Poop Shovels and Potatoes: My First Backpacking Adventure

Go Jules Go Title Graphic_Poop Shovels and Potatoes My first backpacking adventure_18SEP2019

“Guessing everyone will want to bring their own poop shovel,” Kristen commented.

I scanned the Excel spreadsheet. Tarps, cook stove, First Aid kit, Kula cloth, Shee-wee…

Go Jules Go Backpacking Spreadsheet PM
I am not in Kansas Jersey anymore.

Words and phrases I’d never heard filled my eyes and ears last week as I geared up for my very first backpacking trip.

“I have -literally- nothing,” I said. “But I can bring food!”

Never underestimate a project manager in the kitchen.

The group decided it was best to keep our hike short if we had full packs, and do longer day hikes once we’d set up camp. With my experience level somewhere between, “I’m still not entirely sure how to recognize poison ivy” and “I read Wild,” I was grateful for the modest expectations. Not to mention the other four women had enough outdoor prowess to vote me off the island the minute I asked who was bringing hair spray.

If there’s one thing a native New Jerseysian can tell you about moving to Oregon, it’s this:

Buckle up. No, really. Really really.

And bring whiskey.

Back east, I was one of the more outdoorsy people I knew. Day hiking, road cycling and the occasional marathon were my jam. By moving to Bend, Oregon in June, I quickly dropped several thousand notches. I had to trade my heels for headlamps if I wanted to survive.

Jules: Before and After Oregon. (Pssst, that’s not soup in that bowl.)

Nevertheless, backpacking was on my bucket list, and I’d be damned if I was going to let poop shovels throw me off course. I wanted tents, campfires and starlit skies, and I wanted them stat.

“Oh man, we should have consulted beforehand; this is way too much food,” Kristen said as I unloaded our provisions at our campsite, three and a half hours east of Bend.

Just because the potatoes required their own baby Bjorn…

“Don’t you worry,” I assured her. “Uncle Jesse and I can eat our weight in tubers.”

Including tots.

We didn’t have much time to explore before nightfall, but drank in the scenery (and the whiskey) before avocado quesadillas and the full moon took center stage.

Around 9 o’clock, long before I felt any urge to sleep, we called it a night. I tried to stay perfectly still in my borrowed sleeping bag, lest the swish-swish-swish of the “certified 18 below” fabric wake my tent mate. The temperature plummeted, my teeth rattled and my bladder screamed. And what is up with this inflatable pillow? My neck was at an exact 90 degree angle; I could see my blue toes perfectly.

Where’s your puffy, Mom?

Eventually I gave up.

ZZZZZZZZIPPPPPPPP. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered to Erin. “I have to pee.” Uncle Jesse caused a commotion trying to follow me in the dark, and after burying my toilet paper in a “carry out bag,” I put on every item of clothing I’d brought. Eventually I managed a few hours of fitful sleep.

By 9 o’clock the next morning, after some blood (and almost tear) shed, I was ready to call it quits, along with two of the other women.

Uncle Jesse, after thinking dogs twice his size liked sharing their food.

“If you’re leaving, I think I’ll go with you,” I said, trying to sound as calm as possible. Get me the f*@& out of here!!!!!! “I’m just a little cold.”

“I don’t think we can have both dogs in the car,” the getaway car driver gently explained.

Coffee. At least there was coffee.

I decided to stick it out, and within a couple of hours, the two remaining campers and I hit the trails and all seemed right again.

In fact, when I zipped up my sleeping bag for the second, and final, night, I thought, “I could get used to this.”

It wasn’t until the next afternoon that we found out a cougar had been roaming our camp.


Are you more of a backpacker or a back-to-Netflix-and-running-water type? Also, is a poop shovel just a regular shovel with an R.E.I. logo? Discuss.


38 thoughts on “Poop Shovels and Potatoes: My First Backpacking Adventure”

  1. I have never been… nor ever want to be in … a situation that requires a poop shovel. Nope. Uh uh. Not me. I will drive to a beautiful spot, day hike, take photos, and drive back to a nice 2 bedroom 2 bath condo.
    That being said, I applaud your fortitude! Gorgeous place…

  2. We get to have the comforts of runnng water and a comfy bed, while checking out wildlife. The other month, my husband caught a picture of a cougar in our yard. Just a few days ago I saw a bear snatching an apple from our tree. And we have deer and other assorted critters come through our yard daily. Sounds like quite a trip you had! Fantastic views!

      1. My favorite Trail was the Continental Divide Trail. My favorite hiking locations – the High Sierras and the Wind River Range. Up closer to your new neck of the woods – loved the Sisters. 🙂

  3. Cougars scare me to death! I’ve only done one backpacking night, it was trial and error but I did love it! Just haven’t been able to do more than day hikes before and since! The outdoors are a wild ride. Oregon sounds incredible!

    1. Oregon is mind-blowing! I’m definitely living my dream life and often have the ‘pinch me’ moments, including yesterday at Smith Rock State Park! I did just pivot with today’s plan, though, after reading that some of the trails I was eying had “lots of cougars and wolves.”

  4. To answer some of your questions: 1) Running water is always preferred, but a book will do over Netflix. 2) I enjoy carrying my backpack to my car in the staff parking lot sans cougars. But those ladies are everywhere! 3) Shovels made for the sole purpose of scooping human unmentionables should at least have the owners’ initials engraved on them for free. Because, classy. Glad you are safe – thanks for sharing your adventures!

  5. Dad took us all camping (pre-camper) for many summer vacations. I got used to most everything, except now since watching a couple of bear movies that I should have stayed clear of. Don’t want to go anymore, really, and not just because of that. I now am a little more maintenance, atm, so it pays to stay in motels and home.
    Glad you are getting used to it.

  6. How did Uncle Jesse do on the hike?

    A word of advice — make sure you scan the area before you dig a hole with the poop shovel. I dug a hole once (and only once) in a field full of fire ants. It was a comedy-is-not-pretty moment.

    1. Ha! I did think about that after seeing a few little red guys out and about. That and scanning my surroundings for any other creature I didn’t want nearby during my most vulnerable of moments.

      UJ is so living his best life; hiking has always been our favorite thing to do and he’s phenomenal off-leash. As long as the weather and elevation aren’t too crazy, he can hang all day!

  7. I have camped many many times…but no backpacks, roaming cougars and poop shovels in sight. Using an outhouse filled with spiders in the middle of the night is enough, thank you. You are brave and I am a complete wuss.

    1. Since this central Oregon, land of Hey-Don’t-I-Know-You, one of my fellow backpackers ran into someone she knew, hiking near our campsite. He texted the next day, the day we all left the area, to say that, as his group was about to get into their car, a cougar ran by. Which explained why all of our dogs had been acting INSANE in the wee hours of the morning…

  8. must always bring whiskey when backpacking!! Congrats on your first (and hopefully not last) backpacking trip! It’s one of my all-time favorite things to do!

  9. Hey! You probably don’t remember me because i never go on wordpress anymore but i do check in from time to time and every time i do you are always on some new adventure! Glad to hear you’re doing well. I haven’t been to Oregon in forever but it is a beautiful place to live. It’s quite similar to where i am in Victoria. Your nose ring story made me laugh because i have had my nose pierced 3 times and it totally made me feel cool but inevitably i would always end up ripping it out somehow and never able to get it back in proving that three times isn’t always the charm. Also, I’ve just very recently separated from my husband and it’s great to see all the great things you have been doing because it gives me hope that i’ll get up to some new adventures too 🙂

    1. C-c-catstache? Is that you?! You have no idea how happy I am to ‘see’ you here!!! And, I will send you the sentiment someone once sent to me post-divorce, a sentiment that brought me great comfort: CONGRATULATIONS!!

      Seriously, though, it’s great to hear from you, and if you want to talk, feel free to email me any time: Life over the past 5-6 years has been absolutely terrifying, affirming, transformational, and AWESOME. I know you’ll be able to say the same soon, if not now.

  10. Oh man, we are all about the backpacking, camping and hiking! Your photos are great. We can’t wait to visit Oregon. Perhaps next Summer when its a little warmer! We got all the benefits of backpacking, running water and netflix when we backpacked through Southeast Asia. Accommodation and travel is so cheap and you can live like a king and queen on the dollar over there!

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