About eight years ago Daniel Vitalis and his business partner LeighLon Anderson created a website called Find a Spring, which listed off-the-grid springs they already knew about. They invited people all around the world to contribute information on these unofficial water sources.

We’re talking about the kind of funky roadside springs you typically need to live near to know about, with no more signage than say, a pipe coming out of the ground.

Find a Spring has become a large-scope project, listing springs around the world, including nearly 600 in the United States and 16 in Maine, New Hampshire-raised Vitalis’ adopted state. We called him at his home office in Bridgton to talk about the project and also learned why he won’t drink tap water, what foraging means to him and how he got involved in what he calls “rewilding,” putting his primitive skills to work.

WHO WHAT WHERE WHY: The site started as a “grassroots passion project of mine,” Vitalis says, but he never expected it to grow as much as it has. “We had 173,000 unique visitors to it this year, which is kind of incredible to me.” It has been a low-maintenance effort – “I keep the plate spinning a little, but it is largely the users” who have made it what it is. He was inspired to create the website because this is the water he wants to drink. Not tap, not filtered or treated and bottled, but water straight from the ground. “This is the other option that not that many people know about.”

IN THE BEGINNING: The first spring he remembers going to as an adult was one in Springvale, where he used to live. “It wasn’t because I had all this developed ideology,” he says. “It was just that there was something so beautiful about walking there with my bottles. There was something so Zen about that. It made me feel really connected to the landscape.” He decided that the “earth’s filtering mechanism is on a scale so much grander than a Brita.”

The Springvale spring has since been capped, which Vitalis regrets deeply. Towns tend to be afraid of unregulated springs, he said, and so they get shut down. “There are so many towns in Maine whose names relate to the springs that are there. It’s especially sad when we’re at that point in history where people need springs more than ever before.”


TAPPED OUT: What does Vitalis have against municipal water sources? “The water infrastructure for the country is exceptionally old and it is breaking down.” He’s not a fan of drinking some of the additives that might be used in treating municipal water, like chlorine, fluorine (or fluoride) or sodium hydroxide (to raise pH levels to neutral) or something like phosphoric acid, which is used to keep pipes from clogging up with minerals. Thus he opts out whenever possible, and frequents the springs on his website.

SAFETY FIRST: Users of the site update it with information about flow rates, fees, access, the number of total dissolved solids, pH and temperature, although since the record keeping is entirely volunteer, there’s no guarantee that the postings will include that information. “I have done this now for eight years,” Vitalis says. “And aside from a couple of times where people have not made a good distinction between a creek and a spring, no one has ever reported getting a pathogen (from one of the springs).”

HOW DO YOU GET HERE FROM THERE? How did Vitalis become such a proponent of extreme natural living? “I just followed my interests where they led. I come from a pretty busted-up home and a less than savory sort of childhood.”

Some of his peers ended up in jail, or using, but Vitalis’ effort to take care of himself led to a very different life.

“Through a lot of serendipity I slipped through all those nooses and came out the other side as a kind of a counterculture person … I ended up being fascinated by human wildness.” He didn’t feel like he fit in anywhere, and certainly not in a white-picket-fence world. “To me nature is the place where everything felt serene and safe. The human world was chaotic and my mom didn’t do a good job equipping me for the world. I was like a little Mowgli I guess.”

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Vitalis doesn’t make money off Find a Spring; he makes his living primarily from his internet company Surthrival, where he sells nutritional supplements, medicinal foods and gear for a rewilding lifestyle. He says “probably the weirdest thing” he sells is made with the velvet from elk antlers, which he describes as acting “like a natural steroid.” The velvet “gets sold sometimes in really hokey ways,” he says. “Like on pornographic sites. There are a lot of unsavory folks in that world. But we’re very clean and reputable folks.”


He doesn’t source that from Maine, but on a spring day, he might be found out gathering chaga, a tree fungus that grows on birches and is used for strengthening the immune system.

ON AIR: He also has his own website, which features his Rewild Yourself magazine and podcasts. There he writes about his life and interviews others who are experts in various forms of human wildness. “My guests range from people who are pretty counterculture to New York Times best-sellers. My specialty there is just to get those people to start opening up and sharing.” The common thread? “They all know that humans divorcing themselves from ecology is the main root of our problems.”

THE BIG PICTURE: Does he have a vision for Find a Spring? He’s just brought on three volunteers to help “pour some new energy into the site.” And he hopes more Americans discover the joys of foraging for their own water.

What he’d love to see is communities treating their springs as monuments to be proud of, pointing to the way Manitou Springs in Colorado has celebrated its natural springs by literally building monuments around them. “All of them come out of these statues now. And all of the shops have little maps showing you where all the springs are.”

But in the water-starved future, he said, springs will eventually get their due: “At some point, springs will be world heritage sites,” he says. “We are headed to that ‘Mad Max’ world.”


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