Warning! This starts out nice but winds up in the toilet.

We are deeply grateful for the support and generosity of the hiking community. Your kindness allows us, and our wonderful volunteers (which some of you are), to continue to host hikers again this season. I always thought that our septic system was miraculous for handling all it did for so long. I am very grateful for it, because it has allowed us to be able to do what we do here. Thanks to all of you, its legacy will live on!

Today was opening day 2018, though no hiker graced out gates, the very earth opened. Directly as a result of the support of the hiking community, the assistance of talented local backhoe/shovel driver Mark Lopez, the hard work of our dear friend Doug Owens, and the continued generous support of our local hardware store owner, Trish Brewer, this do-or-die project got done. Our leech field has been replaced in the nick of time before the hikers return like the swallows (and their guano) to Capistrano.

We were holding our breath about the state of the septic tank itself which we knew little about; the news was mixed. Turns out the tank itself is a 50+ year old 500-gallon concrete homemade tank, and it is in remarkably good condition. The condition part was a great relief – no need to immediately replace the tank.

That said, 500 gallons is not very big. Because of its size, it had been overloaded with “solids” (my new septic lingo), which then overflowed into the leech field. The solids clogged in the many roots that had grown into the old leech field. The roots have been cleared and the new leech field utilizes a much-improved system for drainage over the technology of 50 years past. It’s deeper, and has a capacity that far exceeds what the previous leech field was able to handle. And there’s room for expansion, should it ever be needed.

The tank itself is not broken. It has certainly held its own for the past 20 years of extraordinary service, so we debated on whether to replace it or not. New tanks have much better engineering and have separate chambers that are designed to prevent solids from overflowing. But they are plastic and not constructed to be as strong as our existing tank. We would not be able to park an RV over it as we now do. Another argument in favor of keeping the existing tank has to do with permits: if the entire system is replaced, the need for permits is triggered. Not so when making an emergency repair to a component of the system, such as the leech field. And permits in this county are based on Dante’s nine levels of Hell. So, the tank stays for now.

The 500-gallon capacity of the tank will need to be managed with greater care. Knowing now what its limitations are, we will have it pumped a few times a year, and add bacterial additives to keep the tanks cultures alive. We’ll have to divert “solids”, so we’ll have to close off the guest house toilet during northbound hiker season until we get a larger tank. There  is non-stop use of that bathroom around the clock. And potential for lots of solids to be deposited. Gotta love healthy hikers!

See? I told you this would wind up in the toilet!