Naturally, as we enter the last stretch of trail in the desert, we are forced to think about water more than ever before. In our daily life in Seattle, water is something we take for granted... or even wish we had less of (if it's falling from the sky). Not here. Here, water is life.
I've taken to carrying more water than I need. Even though my back is sore every day from the weight, even though I know I can technically survive for at least a day without any of it, I carry it. Mud's philosophy on water carrying is to drink as much as possible at each water source, and then not to walk with more than you might need. Being thirsty for a few hours is no big deal. It's not worth the weight and physical strain. Just keep walking, and eventually there will be water. This is all true, and a worthwhile strategy. However, he is more skilled than most at avoiding the panic that naturally comes with being thirsty in the desert.
We can tell when we're close to a water source when the plants start to become less thorny and more leafy. Green willows surround the source. Suddenly, a quiet landscape is filled with the sound of chirping birds. The terrain comes alive. Bees buzz around happily in the mud. Like us humans, every cell in their bodies needs that H20 molecule. It's amazing what has come to be all because of the abundance of hydrogen and oxygen in a perfect 2:1 ratio.
But we willingly walked out into this vast, dry desert. It's no surprise that we're so focused on water. The tragedy of drought really hits home when we come into civilization. Riding into the town of Lake Isabella, we came around a bend to see the lake that the town is named for. It looked shallow and empty, sprinkled with dead trees rising out of the water. They looked naked, exposed, like they never expected the water to be so low that the world would see their existence. The man giving us a ride told us that the lake is at 5% capacity. I assume it has been drained to send water to the city, or the LA metropolis. In my thirsty, exhausted state, this breaks my heart.
People talk about the drought. The media highlights ways for people to conserve water. There are even TV shows now about how to make your home more water-efficient. That's all great. But there's an obvious solution that no one mentions, and it makes me crazy. Stop eating meat.
While fruit orchards are shutting down due to the rising cost of water, the millions of cows raised for beef and dairy are drinking up to 30 gallons of water a day, each. No one is talking about that. No one mentions the 2,500 gallons of water used just to make one pound of beef. This takes into account water that goes into growing grain to feed the animals, the water the animals drink, and the water used to clean dirty and bloody carcasses before they become a meal. We cold stop showering for 2 months and it would be the same amount of water used to produce one hamburger. Sure, we can replace our toilets for a more efficient one, but we can also stop breeding animals that drink more than 20 times as much water as we do. While the numbers are highest for cattle, raising other animals for meat is also significantly less water and energy efficient than simply eating plants.
If we can't sustain life without water, why are we ignoring such a big problem?
So, if nothing else, let's start talking about it. Get educated. Watch Cowspiracy! Talk about it.
If you want to do more, please consider making a donation of any amount to A Well Fed World. We are so appreciative of those who have already donated and are hoping to still raise a bit more money. We have 450 more desert miles to walk. As we get weary and thirsty, we hold on to the hope that this hike is making a difference and turning the world in a more positive direction. Be part of the solution with us!
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Other Neat Things:
My friends Harpo and Groucho are some bad-ass thru-hiking vegans. Read their blog here.
Idyllwild is a favorite trail town for many PCT hikers. This online magazine has featured a few hikers and also keeps up with mountain-town happenings.
Future Dad is thru-hiking the Pacific Crest, Te Aurora and Appalachian Trails back-to-back-to-back, all in one year! He's also a really awesome story teller. Read his stories here.