View Full Version : Love on the Trail

01-13-2004, 15:55
I am interested in hearing about relationships on the trail. Those that left a loved one at home, hiked with them, or found love on the trail! (I ended up doing all three:) ).

01-13-2004, 20:08
My girlfriend at the time (and my wife now) and I made a thruhike attempt in 2001. We were both graduating (me from grad school, her from undergrad) and we needed to decide if we were going to stay together (and get married) or move on. Neither of us wanted to move on, but we weren't sure that we were ready to get married. I knew I wanted to hike the trail. She loved doing outdoors stuff, including backpacking, and so we decided this would be our test. If we made it to Katahdin together, we knew we could make it through life together.

Well, it was even a tough test than that. She got pretty sick the first few weeks (never did figure out what it was, but for the three months we were hiking, she had really bad intestinal problems for all but the first 2 weeks. After three doctor visits (two on the trail) it was never determined what caused it). She lost mega weight. After three weeks she developed a foot neuroma (we had no idea what it was at the time either. Everyone kept telling us metatarsal fractures). She kept hiking, partly because she didn't want to disappoint me, partly because we didn't know what else to do. I kept pushing her. Boy did we learn about ourselves, and how we have to interact with each other. It was REALLY good, and I can't say enough about learning who you are and who your mate is than going on a thruhike together.

Eventually is was all too much. She refused so say Uncle. She was waiting for me to make the call. In Front Royal we decided to skip over PA 'cause we figured her foot wouldn't make it (assuming it was stress factures, which it wasn't). We were apparently going on pure momentum at that point. When we skipped over PA we lost that momentum. We took off two weeks with some friends in East Straussburg, tried to continue on, but we just didn't have the momentum. I couldn't see Tuffie (my GF) take any more pain from the foot and lose any more weight. That was it. I called it at a little convience store somewhere in NJ.

I knew we were going to be together forever at that point. I wanted to hike the AT so bad, but not so bad that I would leave her to do her own thing for the next three months. It would have crushed her if I had finished, and she couldn't. We went to my parents in MA, and I proposed to her on Monadnock (not exactly katahdin, but in some ways better, as we get to climb it ever time we go to visit my parents)

Fast forward to now. We are married and really happy. We realized we are "Peak Experience" type people, who always need that goal. We are training for a marathon right now, and almost certain we will try for Katahdin in march of 2005. Neither of us has ever been happier. The marathon training is giving us a chance to prove that we have the foot problem licked (which it seems we do with a good orthotic and a pair of well cushioned shoes). We are also working on the list of 14,000 ft mountains in colorado as well as the colorado trial (which we hope to finish this summer).

I know we made the right decisions. There was a lot of negativity about hiking as a couple that we got in the beginning. We never understood why. We know it was the best thing that ever happened to us.

Gravity man

Brushy Sage
01-13-2004, 21:05
I imagine some of the negativity came from people who wished they had someone to hike with, or they felt lonely when they saw you together. I remember being in the shelter with an engaged couple a couple of times. He would get up first and fix hot chocolate and bring it to her while she was still in her sleeping bag. It was very romantic, in a rustic sort of way, and everyone around seemed to accept it, or at least did not make any negative comments. Congratulations on making your decision, which does surely seem like it was the right one.

01-14-2004, 00:27
How about a Father/Son relationship? My dad, previous poster "Brushy Sage", was thru-hikin' in 2002 and I joined him from Hot Springs to Erwin and again from Damascus to Partnership shelter.

We both agreed that, even with him being 73 and me 45, this was the most time we'd ever spent together. He was either working or I was in school or he in Viet Nam or I was playing with friends. Mom and dad had divorced while I was overseas in the Navy and afterwards I always lived closer to mom. Dad is the one who inspired my love for the outdoors and even the AT since we had hiked part of the very same section near Hot Springs when I was in 3rd grade.

The inception of email started to bring dad and I into more constant contact. Before that it was mostly an annual father / sons (I have a brother 2 yrs older) campout with day hikin' along the AT in VA.

When dad decided to thru-hike, I was scared for him and yet overjoyed and jealous of what he'd get to see and do. I was thrilled when he asked me to be his #1 contact person and to send out email reports to about 20 friends and relatives. I expectantly awaited each call from the next trail town with a report of obstacles overcome and big mile days, then I'd jot down the report and send it out.

When it was finally time to go meet up with him and actually hike for a week (me being a backpacking rookie) I was very excited. I had been doing a lot of hiking in the eastern NC flatlands to prepare and being younger I figured I'd be able to keep up OK.

1.Other people were happy for us to spend the time together but I saw sadness in some faces, wishing they could share the hike with someone. Birdnut was about to choke up as he told us how nice it was that we could do this.
2.The 2nd day out, as we were climbing a tough grade (Rich Mtn I think) my belching got on dad's nerves and he informed me that it "sounds awful".
3.On some of the longer climbs I would hike up to the top and wait for dad to catch up. At the time we both agreed that this was OK but later I was informed that it was somewhat demoralizing.
4.My goal was to be 100% independent and not have any affect on dad's hike. It was his hike and I was a guest. I did end up carrying water more often than not from the springs and was asked a few times to help lift the 40 lb pack up onto the back of the 145 lb man. Other than that we were independent.
5.As I had read before in journals, uniting with someone for a week or so is fantastic, but having to say goodbye and head off into the woods alone again is tough.
6.During our 2nd week from Damascus to Partnership things were much better (not that the first week was bad at all, just some adjusting to do). One night in Wise shelter we were laying there after sunset (shelter had filled up by 2 PM due to approaching rain and we had spent the previous night in the rain) and heard big drops on the roof and a rumble of thunder. We simultaneously reached out and held hands tight in celebration. (Yea! We're dry!) From Pine Mtn down to Old Orchard dad trotted. From Hurricane to Partnership we did 17 miles at a very rapid pace and celebrated in Marion with KFC 10 piece, 2 large sides, tea and pie.
7.Other thru-hikers accepted me with open arms, made me feel like family, and I think that is somewhat due to my companion.

I am very fortunate to have spent this time with my dad and I don't take it for granted. We sang songs, told stories, shared life experiences with each other and others and truly enjoyed the scenery and nature. Other than our faith, the AT might just be the closest bond between us. (AT is superglue)

I missed my own family while away but they understood and were happy to let me go for such a time.

Hey, love ya dad!

Brushy Sage
01-14-2004, 10:04
Why are my eyes moist?

Blue Jay
01-14-2004, 10:37
Thank you, I needed that. My father is gone now. Your story had a very strong effect on me.

01-14-2004, 10:42
Patco...i've gotta wring my hankie/bandana........boooooohooooooooo!

i have a friend & fellow hiker that did a thru in 1999.
Boyfriend & Girlfriend @ the time & this was gonna "test" their true feelings for each other (if they didnt kill each other first!)

they made it...got married the following spring & now have 2 kids & still hike on weekends.

My wife & i love the outdoors...she hikes in fair weather with me & does a few "overnighters" in the wilderness. But, she has made it plain & simple...she wont do any long distance hiking...she's just not into being away from a "real" bed & shower for any length of time.....

but she does tolerate my "need" to get out in the woods & walk a few times a year...& for that, i love her, dearly! :)

see you UP the trail in 2004!

Brushy Sage
01-14-2004, 11:20
Just a notation: I did not complete a thru hike. My venture ended after 618 miles, at Pearisburg, VA. I know this distinction is important, and I have the utmost admiration for everyone who has been able to hike the entire length of the AT. When PATCO and I were hiking together, I had the thru-hiker spirit and intention. Everything he says about our experience is true, and I'll value that time together as long as I live.

01-14-2004, 13:51
I think that any relationship is tested and intensified out on the trail. I hiked with my best friend and it proved to be a true test of our friendship, but one that deepened our bond by far.

Spirit Walker
01-14-2004, 15:16
I met my husband in Damascus when we were both thruhiking. We started hiking together after Pearisburg and became partners in Pennsylvania. We hiked the rest of the trail together. At the end, he went home to the east coast and I went home to the west coast. I found that I really missed my best friend, and didn't want to say goodbye, so I moved east to see if we could transfer the trail relationship to ordinary life. Three years later we got married. All told, we've been together 10 years (not including the hike) and have done 2 other long hikes since. I was lucky.

You do get to know your partner extremely well after hiking 24 hours a day together, 7 days a week. That can work both for and against the relationship. If you have control type issues, they will emerge, in spades. I've known couples who seem to do nothing but bicker on the trail, or one who is the boss, all the time. They usually have the same problems at home, but they go under a spotlight when there are fewer distractions and more time spent together.

Thruhiking seems to be very hard on couples when one goes hiking and the other stays home. Not always, but if there are cracks in the marriage, they seem to widen with absence. Sometimes both may realize that "you know, I'm happier this way." Sometimes the stay-at-home spouse resents having to take care of everything while their partner is off having fun. (Especially when there are kids.) Sometimes infidelity (on the trail or at home) raises its head. Sometimes it is just the huge gap in understanding that can cause trouble. Thruhiking is a very different world. You really can't understand what it is like until you've tried it. With love and a willingness to try, that isn't that big a problem, but I've known more than one hiker who went home full of stories and memories and was told that, "I don't want to hear it. Your hike is over, now forget it." That is hard to take, after such an experience.

01-18-2004, 11:44
My husband and I met in the old Gooch Gap shelter on our second AT hikes. Mine was to be a thru-hike but in the middle I had to go home for two months to spend the last couple months of my step-dads life with him. My now husband kept in touch via email. Two years later I was hiking the ECT and we saw each other again in Damascus at Traildays and there was a definite spark in the air. My hiking partners at the time noticed it more than I at the time. Upon reaching NH he slackpacked me for a few days, then a few more days before having to go and have work done on his motorhome. Well, he had slacked packed me all the way to ME and surprised me at Andover by being at the trailhead. By the time I reached E. Flagstaff road he had proposed via a note at a trailhead. I said yes and we planned on meeting again when I reached Katahdin as he had planned to go to PEI. He never made it to PEI. He says being with me was more important. He even had a letter hand delivered to me in the Wilderness. He has become my best friend, mentor and confidant. We love to surprise each other with notes and cards. He supported me and three friends all the way to the tip of Newfoundland. We took time out to get married with a few friends in attendance in ME. Since then we have hiked in England as well as section hiked some of the AT. Hiking together we understand the others strengths and weaknesses and the AT has helped us to be more flexible in all areas of our lives. Our story doesn't seem to be unique, love can be found anywhere but if both of you can get through such an experience as a thru-hike you find that you can usually weather anything together with love and respect for each other. I thank the Lord for our meeting and being able to be together long enough, to feel comfortable enough to take the leap of faith that we would be better together. Life is good, Savor the Moments! :jump

01-18-2004, 14:49
:clap Jo Jo,

Glad know that you are doing great since I missed you at Trail Days the last couple of years.. I had followed along with you in your journal when you hiked from Florida up to VA but then I had some hiking to do so I did not follow it all the way through. I think it was Katydid told me you had married when I saw her at Trail Days one of those years.

I wish you and yours many long and wonderful years of marriage as well as many Happy Trails.

Ed (Never Alone)

01-19-2004, 16:20

I wish you and yours many long and wonderful years of marriage as well as many Happy Trails.

Ed (Never Alone)
Thanks Never Alone. I have thought about you and all the folks I hiked with in '99 a lot as I hiked the AT the other two times. :D
Saw Katydid at Stecoah Gap last year at Easter and helped greet hikers for a bit with her and her husband.
Take care and God Bless