Life Nectar

It’s easy to walk into a kitchen, grab a glass from a cabinet, and fill it from the tap. Presto, thirst quenched in under a minute. What happens though when that option isn’t a viable avenue? What if on top of not having a kitchen you can’t purchase water either? How does one procure the life sustaining drink when the two most culturally accepted methods to obtain them are not pursuable?

I have found, through experience of trial and error, a couple things that helped resolve the above questions. The first being a water filter. I cannot begin to emphasize the value of this little contraption enough. It has the power to turn a brown, cloudy liquid into a clear, crisp revitalizing refreshment. It also removes giardia and a host of other contaminants. We opted for a four liter gravity system for our travels.

The system itself allows us to be hands free while it filters. No squeezing or pumping involved. I simply fill the “dirty” bag with water, hang it from a limb or lay it on a slope, and gravity does the rest. It’s a simple process, but does take time and a water source. Usually around ten to fifteen minutes per gallon. I pass the time by attempting to meditate or sitting quietly just being in my surroundings. E.g., today I filtered five gallons from a mountain stream in a national forest. the water is clear, no cloudiness like when you get it from a city source, and has a crispness that I cannot transcribe. As I listened to the stream I found my thoughts roaming ever more inward until my focus was blurred and time was no place to be found. It is most rewarding. It was in one of these states that I understood a second, helpful tool for the acquisition of clean drinking water. Perseverance!

Yes, I said perseverance. I didn’t associate this with the collection of water until I actually tried gathering it from alternative sources such as mountain streams or springs on numerous occasions. This new understanding arose from much personal experience. A couple contributing factors are unreliable water sources and people. Let me elaborate more on the first factor.

Water can be indicated on a map or atlas by a blue line. This blue line can be either broken or solid, both indicating water. The broken line usually refers to intermittent or seasonal water while the solid line, supposedly, represents a reliable, year round source. Unfortunately with the ever changing climate these solid lines are becoming less reliable. I know, from personal experience through years of travel, that some of these water sources have dried up and some are intermittent. I see this currently in California. Imagine having half a liter of water and driving through a particularly long dry stretch. In the middle of this dry stretch is a solid blue line on your map. However, when you arrive at said blue line you find a riverbed occupied by only loose gravel and dirt. The only option at this point is to drive, even if it’s out of the way, to the next reliable water source. Don’t be discouraged though; not all water sources are like this. I actually believe the second factor to be more irksome.

People, sometimes they’re the worst. They can pose problematic when you aren’t living the way they believe is appropriate or their rules and regulations tell them they are not permitted to accept what you are doing. We were in a National Forest recently when we ran into a rather annoying situation. We came in the back way to avoid the hordes of people and traffic. This has always been a solid way to circumnavigate the delays and avoid being in the way of others. On this trip it was considered the winter season in the forest so I knew not many people would be here. It’s late February and the temperature is swinging from a low in the forties to a high in the sixties. As we entered the park we could see the river about five hundred feet below us, but there was no possible way to descend the drop. Luckily there was a day use area to our right that had a trail leading down to the water. The only problem was a locked rail preventing anyone from entering the area by car. The sign read closed for winter. No worries. I can park off to the side, there are no “no parking signs”, walk around the gate, and down to the water source. We decided to do this and Monique would walk Lyla while I filtered. It took a whole five minutes before I was approached by a forest official saying I wasn’t allowed to be parked where I was, I wasn’t allowed to get water from the stream, and we must leave; safety reasons of course. He didn’t care we had no water and he didn’t seemed concerned if we got any. Our safety and health wasn’t his problem, but the safety of the closed area was his problem and he was to protect that safety at all cost. Perhaps he was concerned the toilet would spontaneously combust and needed to be sure the fire apparatus could make it through in a timely manner. I couldn’t say either way, but I did manage to fill up our four liter water bag. I returned to the van knowing I had at least managed to retrieve a gallon of water. I don’t think he noticed the bag I was holding had water in it. We then drove to the overflow parking near the campground to filter the water. Surely we would be out of the way and not bothersome to any. The campground was open and held around five campers on the forty plus lot. As I set up our water filter a second forest official came over and informed us we couldn’t be in the overflow parking area. Perhaps they were expecting a mass exodus of city dwellers to converge on the campground that evening and we were in great parrel by being parked there. I can’t say for sure though. I politely explained we were filtering some water and then would be on our way. He mumbled something about fifteen minutes and then left. We drove another fifty six miles after this and filled the rest of our water via a stream on the opposite side of the park; there were no officials in this area whatsoever.

I still have not figured out what I did in either situation that was problematic. Both officials seemed burdened by our presence and only wanted our removal as timely as possible. This I deduced through a correlation of words and actions. I must note that not all forest officials are like this. There are service members who commend us for reusing plastic instead of always purchasing new ones, thank us for practicing leave no trace, and express inspiration in what we are doing. These are the stars in the night that give me strength. Don’t be discouraged by naysayers, the opposites, the friendly, encouraging service members, are worth the brief discomfort.

“The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules, but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow orders that drop bombs and massacre villages” ~Banksy

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