A privy problem: Maine group races to replace outhouses on Appalachian Trail

Spiders fled from the outhouse as Craig Dickstein of Caratunk, a trail maintainer for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, sliced through its back wall with a reciprocating saw on a recent Saturday, carving up and around the seat, then over to the side wall, which was covered with graffiti left by Appalachian Trail hikers.

“The stuff of nightmares,” said Carrington Rhodes of Washington, another MATC trail maintainer, as he watched a particularly large arachnid scamper out of the old building. “You’re never going to feel safe in a privy again.”

The small wooden privy had stood by the Appalachian Trail at the base of Pleasant Pond Mountain for 30-some-odd years, its plastic roof filled with holes left by falling tree branches, ice and snow. But three weeks earlier, Dickstein had hiked up to the privy and nailed the door shut.

Its contents had reached as high as the seat. “Privy closed,” read the sign Dickstein tacked to the door. “This facility has been deemed ‘Code Brown’ and is closed for business.”

Fortunately, the Pleasant Pond privy was next on the list to be replaced by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club as a part of the organization’s privy replacement initiative. Launched in 2013, the plan is to replace all 42 privies the MATC maintains along the AT in Maine with new, more sustainable and environmentally friendly privies.

The reason is simple: they’re filling up and falling apart.

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