Zombie campers are the only explanation for yesterday’s mystery of the locked outhouse. (More)

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The outhouses are really $35,000 of concrete and modernity all from the same place as ordered by a congressman who slipped it into a bill in the good old days of patronage. That price includes installation.

For that price you get a bar that locks and holds three rolls of toilet paper, a small window and a vault toilet. You also get a handicapped handle that locks from the inside and a separate dead bolt lock above the handle. If installed so the black vent pipe gets enough sun, the warm air will rise and draw the odors from the holding tank up and out. On not sunny days the odors stay in the outhouse.

A camper came by yesterday to tell me that the outhouse near her site was locked and no one seemed to be inside. Hmmm. To make sure the lock couldn’t be set when leaving (prank prank) I asked another camper to help me test another bathroom’s door. He was a good sport even if he looked a bit puzzled by the exercise. It was clear that it was impossible to lock the door accidentally or on purpose when leaving the facility. I gave him a free bundle of firewood for his help.

Now I had a dilemma. Was there a person inside the locked bathroom unable to yell for help? My boss didn’t have a key and gave me a few suggestions. By now it is after 6pm and I can’t find a National Forest Service person. To be fair, they were busy evacuating campers from the BWCA that hadn’t fared well in the previous night’s big storm. I left messages and then called Ranger Lynne’s cell phone. The police non-emergency number offered to send an ambulance. I declined and asked for a locksmith. They don’t do locksmiths – must be those laws about breaking and entering. The county sheriff called. He offered to come and kick the door in. Cute.

Finally Lynne returned my call and immediately understood that, if someone was inside, we needed to help them. She sent Forest Service Rangers Jim and Steve up. Jim knocks on the door. No answer. Jim has more keys than a high school janitor. He fiddles and viola the lock opens. The bathroom is empty. He says, “Darn zombie campers.”

We tried to duplicate the door locking to no avail. I’m going with the zombie explanation. I’m also wondering how many times and to how many people I will have to explain this. Small town, caring community, a chance to help….. I didn’t even call the county sheriff.