“Aren’t you tired of one another yet?”
This is a question we got all the time.
Luckily, our answer every time was “No.”
Spending 6 months together felt like a privilege. Prior to the trail with differing work schedules, the most consecutive time we had spent together was a 3 week vacation in Nepal.
Sure, there were moments, hours and miles of irritation and frustration but the difficulties felt few and far between compared to the perks of sharing this experience together.
The success of our hike together was a result of good planning, open communication, a willingness to adapt and cheese!! 🙂
Researching success and failures of other couples
In preparation for the hike Andy did a lot of research. One of the common suggestions for hiking as a couple was to have separate food. Despite our desire to share, we followed this advice and it really helped.
Thru hiking makes one hungrier than imaginable which creates feelings of scarcity and possessiveness. Knowing we each had enough food fostered feelings of abundance which led to sharing with one another and other hikers.
Communication is one of the strongest aspects of our relationship. We have worked hard to create a strong foundation where it is okay to have needs and wants, and to express those feelings. It felt safe to say “I am tired” or “my foot hurts.” We tended to each of these issues as they arose and came up with solutions.
We knew we wanted to hike together. There were only a few moments of “agh, Andy is so slow” or “Jeez Laurie, get out of the sleeping bag – it is time to get going.” Neither of us felt like the other was holding us back. I believe this stemmed from clear expectations from the beginning and helped prevent feelings of resentment.
Making decisions together
At each resupply point we devised a strategy for the coming section. We decided when we wanted to get to the next town, how many miles we wanted to walk on that last day and divided the remaining miles by number of days. This became our rough itinerary.
As the miles wore on, we became more fluid in our planning. We always had a rough idea but in the last 500 miles instead of having an exact mileage goal we would identify 3 potential campsites over a 5 mile range and around 6 o’clock decide on our destination. We were lucky that our comfort zones expanded and our bodies adapted at a similar pace so we could push when we wanted or needed to.
We seamlessly fell into a routine
We recognized our individual habits and comforts and worked together to share camp and town chores. Laurie hikes faster so she usually led. (Until we encountered a rattlesnake, at which time Andy would take the lead.) This was never a discussion, it just felt natural.
Andy was the one to hike down the steep use trails to get water. We both wanted to spare Laurie’s knees and it was a blessing. Laurie often blogged while Andy disappeared into the brush. This way both of us felt we were contributing to the team.
When we got to camp, Laurie craved coziness and would quickly jump in the tent, clean off and change into her sleeping clothes. Andy recognized Laurie’s desire to be cozy and cooked while Laurie unpacked the backpacks, inflated the pads and fluffed the sleeping bags.
Benefits of hiking as a couple
Some couples hiked just as fast as solo hikers, but this wasn’t the case for us. We took more breaks, took longer to get going and often didn’t hike as late into the evening, mostly because we didn’t feel pressure to keep up with others.
It was nice to always have someone to share the highs and lows with. It felt like the highs were higher and the lows more bearable having someone to commiserate with. We made decisions together and it was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I can only imagine how easy it would be to create negative stories in one’s head while hiking alone and in silence all day.
Hiking as a couple afforded us the opportunity for conversation and silence. 80% of our days we hiked within 20 feet of one another but would go miles without sharing a word. It was comforting knowing Andy was right behind me and allowed my mind to wander in ease.
One of the major benefits of hiking with someone is that you can share the weight of gear. We divided the tent (although after 100 miles Andy carried 90% of it), first aid kit, water purification and cooking supplies.
One of the biggest challenges for us was that our bodies responded differently to the trail. We felt strong at different times and on different days and had to compromise to meet the needs of the other. Laurie became a slug around 2pm or whenever it was hot but experienced a second wind as we got closer to camp (probably because she would eat candy around 4pm).
We started to converse during these hours as a way to motivate one another to continue. Laurie would often turn to podcasts during these afternoon hours but as we got closer to camp Andy wanted to discuss camping options. He found himself getting frustrated that Laurie was tuned in and plodding along rather than mutually discussing where we would camp that night. We talked about it and decided Laurie would unplug around 6pm (an hour before we usually made it to camp).
The trail, like life, was about learning what worked and didn’t work, both individually and as a couple, making adjustments and moving on. In many ways it seemed easier to adapt and work together on the trail. Maybe it was out of necessity or fewer distractions that made it easier to feel grateful for whatever each of us brought to the table.
Five months have passed since stepped off the trail; we continue to rely on our open communication as we navigate through life as a couple – still learning, still adapting, still leaning upon the other when in need of support.