Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Let's Talk About Holes

What do you know about holes? About the types of holes, hole site location, and, most importantly, proper use of holes?

In the backpacking world holes are small. We don't need big'uns. There's no need to spend half a day excavating a place to sleep, safe from shrapnel. Unless you're on an adventure tour that wandered.

No — not that kind of hole. Backpacking holes are small, often ad hoc.

in fact, a lot of significant holes are accidental, like postholes. There are even verbs for the process of suddenly and unexpectedly finding such a hole surrounding one of your hind legs:

Posthole: To hike in deep snow without snowshoes or skis, leaving large holes in the trail. Postholing is considered bad form and makes subsequent snowshoeing or skiing unpleasant and hazardous. (1)

Postholing: Hiking through deep snow that is not frozen solidly enough to support your weight and allows your leg to drive through the crust as if you've stepped into a hole, doing really nasty things to your knees and shins. (2)

Inconvenient, but it happens.

If you don't like this experience, then...

  • Don't go backpacking.
  • Do your backpacking somewhere else.
  • Wait until the snow is gone.
  • Wear snowshoes.
  • Have someone carry you.

But there's more to it. Some post holes are not accidental. You make them yourself, on purpose, to do business in.

And don't be coy — you know what business we're talking about — the kind of thing no Pope will ever discuss on television.

For instance...

  • If your timing is off, then you finish digging after your business meeting has concluded. Which is pointless, don't you think? But we'll give you credit for completing your little project anyway. You have created a post-business-hole, or a posthole, however useless, to accompany your mess.

  • If your technique is off and the architecture of the resulting hole is wrong, then the hole you dig will resemble what you dig to put a post in — narrow, deep, and hard to hit. No kitty would be so stupid, so cat hole ceases to be a reasonable term. Let's stick with posthole and just call you inept.

  • Following up on the first definition, but requiring the gentle touch of professional intervention, postholing is what Poo-Crues do. If you dig the wrong style of hole and miss, dig one too late, or don't dig a hole at all, the result is the same. After that, a Poo-Crue has to helicopter in to clean up after you, but unlike private clubs, nary a national park nor forest can afford this level of involvement so step lightly when traipsing off-trail in public areas.

  • If you are caught being naughty and handed a sentence for poor hiking technique, such as having your laces untied, for not hanging your food properly, for bathing or washing dishes directly in a stream, and so on, such as misuse of a hole in the ground, then you might spend the rest of your summer postholing. And this is the least fun kind, because you'll be digging holes for posts. And on top of each post will go a warning sign saying not to do the thing that you've been doing. This is post-hole justice, and it's even less fun than it sounds, but makes for some fun photos.

That about covers it, then.

So long for now.


(1) Posthole: (dead link) and

(2) Postholing: (another now-dead link)