Review Of Up Shit Creek: A Collection of Horrifyingly True Wilderness Toilet Misadventures

Copyright © by Jessica Schneider, 1/13/10


   With a title like that, how can anyone pass over this book, authored by river guide Joe Lindsay? I spotted this little gem while shopping in Gruene, Texas, and despite being a slim volume, Up Shit Creek is an equally humorous and disgusting collection of toilet troubles. Just to give a bit of background, the book details some of the messes that have occurred when dealing with “groovers,” while on backpack adventures. A groover is nothing more than a portable toilet—there are different types, and the book offers illustrations of each kind. As for why it is called a groover—the name specifically refers to the lines, or “grooves” one gets after sitting/shitting upon the seat (though now many come with toilet seats, so that is comforting to know).

  Basically, you are probably wondering, what is the big deal about shitting in the wild? That’s what it is there for, after all. Well, Joe Lindsay answers that question in the first few pages: “The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is rafted by approximately 23,000 people every river season. The average person leaves about a half-pound of doo-doo behind each day, depending on how much fiber is in his or her diet. In one season, in the less than one hundred camps in Grand Canyon, there would be 115,000 pounds of shit left behind if it were not packed out. That’s about 1,000 pounds per camp. Things don’t decompose too quickly in such an arid environment. Those turds would pile up fast and would remain for some time.”

  So you see the dilemma? Nothing is to be left behind, so that means the shit needs to be taken with you, lest our National Parks would have a lot less appeal. This book details some of the disgusting problems that have occurred along the way. Yes, leakages have occurred. Not only that, but Lindsay rates each story according to their level of grotesqueness by using rolls of toilet paper. Those that are six rolls are the absolute worst—and the two worst in the book involve the groover emptying its contents upon the head of one of the guides, and the other (a very funny tale called “The Day the Mormon Swore”) involves a toilet that sprayed its three month old fermenting feces into the face of this Mormon whose worst curse word up until that point had been “shucks.” Well, guess what? He swore a lot that day.

  Up Shit Creek is not a deep read, but it certainly is an entertaining and disgusting one. It is easy to envy the lives of river guides, believing all they must endure is a little added sunshine and scenery more than the average person. But no, they have to deal with all the shit that goes along with it. Things like: “Ripper looked up, too, and it was upon him. The bulk of the deluge—a veritable sheet of effluent—landed heavily on his angry upturned face, caking his goatee. His sunglasses were nicely frosted as well.”

  And if that doesn’t gross you out, then the mention of the piece of digested corn in his moustache certainly will.


[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on the Examiner.com website.]


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