Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Love My Toothbrush: AT Section 5 Part 2

Some people will do anything to shave a few ounces of weight from their packs. Myself, I am a light weight, except when it comes to packing. Previously I’ve struggled and failed to leave my packrat tendencies at home. Rickety knees, however, inspired a great leap of faith. A few weeks ago I went hiking without a tent or stove.

I’d arrived at the South Wilcox lean-to at dusk, woofed down a few avocado rolls and got ready for bed. Since I wouldn’t be heating water in the morning, I put a pouch of green tea in water to steep overnight at ambient temperature.

Setting up sleeping accommodations did not include wrestling rain flies or poking stakes into inevitably rocky ground. I just rolled a deluxe Therm-a-Rest, my sleeping bag and a sarong onto the bunk. A sarong is amazingly versatile.

I smiled to myself, relishing that I didn’t have to check in with anyone about anything. I slipped into bed and was soon snoozing. In my dreams the lid on a giant garbage dumpster was repeatedly slammed shut.

I slept with a fine gauze shirt over my head to deter mosquitoes. If there had been hoards, the noise alone would have driven me to regret my tent-less status. But I was left in relative peace. Drought conditions are hard on all animals, even mosquitoes. It is not a glass half full, but it’s something.

I awoke in the morning to find that on the whole, ridge runners are good people. "Did you hear the thunder last night," he asked. It took a second to realize there weren’t any giant dumpsters nearby. “Yes, I think I did."

I took a sip of my cold tea. For breakfast I finished off the leftovers from dinner. Then I did what any self-respecting young woman does in the morning, I brushed my teeth.

Rumor has it some unscrupulous heathens cut the handles off their toothbrushes, to save a few ounces. There are certain things that should never be done, toothbrush mutilation foremost amongst them. Get rid of the liquids, if you want to shed weight, use tooth powder instead of paste.

I may go into the woods prepared to drink my tea cold and battle the elements sans-a-tent, but I have my standards. Proper oral hygiene requires proper oral implements, namely, toothbrushes with handles. I would never do that to my toothbrush. I love my toothbrush.

[Beartown State Forest to the northern crossing of Jerusalem Road is an 11mile hike. The events described occurred on the evening of August 7th and the morning of August 8th, 2010. This was my fifth installment on the 30 year plan to section hike the Appalachian Trail. Find out how I got to the lean-to, foot loose and fancy free in Section 5 Part 1. The saga will continue, stay tuned for part 3.]


  1. Is cutting a handle off a toothbrush to lessen the weight of a pack sort of what they mean when they say "splitting hairs"?

    Wow, you slept soundly... I thought the garbage can lids was going to be a story similar to the one my sister and I experienced when we were hiking Mt. Mansfield... racoons came in the middle of the night and dragged our food, which was on a sheet of plastic, under a big bowl, with a weight on top, across the lean-to floor, till it fell onto the floor outside. It made quite a racket! Glad you slept through the thunder....

    Can't wait for Part 3!


  2. Saloma,
    In my opinion, this is exactly what is meant by "splitting hairs" but there are those who would argue earnestly that every ounce counts.
    Thanks for sharing your tale. Raccoons in the night, what a quintessential camping experience! On the AT many shelters have "bear boxes" for storing food (which as a side benefit keeps out the raccoons too).

  3. Oh, I thought you were going to cut your toothbrush out. How's hiking now? It's pretty exciting to see people having fun with this kind of adenture. I'd like to try that one as well!

  4. I’ve heard a lot about backpackers cutting toothbrush handles to make them ultra lightweight. Well, this can also work. Toothbrushes with cut handles can still clean your teeth. Yep, you can still pack light and do your oral hygiene with your 'trimmed' tooth brush. :)