“I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the brain or the hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished. Instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessantly good fortune. As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear out of my nest. My days were not days of the week, bearing the stamp of any heathen deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock; for I lived like the Puri Indians, of whom it is said that ‘for yesterday, today, and tomorrow they have only one word, and they express the variety of meaning by pointing backward for yesterday, forward for tomorrow, and overhead for the passing day.’ This was sheer idleness to my fellow-townsmen, no doubt; but if the birds and flowers had tried me by their standard, I should not have been found wanting.”
-- Henry David Thoreau, from Walden (1854)
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Next to oxygen, probably no substance is more vital to human (and other) life than water. The fact is that without ingesting water we can’t live more than a few days.
Yes, water is one of those things that are easily taken for granted in those parts of the world where it’s plentiful. Some people don’t even know what thirst feels like.
It’s a useful experience to be out hiking or traveling and occasionally run short of water, which can quickly awaken us to the absolutely necessity of drinking water.
True, there are people and cultures where most water intake is in the form of coffee, tea, alcohol, and other beverages -- but our health and well-being may suffer if we don’t drink fresh water, and we’re likely to be perpetually dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration can include headaches, dizziness, weakness, and an overall feeling of malaise. Many basic bodily functions require sufficient water.
If you develop a headache or other symptoms while hiking or otherwise exercising, there’s an extremely good chance that it has been caused by dehydration.
On a hike it’s always good to bring a minimum of a liter of water along, and during the warmer months, 2-3 liters or more, especially on longer or harder hikes.
As you may know, thirst doesn’t usually sufficiently inform us of when and how often to drink. By the time we feel thirsty, we may already be semi-dehydrated.
The best way to take in water, on a hike or at home or work, is to regularly sip or drink slowly. Gulping down water is never wise, especially while exercising.
Contrary to some media scare stories, there’s little risk in drinking too much water unless you go way overboard. “Too much” is usually preferable to not enough.
It’s also important to take in ample salt and electrolytes on warm or hot days when we’re exercising, sweating, and drinking lots of water. Don’t avoid salty foods at this time of year, and for electrolytes consider bringing juice or a sports drink.
Many of us carry water in hard, unbreakable plastic containers on hikes (sold in hiking/camping stores). Others of you have packs that include hydration systems.
It’s just as important to remember to drink water the day and evening BEFORE a hike so you start out fully hydrated, and avoid feeling the effects of a water deficit.
And after a hike it’s wise to continue drinking water through the evening (until you have to go to the bathroom frequently) to assure that you’re properly rehydrated.
For the extra refreshment of imbibing cold water during a hike, put at least one plastic bottle in the freezer the evening before the hike. Be sure to leave space for air at the top, since water expands when it freezes (a full container can shatter).
Personally my drinking water consists of always-delicious-tasting spring water that I purchase in one-gallon containers. Yes, much has been written about the high environmental cost of millions of plastic containers, especially small water bottles.
What’s wrong with tap water? Well, many “authorities” would say most tap water is safe, but several holistic doctors I’ve known over the years believe otherwise, saying there’s evidence of small amounts of countless of chemicals in tap water that aren’t tested for. This is clearly a controversial subject that can’t easily be summarized or confirmed. Some of us eat organic food in part to avoid ingesting small amounts of toxic and potentially cancer-causing pesticides, and likewise may not want to take risks with the water we drink. Others would downplay those risks.
What kind of water you bring on hikes is your choice, but always fill up at home, since there may not be an opportunity to fill containers elsewhere on a trip.
Then get ready to enjoy one of nature’s greatest gifts, the liquid that enables, sustains, and enhances all of life, including that of countless other species. And when we’re out exercising in warm weather, absolutely nothing is more delectable!
-- Charlie Cook