Blog #8 – The Outhouses of America’s Nat’l Parks

Last day of the trip spent was with lots of cacti, border patrol, quality time in the van, prickly pear lemonade, and – of course – glorified portapotties. Exploring Organ Pipe National Park, I came across another “bathroom” at the start of Alamo Canyon Trail. Compared to a similar structure at the Saguaro National Forest mountain pass, this toilet felt like a golden throne. On the outside, these “bathrooms” appear as well-built and consciously-designed structures decorated in wood and stone. On the inside of the Saguaro National Park one, though, I was accompanied by flies that did not move, a horrid smell, and a lack of toilet paper. Luckily, the one at Alamo did not have flies and had ample toilet paper, but only had one toilet. My suggestion to all National Parks is that, if they want visitors to spend more time on their land, they MUST improve their facilities. My first of many great suggestions (that should be feasible) is complimentary hand sanitizer. Please. At least users will feel better about the experience if they have the chance to anti-bacterialize themselves.

Tangent aside, I loved Alamo Canyon – all the lizards and hummingbirds, and especially walking along the rocks of the dried-up wash. I was introduced to lots of new cacti, especially more of Harvey’s favorite: the Teddy Bear Cactus. In all honesty, I am slightly disappointed that I never saw a rattlesnake or scorpion on any hikes for the sole reason of being able to say I saw one in person.

4 Replies to “Blog #8 – The Outhouses of America’s Nat’l Parks”

  1. Given your interest in psychology, let me ask a question. Do you think that as a society we should prioritize exposing people, especially the youth and teenagers, to beautiful outdoor scenery? One day in Latin, the professor was praising the idea of an outdoor class because he believes that psychological evidence supports the idea that learning is enhanced with the natural world. Do you agree? Have you heard anything similar? If you do think we should increase access to nature, how should we go about doing it?

  2. The bathrooms really were night and day. For those who did not use them, count yourself lucky. The first one was absolutely horrendous and the second was a cleaner version but still not the best. But what do you expect for the middle of the desert. Anyways… the wildlife in the desert is very peaceful. The buzz of the hummingbirds and the scurrying of the lizards is nice when you lay down and just listen. But since I was so squeamish from the idea of a rattle snake or scorpion or desert spider or tarantula or any other scary thing, I always left one eye open. And after this experience, I realized I could never travel to Australia.

  3. Imo outhouses are an under appreciated convenience, even if they are often kind of rugged. They sometimes become works of art when found on private property: often painted with planters and flower pots on their outsides.

  4. Great post Abby on an important topic.

    As Harvey hints in his reply, he is an expert on outhouses. If you’ve never been to his office and see his outhouse equipped terrariums, you need to go.

    Its a simple fact of anatomy that most men have an easier time getting by without toilet facilities than do most women – particularly in a desert environment where there is less folliage for privacy. In fact, men, including myself often under appreciate the perils of public facilities or lack thereof both in terms of quality and quantity. (I realized this a couple years ago when I was on a committee that was discussing increasing the passing time between classes at W&L from 10 to 15 minutes.)

    For the record the horrific and absolutely unglorious portapotty that you refer to in this blog is not technically on national park land. That wayside stop was part of Tucson Mountain Park which is adjacent to Saguaro and is managed by Pima County. That said, I totally agree. That was one of the worst public toilets I have ever experienced beating out even those Socialist era ones that I encountered in the early 90’s in Prague.

    Its too bad, because that mountain pass and the wayside stop is one of my absolutew favorite places in Tucson. Maybe we should send them a thank you note with a donation and a hint for how to spend it.

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