A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helped you create them.

There are very few things in life I look forward to more than getting out in nature and getting away from my busy and hectic everyday life. That’s not to say I don’t love my life, because I do. I am blessed in so many ways. It’s just that getting out in nature helps me to clear the clutter in my mind and allows me to be renewed mentally.

Now, I do a lot of backpacking. Some of it solo, some with family but my absolute favorite is when my bestie, Nikki, joins me on the trail. Let me tell you why.

Getting to share trail time with my closest friend is extra special. We live in different parts of the States and don’t get to see each other that much. By hiking together, we not only get to see one another but also get to strengthen the bonds we have in a way we never could by just meeting somewhere. Let’s be honest here, I don’t have many friends and frankly only my best friend really gets me and is down to do the crazy shit I sign us up for.

By sharing time on the trail together we not only get to see these incredible locations and views together, but it also allows us to invest in our friendship in a way that’s difficult for some people to understand. We laugh and make jokes like any good friends do. We also encourage one another on those days when we’re struggling.

For instance, we have endured many 4 am morning runs, walks, and boot camps to encourage each other to ‘get into shape’ for whatever wild idea one of us came up with. A half marathon, a Tough Mudder, Half Dome, the Disney princess marathon, Half Dome part deux. The list goes on and on.

Nikki has stuck by my side and endured the ‘tough’ miles with me, metaphorically and actually. She has been there for every significant thing that has occurred since I met her in 2006. (She says 2007 but I am sticking to 2006)

Honestly, just her being with me has made each and every life event, physical challenge, journey, and hike a hundred times more special. Between our early morning and weekend training and our actual backpacking trips, I am sure we have clocked well over 1000 miles together. We’ve always been there to encourage each other along on those tough days. Sometimes you simply need to know someone has confidence in you and knows they have your back.

We’ve also had some incredible conversations. Honest, heartfelt conversations have been of great benefit to me. As “iron sharpens iron,” so do the conversations and the time I have spent with Nikki. There’s no question I’m a better person from having her friendship, but I’m also a better hiker.

I am not saying that either of us is the Eros of athletes. But because of her I’m more patient and listen to my body better. I have learned a lot from her about being a better person both on the trail and off.

She’s also a really good form of entertainment. She always overpacks, her backpack will surely weigh just this side of a full-grown German Shepherd. She will quickly take on the appearance of some variation of a migrating turtle as she dons her backpack and gear.

She will buy items like female urinals, for both of us, and then insist that I practice using it before taking it onto the trail. She never lets me wear more than one earbud, in case she has something ‘important’ to tell me. She once was so cold she put her feet too close to the fire and the next thing I knew her shoe was engulfed in flames. And despite her willingness to follow me into the mountains, she is deathly afraid of heights.

I mean what’s not to like about a friend like that? Whether it’s working together to comically navigate the routes or fix a broken piece of equipment it’s always a good laugh, a fun time, and strengthens our friendship. We can eat, laugh, sleep, exercise, and sometimes even cry together, all in the span of one day!

Nikki is a great counterbalance for me. She believes that an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure, and things can go wrong. I am on the entire other end of the scale. We will deal with it if it happens, which it won’t. Either way, we both know that when we are together No Hiker Will Be Left Behind. We will push one another but if either were ever to need to turn back or ditch out early, for any reason, the other would be right there with them.

With that said in a few weeks, we will be sharing trails that lead to the top of a mountain range, where we will find more, higher mountains. We will also share crisp morning air, a long magical journey, and many scenic views —of which Nikki will stand 100 feet back from and will not enjoy— either way, an epic trekking adventure is about to take foot. And when I need to finish that jumbo bag of trail mix I bought? She will be there to help with that too.

So, in a few short weeks keep an eye out for two redheads in Virginia. One will undoubtedly look like she’s in need of a good thorough ‘shakedown’. Se La Vie or Carpe diem or whatever… cause in the end, we won’t remember the time we spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. So, despite everything we’re just going to climb that goddamn mountain!

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