You go up to the sink, open the tap, and voila- water. You let it run through your fingers and adjust it to the desired temperature. Nothing could be easier. Nothing could be more delightful. Simplicity itself. Of course, we are in many ways detached from the complexities of the water delivery systems that our societies rely on. Just imagine what it takes to be able to push large amounts of water from a large reservoir into a single dwelling among a myriad dwellings across a large expanse of territory. The raw energy! The bio-mechanical power! The mind-boggling logistics! No easy feat. Just ask the Romans who put their heads together many centuries ago and made calculations with crude writing instruments, drew blueprints, sketched maps to build one of the most impressive water-delivery systems ever created: the aqueduct. An engineering marvel that ushered a new era of cultural growth because we no longer had to spend the day hauling water to our homes. Aqueducts and derivative water works allowed us to expand our living range and thus launch the next stages of our evolution.
Pluma and I stood at the edge of the lake and marveled at its emerald beauty. Its jagged ruggedness and magnificence. I felt a sense of elation as I unstrapped my backpack and lay it on the ground, which was carpeted with brown pine needles.
“Amazing!” said Pluma throwing her hands up at the lake and letting the breeze flow through her.
We ran along the shore like children thrilled by the beauty and the newness of it all. The flowers, the leafs, the trees, and every critter that crawled, crept, and flew over the crystalline waters of the lake. The world glistened and shimmered with vibrant colors.
We were relieved because we had been hiking for over an hour under a warm midday sun, so our water reserves were low. Now we had this amazing lake with so much water just waiting to be scooped up. Just imagine what it must’ve been like before Europeans came to this land. Wild native children running barefoot along the shore without care, hauling water for their mothers who were waiting back home around a big roaring fire and smoked salmon. Or the lovers who removed their furry garments behind the log and submerging their naked bodies in the lake made love under the Big Dipper, and the appreciative gaze of a wise old raven. Or the village bully who got mauled by a grizzly for being a fool. And the shaman nibbling mushrooms on the grassy bank, opening the gate to the spirit world where the Great Whale swims. Now travel back even further before the arrival of indigenous people. Listen…
The sound of one hand clapping.
We dipped our Sawyer mini bottles in the water, which was cold as ice because it was in fact melted ice from the surrounding mountains. We filtered the water and then used a hi-tech sterilizer pen to irradiate it with a UV light that in theory was supposed to kill any viruses or bugs that bypassed the filter. Maybe it was overkill, but the idea of getting a stomach bug out in this wilderness was not appealing in the least.
As we were engaged in this time-consuming activity, we saw a family of hikers show up with no equipment aside from the plastic bottles they carried in their hands. They promptly (and cheerily) filled their bottles with lake water and went on their merry way. Pluma and I looked at each other in surprise, raised our eyebrows, and smiled sheepishly.
There was a notice board with a map of the area along with historical and scientific facts about the surrounding environment. There were also warning signs about wild life. The information was not sugar-coated in any way but clearly and tersely described the threat and danger that wild animals posed to your health and well being. This was the backcountry, after all, so protect yourself at all times (and at all costs) and don’t do anything stupid!
Ready to continue the next leg of the journey, I looked back at the little pine grove that had served as our pit stop. I felt a vague sense of uneasiness knowing that we were leaving an area with a large supply of clean water and heading out into the unknown with only a few liters of the precious liquid in our pack. But as I headed down the trail, I also felt reinvigorated and my step had a skip from the realization that it was all going to work out because under the great expanse of the Cascadian sky, all trails lead home.
Grantchester Meadows by Pink Floyd