Miles away from civilization, camping at Lane Lake in the high Sierra, the conveniences of modern day life were almost completely gone. As I finished brushing my teeth that cold morning a few days into my school backpacking trip, I looked down at my tooth brush that was covered in white mint flavored foam, and as I looked down I could feel that same foam drip down the bottom of my chin. My first thought was, I need to find some clean water. But the only supply of clean water I had was going to be used for personal hydration on the day hike ahead of me. I had no choice but to pour the cold, brown, iodine flavored water upon my foamy face and foam covered tooth brush. This wasted about half my supply of drinking water, and over the course of the trip, I had to learn how to brush my teeth without using any water.
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The same kind of experience happened again as I finished my bowl of hot chili on the first day of camping. I thought, I need to find some running water. But there was no such thing in the wilderness around me. I had to take water from the creek and pour it into my bowl. The remains of chili swirled in with the water until it formed a grayish white solution, which was then thrown into some bushes. After that, the remaining remnants of food were wiped up by a blue bandana that was used repeatedly over the course of the trip and was transformed into a wet sloppy cloth that looked like it had just been used to wipe the afterbirth off of a newborn infant. Time and time again over the course of the trip I missed what I had always taken for granted, clean running water.
When I returned to my home and civilization, I was both relieved and exuberant to use as much clean running water as my heart desired. I took long twenty minute showers; I washed my hands before every meal, and was able to rinse my toothbrush off with ease. I felt that my life was clean and convenient. But when I drove around my home in Marin County and saw all the beautiful plants and groomed landscapes, I felt far away from the natural world. On my backpacking trip, I felt connected with nature. I got to sleep in it, swim in it and walk in it. At certain points in the trip I even hunted and ate nature. Nature was something that was all around me in the wilderness, but when I got back to civilization, it was like I had to say goodbye to an old friend. I felt disconnected from nature, and it is this connection that I missed the most upon returning from my backpacking trip. Overall, I choose to live in modern civilization with its convenient amenities. But because of this experience, I will enjoy visiting the wilderness for years to come.
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