Back to civilization and its discontents… Also all of its comforts, diversions and delights. After a few days on trail, or a few months – depends on your journey – the act of return is confusing and powerful. Everything that was once familiar assumes a strange and distant aspect – in Seattle, where developers are currently engaged in a wholesale reshaping the the architecture of the city, memory becomes unmoored from its architectural anchors, allowing nostalgia to float aimlessly with despair in open air, allowing strange moments of confused recollection. Cities are always shifting, and a conscious absence highlights the pace of transformation.
The same is true of personal relationships … What seemed familiar now becomes strange, and a chasm opens every time we aknowlege our discontinuity. At home, deeply enmeshed in a daily game of call and response, we sometimes forget ourselves as individuals. Removing ourselves from these relationships for even a few days causes a crisis of identity – we must redefine ourselves, reshape our identities after removing our points of reference. The abyss that language bridges between us seems terrifying and deep, the distance to cross is insurmountable.
The sense of alienation is what defines return. Overcoming that essential difference, expressed thru the act of leaving, is what defines our journey. This is the space where narrative enters – where a new story emerged to join our separate selves, to dovetail us with the pack, to create our knowledge as universal.
Overall thruhiking is like engaging in an eternal youth machine – it seems like a bad idea, and frees you from many anchors (like rent and a career) that tie one to ‘adult’ life. The freedom from responsibility and the liberation of deciding your own fate on a daily basis certainly makes you feel like you’re on an and less summer vacation.
But let’s be real – we’re basically on the candy bar diet out here, vegan or not, and at some point you gotta grow up and take responsibility for what’s happening in your dirty mouth.
Personally, I really like brushing and flossing on trail – it’s my adult time. Also, trail hygiene is not only attractive but necessary if you don’t want to alienate yourself not just from society but other hikers. Please – shower, do laundry, swim in lakes whenever possible, wash your butt AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH.
Pictured above is my basic dental hygiene kit, which contains:
a mesh bag for drying the tooth brush
Child sized fluorescent toothbrush from Big Lake Youth Camp (why not keep it fun?)
2oz bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Most of these items are self explanatory. You might have some questions about what olive oil is doing in my dob kit tho…
I recently got my first root canal (boooooo) resulting in my first gold tooth (finally!) As much as I like the gold tooth I got, I’m trying not to go back to the dentist on trail. I realized that I was experiencing some temperature sensitivity in another tooth – enough to bother me even drinking tepid water. Bummer, right? I had heard about oil pulling at yoga camp, but always thought it was to woo-woo for me. However I was willing to try anything to stay on trail, so I tried it.
Every morning I swished about a tablespoon of EVOO (tho unfiltered sesame and coconut oil also work) for 10-20 minutes, followed by a water rinse and brushing. And you know what? IT TOTALLY WORKS DUDE. I experienced far less tooth sensitivity when I kept up the practice, tho it takes about 10 days to start being effective. So I guess 6000 years of Ayurvedic medicine can’t be wrong…