Au naturel


At the present moment, I am holding a plastic baggie of human poop.

Here is the back-story:

A meandering drive through a redwood grove is a humbling experience. As with many natural wonders of the western United States, these ancient minions of creation stare their visitors down, reminding us of how short our lives are, how quickly we will be forgotten when we are gone, and in this case, just how minuscule our mere five-foot-something statures actually are.

The first behemoth tree I spotted along state route 101, known in northern California as the Redwood Highway, took my breath away. The second one did too. The third had the same effect, as did the 15th and the 42nd. But after wearing out my digital camera’s shutter on grove after grove of the lofty beasts, I found a certain satisfaction in knowing I had experienced a good measure of these rugged giants, and I was ready to move on.

Followers of this blog know that I am drawn to urban centers, lured by fantastic food, remarkable culture, and the pursuit of authentic local experiences. My wife loves experiencing natural wonders as much, or perhaps even more, than I enjoy visiting cities. And in this land of the great trees, she wanted more.

Thanks to my marriage of nearly 11 years, I have made my peace with nature — even learned to like it. Tent camping? Hiking? Biking? Check. I’m generally on-board. But add a three-year-old to the mix, and the ground begins to shift.

Fresh in my memory was a should-be-stunning hike to the top of a waterfall in Yosemite National Park. Quite literally, I had to dangle a granola bar a few feet beyond the nose of my son, somewhat like a pot of honey in front of an ornery bear, to move him a few more paces up the mountainside. A full day of grunting and moaning (on his part and mine) landed us precisely halfway through the hike. I have been less tired after schlepping 16 miles through the mountainous passes of north Georgia.

“Let’s take the scenic bypass to the visitor center,” sang my bedazzled wife as we drove through the northern end of Redwood National Park. “Perhaps they will have a nice little hike we can all enjoy.” Mind you, it is now 4:00 PM, and nearing time to get the boy fed and to bed. And so we found ourselves staring at a green relief map, selecting a small, dirt loop upon which to tread.

We drove a mile down the dirt road to the trailhead, filled bottles with water, placed granola into the backpack, laced up the boy’s shoes, hid the valuables in the car, switched from flip-flops to sneakers, strapped the cameras to our shoulders, and set off into the woods, one of us enchanted, the other not so enchanted, and the third quite ready for supper.

And then, not more than an eight of a mile along, we heard those ubiquitous,  six words every parent dreads. “Daddy, I have to go potty.”


“But you just went back at the visitor’s center.”
“But I have to go again.”
“Can it wait?”
“No, it’s a ‘mergency.”
“Well, there is no place to go. You are just going to have to wait.”
“But it’s starting to come out. Right now!

So we perched our son on a couple of gnarled redwood roots so have a natural experience. I was assigned the task of running back to the car for some tissue and a plastic shopping bag. And I did such a handy job of that, I was honored with the responsibility of carting the aftermath to the nearest (relatively speaking) garbage pail. Which brings me to the present moment.

In the end, we will remember this walk among the massive California flora with fondness. And we will delight in unearthing this story over and again, taking pleasure in embarrassing our son with each retelling. Who knows… perhaps it will even make an appearance at his rehearsal dinner one day.

But in the meantime, I hold this delightful package way to the side and as far behind me as my arm can reach, looking forward to something a little less natural, and hopefully soon.


My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Crescent City, California and headed toward the Oregon coast. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!

3 thoughts on “Au naturel

  1. Isn’t it amazing to think of all the things we do as parents that we never would have volunteered for when we were younger! Happy trails to you 🙂

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