Total Miles: 1,946
Past Hjo, Sweden – September 28, 2016
Farms and cut fields. Stacks of hay bales next to old, rust-red barns. Square houses watching from rises along bends in the road. Tractors rumbling by with farmers waving from the driver’s seat. Cows chewing grass, their heads rising to watch me walk by.
A turn here down a dirt road, there at the fork to the left. Past apple trees and their heavy branches. Past thin bands of forest and stone walls separating one farm from the next. Past horses grazing in the distance.
But not past water.
There is some. Puddles in the road. Muddy ponds. A stream or two that drain the fields.
But water is all about what’s above you. How many people, how many fertilized fields, how many pastures flow in the stream before you dip your bottle.
I’m too low now. The mountains are gone. I’m staring up at too many cows, too many farms, too many roads, too much man.
I walk on, searching for some stream to trust, a trickle of water coming from high in a forest, then give up. It’s dark and I want to camp, but my mouth is dry and I can’t find water. I keep walking. I pass more farms but can’t get the courage to knock on a door so I walk into the night to reach town, to go to the grocery store, to humble myself and ask the clerk if I can fill my bottles there.
She takes them from me and disappears in the back, returning a few minutes later to hand me the full bottles. I thank her, slip them into my pack, and walk to the woods at the edge of town.
I used to laugh at myself for even treating water up north. There was always a clear stream or lake just a bit away. But that was in a place where a big town had a few thousand people, where traffic lights didn’t exist, and nothing but reindeer roamed up high.
Now those streams and lakes are gone, replaced by wells and faucets, hoses and sinks.