Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring Methow-area trip

I recently made a trip to the Methow area to hike and camp and get out of my house. It is a bit early for most trails, I went up the Twisp River road to War Creek but could not drive to the trail head because of snow. I did walk for a couple of hours along the Twisp River trail that parallels the road. It wasn't very exciting but was enjoyable. I liked the many mule's ears blooming along the trail and visible even from the road.

I decided to shift to the Chewuch River road thinking I would find less snow there and more access to trail heads. I drove to the end of the road where a new foot/horse bridge gives access to the trails that used to be at the thirty mile trailhead. I had hiked these trails a few times before the Thirty Mile fire and this was the first time I had gone to the end of the road. I only walked a short ways, the destruction caused by the Thirty Mile fire and the lack of any greenery yet this year made the area very depressing especially as contrasted with what I remember from before. Not to be too self-absorbed, but just didn't want to be there remembering the lives lost and the destruction due to human negligence.

I was lucky enough to see a pair of common mergansers in the Chewuch River near where I camped. I wish I had a telephoto lens for my camera but at least I can tell what I took a picture of, a better outcome than many of my pictures.

I did limited hiking on this trip but I really enjoyed getting out of my house and into the backcountry. Even though the weather was very nice, I saw few people along either river and no other hikers.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

How to P*ss in the Woods - for women

Use a Feminine Urinary Device (Director), an FUD. These devices allow a woman to urinate standing up, without needing to pull pants or underwear down, and to easily direct urine into a container. When hiking, I don't need to take off my pack, I simply undo the waist strap, unzip my pants, and place the FUD under my underwear and urinate. I carry my FUD in a pouch on my belt so it is easy to reach and handy. I've used an FUD for 7 to 8 years now and started as soon as I became aware of them. Had I known of them earlier, I'm sure I would tried one sooner. I'm surprised that many women don't know about FUDs; part of my motivation for this entry is an article in Washington Trails, the Washington Trails Association magazine discussing problems women have urinating in the backcountry.

The advantages of using a FUD are plentiful. My older knees do not like to squat especially after a long hike and definitely not with a pack on. Not squatting and not pulling my pants down means I am much less likely to be bitten by mosquitoes or to run into thorns or devil's club (ouch!) on my butt. Urinating this way is also a lot more discreet, something I prefer on crowded trails. Also, I've been squatted down a few times and then discovered I'm uncomfortably close to a large animal, both moose and bison. This has created some anxiety on my part especially if I can't move quickly. An FUD is also great for using with a bottle inside a tent, using in dirty outhouses, when on small boats, and other situations.

There are now many different FUDs available. My favorite and the type I've used the most is the Freshette by Sanifem, although I don't have the most recent unit the overall design is very similar. These are available from Campmor and REI and the Sanifem website also gives more information. Some FUDs are disposable and may be a good way to decide if you with to use that style or an FUD at all, see the P-Mate available at There are various sizes and shapes for FUDs although all consist of a funnel and tube. The smallest I've seen is the Travelmate which does not seem to be available right now. It and some of the other small units may take considerable practice to use reliably. Others, like the Freshette and SheWee, an inexpensive 1 piece unit, can be used more easily. Some, like the Lady-J are meant to be used with a bottle or urinal, not as a stand-alone device.

There are a few common sense precautions to take when using a FUD. First, practice at home and note how to position the funnel and aim the tube. With 2 piece devices, like the Freshette, if the tube isn't pulled down fully, urine may collect in the funnel and not go through the tube, possibly making a mess. You may also find it necessary to lean forward to fully empty the funnel and tube at the end. And, of course, don't piss into the wind!

You will also need to keep the device clean. Urine should be sterile as it exits the urethra but will quickly pick up bacteria. Using clean water to rinse the FUD should be enough for a few days but having some anti-bacterial wipes handy is a good idea. Wipes can easily be kept in the pouch with the FUD. After a few days use, a good cleaning with warm water and soap is a good idea.