Every Spring, I attend a long weekend camping in the Hell Hole Bay area of the Francis Marion National Forest, which is a swampy area northwest of Charleston, South Carolina.
Twenty miles or so from the nearest decent-sized town, the area is not truly remote in a wilderness sense–there are paved roads that pass right by it. But cell phone service is spotty to nonexistent. There are few houses, no stores and what we call a campground is maybe an acre clearing in the pines. There are two game poles, a cement picnic table and that’s it. No electricity, no water, not even a trash receptacle. And especially no showers.
Since we are there to catalog reptile and amphibian populations, watch birds, observe mammals and experience plant and animal communities, we get dirty. We are in and out of our trucks and cars and in the brush and weeds as well as wading in swamp water. Mosquitoes descend on us every time we step out of our cars and tents, so we are oily with insect repellent. Sometimes we walk through areas where the woods have been control-burned and we get sooty. We sleep in sweltering conditions, and we answer the call of nature behind trees in the woods.
We get stinky after a half-day, and positively rank after three.
When we started doing this in 2001, I was a good deal younger. I had a hard-nosed edge to me and I endured being filthy a lot better. Nowadays, I don’t like feeling all squishy-nasty-dirty.
For several years I attempted to solve this problem by using commercially available means. But those cheapie discount store solar showers–the big black plastic bag that you let sit in the sun until the water heats up–mine broke the first time I tried to hoist it into a tree to use it. An almost-acceptable means of staying clean are the camping moist towelettes which are glorified baby wipes. They are better than nothing.
One year I just couldn’t take it any more so I went over to a small public beach access campground near Awendaw, paid their parking fee at their honor-system kiosk and went in. I slipped into their bathhouse and furtively took a five minute shower. I didn’t get caught, and it felt divine.
In 2010 I was sitting on the cement picnic table in camp feeling like a very. dirty. girl. when I was dumbstruck by an idea. I could use a pump-up sprayer, the kind you use mix up insecticides, herbicides or other chemicals. I didn’t get to try it until 2011, and it worked fantastically well! Using a waterless shampoo and the sprayer, I could wash my hair and it felt like I had really washed it. Miraculous.
But there’s a funny thing about sprayers. Around a homestead, they tend to disappear. Somebody will nab it to mix up chemicals or wash something with it, and next thing I know, I can’t find it, or if I find it, it is all stinky with chemical residue.
Now I want you to think of this as though I am saying “I got religion.”
I got Pinterest, and my life will never be the same.
On Pinterest, I saw where sorority girls buy cheap coolers and paint them for special weekend events. And they are awesome-looking creations by the time those girls are done with them. Lord knows how good their grades could be if they put that much work into their studies.
And so I decided to decorate myself a sprayer for the annual camping trip. Somehow, I don’t think these men with whom I live will make off with it now, as it’s almost girlie-looking.
First, I purchased a new sprayer and painted it with chalk paint. Note, this is not chalkboard paint. Chalk paint can be found at craft stores in a variety of colors. It has a very, very flat finish and can be used on most surfaces–glass, metal, wood, plastic. I painted my sprayer black to enhance its solar heating capability. I even taped around the “how to use directions” on the back, lest I ever forget how to use it.
Next, I felt compelled to girlie it up so it’s easily identifiable as mine. I have a Cafe Press account and most things in my “store,” Herptacular and Then Some have motifs centered around the annual camp out. So I ordered myself a big sticker that says Under a Low Country Moon and put the sticker on the front of the sprayer and lettered it as my “Hell Hole Hot Shower” with stick-on raised lettering that I bought at Micheal’s. To seal everything in, I put several coats of Mod Podge, water-based sealer, glue & finish over the lettering.
This could also be used in hunting and fishing camps and by preppers/off gridders. A one and a half-gallon sprayer is easy to use and because it isn’t dependent on gravity to work, it doesn’t have to be hoisted into a tree.
I’ll never be dirty again on the camping trip!