I’m not a “camping person.” I’m what you might refer to as “allergic to grass.” But because my college roommates wanted to camp at Cuyahoga National Park as our reunion, I went anyway.
Since they knew that I only camp reluctantly, my old roommates were very accommodating. Not only did we rent a cabin instead of a tent site, but we also had a few running jokes addressing the discomforts of camping, including rating every bathroom we used. It was nice to name the dissonance between reveling in the rolling green hills and squatting in the most vulnerable position of your life.
So, after some thorough peer review, here’s my definitive rating of the bathrooms around Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Cuyahoga Visitor’s Center – 1/10
I had a vague understanding of what it would mean to hike five miles, but I didn’t know what it would feel like to someone whose most regular exercise is swing dancing. For instance, I didn’t anticipate that there would be a backpack-shaped sweat stain on my back in the first thirty minutes, or that after two hours, my despair would be so plain on my face that two of my friends would be concerned about my wellbeing.
About four miles in, I tried to look at the world with more forgiving eyes. I noticed the dappled sunlight glowing through the leaves, the elegant trot of a spider running across the path, the sudden coolness of the shade—and I relished in our conversations. We talked about our friends getting married, skincare, whether we still talk to that person from college. We fell into the warm ease and comfort of old friendships.
That being said, the moment the visitor’s center rose above the horizon, I just about sprinted into the building.
It was the nicest national park bathroom I’d ever seen. Not only was it air conditioned and spotless, but they also had a fast bottle-filling station. We refilled our water bottles, basking in the sudden relief of the shelter.
I tried to finish the water I already had, but as I lifted my metal water bottle to my lips, my friend turned too quickly and elbowed my water bottle into my face.
I didn’t feel any pain, but after a couple seconds, I realized there were hard pieces in my mouth. I spat them out. I was holding pieces of my tooth.
Normally I’d give the visitor’s center a 10/10, but it gets docked 9 points. There might still be a piece of my tooth there.
Campsite Water Jug – No rating
I learned a new phrase. It’s “aerosolizing toothpaste.”
When you’re brushing your teeth in the woods, you shouldn’t spit out your toothpaste in one glob because it’s not biodegradable. It’s better if you become a can of Lysol and “aerosolize” your toothpaste, spraying little specks into the wind.
While we were waiting for food to cook, two of my friends didn’t want to wait to wash up, so they brushed their teeth at the water jug. So as oatmeal bubbled lightly on the camp stove, my friends took their toothbrushes behind our cabin.
I heard a “phhhhhhhckt!” followed by an “…aw.” They came out front and grabbed their water bottles, and they defeatedly trickled water over their toothpaste.
My other friend came out of the cabin and asked, “Does anyone want to go to the shower house after we eat?”
I raised my hand, “Me!”
Shower house – 7/10
The road to the shower house was lined with RVs. As we drove in the blanket of twilight, we admired the various canopies and fairy lights of the other campers. We watched as children chased after their dogs and parents chatted in lawn chairs.
We brushed our teeth and talked over bathroom stalls. The five of us were in near constant motion as we took turns at the sink, went to the hand dryers, and made way for the other campers. In the bright clarity of white fluorescents, we laughed and made ourselves clean.
My friends moved outside as they finished. When I joined them, I found all four of them staring at the corner of the building, four necks craned at the same angle.
I turned to look, and they all cried, “No!” I think one of them physically pushed me towards the car.
“You’re afraid of spiders, right?” she asked.
“Yeah?” I said.
“We were watching a spider the size of my palm eat a fly.”
I shuttered and mentally docked a couple points.
Ohio Turnpike – 9/10
We drove back to Michigan the next day, and my friend insisted that we had to check out an extravagant novelty of the midwest—the Ohio turnpike.
We stopped at a rest area with three restaurants, including a Dunkin Donuts. The entire building smelled like lemon and cherry almond soap, and it was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon, and it didn’t take long for us to use the restroom and get iced coffee for the road.
As we walked to the car, two of them told us that there were signs for the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library. The federalist advertisement said Hayes was “considered a good president by most historians,” which led to a fifteen minute deep dive into what presidents the federalists consider “good.”
“What do they think about Reagan?” I asked. “Obama?” someone else yelled. Then the federalists lost all credibility when we learned they liked Andrew Jackson.
The Ohio Turnpike gets a 9/10 because it was a good experience, but since it meant that the trip was ending, I couldn’t give full marks.
Tiffany Kajiwara graduated from Calvin in 2022 with majors in literature and writing. Now, she continues to live in Grand Rapids and works at Baker Academic Publishing as a marketing assistant. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, thrifting, and psychoanalyzing cartoon characters.