PooGate and the Grand Canyon

We woke up at 7am/8am (we were literally camping on the time zone, so we operated on a weird, nearly timeless state of mind) and decided we’d shower and hit the road. Today was the day to visit the mother of all canyons: the Grand Canyon.

Having not slept well the night before, we were all a little groggy and in need of showers. Unfortunately, our tank readings showed that both the grey tank AND the black tank were full.

“Again? So much for the family of 5 only needing to empty out every 4 days,” Kacey said.

To avoid our shower backing up again, we decided to drain our tanks. The woman in Moab had showed us how, and we were pretty confident. Besides, our site included its own personal waste dump hole (there must be a better descriptor for this, but if there is, I do not know what it is).

The three of us half-heartedly approached the sewer hose. The RV was plugged into the power grid and the city water connection. On recommendation from the random woman in Moab, I had purchased latex gloves at the camp store in Lake Powell.

“They only sell packs of 100,” I texted Kacey. It seemed wasteful since we were only draining the tank once, but what other option did we have?

Allison put on the latex gloves and pulled out the sewage hose. It was at its limit, stretched between the RV and the dump hole, but nothing it couldn’t handle. Kacey placed her flip-flopped foot on the end of the hose in the hole while I placed my own foot on the edge nearest the RV to hold it in place. In Moab, it had surged a little when the valve was pulled, and we didn’t want it going crazy.

Allison knelt beside the RV, pulled the black tank valve, and – all hell broke loose. The hose broke loose. Within seconds.

Feces flew everywhere. Our reflexes snapped all of us backwards so we weren’t touching the hose anymore, but the poop did not stop spewing out of the RV.

I cannot articulate to you the slow motion horror of watching your campsite slowly fill up with four days worth of toilet waste. Later, when I told Laura and Ryan about this, Ryan looked at me with disgust and alarm.

“You actually used your RV toilet? Everyone knows you don’t poop in the RV!”

“What!? Where does it say that?” I said.

“It’s an unspoken rule,” Laura said.

When the spew stopped and our white driveway was, well, no longer white, we all exchanged mortified looks before digging into the 100-pack of gloves.

Allison unscrewed the water hose and began spraying the excrement under the RV and across the driveway into some rocks and dirt near the campsite. Kacey puked while I stood uselessly at the end of the driveway, watching Allison attempt to spray our waste. On a hill below, a couple ate their breakfast, possibly watching.

The stench was absolutely unbearable.

At checkout, I tried to communicate the disgust and horror of the situation to the man at the counter. A couple stood there, idling on their laptop, because why not have an audience when you have to announce that you left poop all over your campsite?

“We had an, um, incident…with the sewer hose?” I told him, trying to hide from the couple. He stared at me.

“An incident?”

“Yes. The hose broke.”

“Oh, OK.”

“When we were emptying our waste tank…” I waited for it to click. He stared at me. I sighed. “There are feces everywhere. We tried to get rid of it but there are…erm…clumps in the bushes. We wanted to tell you in case, you know, someone else camps there.”

“OK,” he said, writing it down. “Broken sewer hose. Cool. You’re good to go.”

I do not think he understood the severity of the situation, or else it happens more often than we thought, but we were happy enough to be on our way out of there.

After an hour of driving, the exhaustion of the morning’s misadventure set in. By the time we got to the Grand Canyon, we were all too tired to really appreciate it.

We were all pretty surprised at it. We knew it was a National Park, but we were all picturing a pull-off of a major road, where you parked for a moment, snapped photos, and then went on your way. But it was more like Yellowstone, with a park map and a long winding road that took you past other viewpoints.


As we sat lethargically looking over the South Rim, Allison reminded us that it was Sunday, and she wanted some pancakes.

“Pancakes would be great right now,” Kacey and I agreed. So after an hour at the Grand Canyon, we searched for an IHOP and found one just outside of Coconino National Forest, where a downloaded map showed me spaces we could do dispersed camping.

We drove an hour south to blueberry pancakes and an easy cruise to a forest road off 89A, where we parked the RV for the night. It was a cool spot in tall trees, another shocker – there are tall trees in Arizona? – just off the highway but plenty quiet. We all fell asleep by 9pm, with a chilly breeze circulating the RV – a total contrast to the steamy heat of the previous night.

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