Life on the trail
Lots of people ask us how we stay clean on our hiking
trips. That always brings a smile to our
lips, because, of course, the answer is that we don’t. After all, there are few trails in the Sierra
that include campsites with en suite bathtubs or showers.
So we get dirty—especially our feet and ankles from the
dusty trails. And we get sweaty—particularly
on a long hot afternoon, toiling uphill. And sometimes we stay that way for days on
But we also make some efforts to clean ourselves up along
the way. It’s amazing how much a little
rinse of the feet in a mountain lake or stream can do to refresh you. M is a big believer in that, and it’s usually
the first thing she does when we arrive at camp. We sent up the tent, organize the packs…and
then she sits down at the nearby stream or lake, takes off her shoes, and
wiggles her toes. That's M above right, rinsing off on beach...
If the water is warm enough (and when you are really dirty,
it doesn’t have to be very warm at all!) we’ll rinse off most of our
bodies. We don’t use soap, because that is
a really bad idea in mountain water, but we do rinse off the bigger chunks of
dirt with the water. It’s lovely.
On longer trips, we take it one step farther, and wash our
hair. P is the expert at this, and
manages to wash his hair in just about one cup of water. Here’s how he does it, using only a washrag,
comb, Dawn, plastic cup, and towel.
1. Soak your head in
water—get it very wet. This has the
added value of making you scream out loud when the water is cold enough. Get the washrag wet as well.
2. Fill the cup full
of water, and take everything on the list to an isolated spot far (200 feet or
more) from the water. Sandy soil is
3. Put some Dawn in
your hair and lather up. We like Dawn
because it is very concentrated, and it is used by environmental agencies to remove
oil from birds during oil spills. It’s
4. Facing down, use
the washrag to rinse/rub the soap out of your hair.
5. Use the comb to
comb as much of the soap out of your hair as you can.
6. Now take the cup
of water and slowly pour it, a little bit at a time, over your head to rinse your
hair. Scream again, if you’d like.
Repeat until the entire cup is gone, and your hair is rinsed.
7. Dry your hair with
8. Comb out the
tangles. More screaming. Use your mirrored sunglasses to see where to
part your hair.
9. Arrive back in
camp looking like a million bucks, and ask innocently: “What was all that
10. Feel good for days afterwards.