on my Everytrail.com site. The Mt. Elden Trail in Flagstaff, AZ is featured as an option my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.
I’m cuddling up on the couch with my blanket, laptop, and favorite cat right now.
My mind keeps wandering, however, to the National Trail.
The National Trail travels the South Mountain Park from end to end. It’s like walking from 40th Avenue to 40th Street. Except that you have to walk up and down a bunch of mountains to get there. It’s 14.7 miles total. I haven’t yet calculated the elevation gain but it felt like 2,000 feet (cumulative).
Lou, our friend Stephanie, and I met before sunrise at the park’s Central Ave entrance Sunday. After searching for scorpions with a black light, cramming bagels in our mouths, and taking a final bathroom break with the luxury of running water (in most cases), we set out from the west end of the park.
Within the first few miles, we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. It wasn’t until mile 9 when the endless pattern of steep ascents, descents, and then ascents to climb back up the elevation we had just trekked down finally let up.
This was unexpected. I had told my hiking companions that I anticipated just one major climb that would last 2 miles. Oops.
We took it like a bunch of pros. Especially Stephanie. She has joined us on a few hikes throughout this book project and though she’s in great shape, she hasn’t had the 70+ hikes Lou and I have enjoyed to refine her endurance. In spite of this, she pushed on without complaint and stayed at our heels the entire time. I feel funny saying this (because I’m not her parent), but I was so damn proud of her.
In fact, I was proud of all three of us. No one freaked out. No one got angry. No one even got grumpy.
Instead, we joked and chatted (between heavy breathing) for the entire 7.5 hours.
There aren’t very many people who can pull off 7.5 hours of constant exercise with such finesse. I feel lucky to know at least two.
“I almost want to say that hike on Sunday was spiritual,” Stephanie texted to me today.
I completely agree.
Writer’s Note: Upon further inspection, this trail was actually 14.7 miles. Not 15.5 as originally written.
I should not be blogging right now. I should be writing my book.
I’m in the total-freak-out stage of this writing project. Now that I’m settled into my corporate job (I’m very happy there), I’ve developed a new discipline to devote 9-10 hours per week to this book. I can only hope this is enough.
I’m stressed to the max.
But I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for months and it’s time to get it out.
It’s about my camera.
When I graduated college in 2006, this Canon Power Shot A540 was my Dad’s gift to me. I’m going to send the link to this blog to my dad later today so he’ll soon learn that this was so not what I wanted. At the time, I had given my then-fiance very specific instructions to tell my dad that I wanted an iPod.
Instead, I got the camera.
“I figured that, with your new job at the New Times, you could use a camera for your work when you’re out reporting stories and such,” Dad told me.
Then I started my job and quickly accepted the assignment to take pictures of party people once a week for a column called Club Candids. I despised the gig but the money was way too good to pass up. This camera was with me all the way. It somehow survived bars, clubs, and dance nights each week for three years solid.
Today, the lens is missing its cover. The screen on the back is scratched to hell. The flash only works if you flick the bulb five times with your finger before you take the photo. The wrist strap is so caked with dried booze and grime, the woven threads are now all leathery and gross.
I promised myself I’d buy a new camera so I could take excellent photos for my book. I planned to use my sad, sad Canon only for the first few hikes. But I got busy and lazy and I didn’t want to do the research needed to buy a new camera.
Today, I’m more than halfway done with my list of hikes and this beat up little thing has captured some gorgeous photos…some are even good enough for the cover (according to my publisher’s Graphics Coordinator).
Dad knows best!
I’m taking a break from making maps.
It’s actually my favorite part of “writing” this book (I guess since I enjoy it, I’m not really justified to take a break but whatever). For every hike, I must turn in a map so the cartography department can accurately create another map that’s included with the trail review.
It’s not a far cry from what I do in my current day job in which I must find the most meaningful way to accurately communicate complicated information.
In short, that means turning most things into pictures.
I’m probably betraying my kind here, but I believe that humans are much more sophisticated in reading the pervasive visual language than the traditional written language.
Don’t argue with me. I learned this in my Art History classes.
They say the average modern-day American views [it's too late in the evening to look up the estimated number right now but think about every billboard, computer icon, television show, packaging design for products, etc. you see each day] a whole shit-ton of images in a day. Compare that to the actual words you read in a 24-hour period.
See what I’m getting at?
When my book comes out, I can expect most “readers” to flip through the pages, scan the photos, glance at the maps, and maybe, maybe read a caption or two.
I can’t blame them. I do the exact same thing.
Taking that into consideration, I suppose I shouldn’t feel so guilty about busying myself with map-making in order to avoid the writing.
I’m planning a five mile hike. We’ll hit the trailhead, nestled in the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, this afternoon.
Though I’ve never been on this trail and I hardly have an idea of what to expect, I need this hike.
Yesterday marked the end of my first week at a new job. It’s a regular-business-hours kind of gig in a big building with multiple floors, hundreds of employees, and an on-campus cafeteria. I work in the same building as one of my closest friends (in fact, she sits next to me in our cubicle row) and my husband.
It’s the best first week I’ve ever had. I’m enjoying the comfort that comes with knowing I can turn to two trusted people and safely ask all my stupid questions without receiving judgement.
And, trust me, I have a lot of questions.
Starting a new job is always a humbling experience. During the interview process, I build myself up to believe I’m the best person for the job…and I’m sure to display that to my potential employer. Then, on the first day, I’m so clueless that I have to sheepishly ask directions to the ladies room.
This is when my nerve is truly tested. I’m walking in every morning, knowing that my lack of knowledge will be exposed. Repeatedly.
Of course, I fully trust that things will soon begin to fall into place. And eventually, I’ll feel at home.
But for now, this escape to the trail will give me the sense of accomplishment I’ve craved all week.
I’ll feel the hot air on my skin, sweat through my backpack straps, hear the rocks crunch beneath my feet, and enjoy the peace that comes with completing an unknown challenge.
Yes. I can do this.