For years, I have known to pee on rocks at high altitudes because mountain goats crave salt, and if you pee on plants, mountain goats will eat them until they’re gone. I have seen goats milling around the restrooms at Summit Lake on Colorado’s Mount Evans, kind of bashfully but definitely intently making their way over when they see humans stopping to pee there. The mountain goats in Washington are a little more aggressive.
I climbed the East Ridge of Ingalls Peak with my friend Jack this past August, and after topping out at 5 p.m. and descending past Ingalls Lake, we walked the trail headed back down toward Longs Pass. Just after we crossed a creek, I walked off to the side of the trail to find a rock to pee on, and started to go about my business.
It was as if the sound of my zipper was a dinner bell. A narrow white face, curious, popped over a ridge 20 feet from my crotch. Then another one. Talk about stage fright, or performance anxiety. They approached confidently. They both stared at me, and I stared back at them, confused and anxious. It was awkward, several levels above the feeling you get when you’re standing at a line of urinals in the airport and you’re pretty sure the guy next to you is peeking over the partition and looking at your special parts.
I don’t think of myself as a prude, but you know, a little privacy is nice, even in the outdoors. Plus, a few months earlier, the National Park Service had advised hikers to not urinate near trails in Olympic National Park, after a mountain goat had attacked and killed a 63-year-old man on a trail there. It was the only known fatal mountain goat attack in the park’s history. You think about these things when goats with horns are waiting for you to pee. Longingly looking at you. Like sailors who have been away at sea too long and haven’t seen a woman in months.
As the two goats walked toward me, I pictured the headline, then a photo of me splayed out, pants at my ankles, having been gored to death with my pants down in the shadow of Mount Stuart as the sun set on the Enchantments. I didn’t finish, or even start. I zipped my pants back up and briskly walked away. I could wait.
I later told my pal Fitz about the friendly mountain goats, and he said, Yeah, I was on a trip once and one of the guys on the trip told this story about peeing directly into a goat’s mouth, like he was a human water fountain.
I laughed, said That’s amazing. And then I felt a little dirty.
A few weeks later, I sat on my friend Steve’s couch in Seattle as he flipped through photos from years and years of alpine climbing in the Cascades on his laptop. It was an amazing collection of adventures and stories, and I’m sure I could have sat there for three hours and listened to him.
Then, there they were, the goats, in a photo on Steve’s laptop. The same look of longing, the curious piss-thirst, in a similar alpine environment.
“These goats would come right up to you when you were peeing,” Steve said.
“I know, man, they did that the time I climbed Ingalls Peak with my buddy Jack,” I said. “It freaked me out. I walked away.”
“Oh, they’ll come right up and drink pee directly from your stream,” he said. “I peed right into a mother goat’s mouth, just standing there lapping it up.”
“It was the closest thing to porn I’ve ever done. I think I have a photo of it here somewhere.”