An Overdue Homage to Smugness
823 miles down, and I feel it necessary to make clear some things that may not have been explicitely and accurately represented in my previous posts. For those who read these little blogs, understand, I am not alone; I am hiking with my partner. This, alone, drastically changes the way that I experience the hike from others, as well as almost every other aspect of the hike. From gear, to support, to goals, I imagine this hike differs a lot from what others may experience.
Gear is a bit of a double edged sword for us. On one side, there’s flexibility in our choices in that we can choose to shift things between us based on the needs of the day. On the other side, every gear choice you make has a real possibility of negatively impacting your partner.
Winter to Summer Weight
Smugness and I started with our own individual setups and have since changed almost everything. For example, once I became injured, and our winter weight sleep systems were no longer necessary, Smugness decided it would be more beneficial for us to redistribute the weight, and swap out some stuff to accommodate my healing process. We bought SeaToSummit sleeping liners, 2 Big Agnes AXL sleep pads, and an Osprey Seral 7L waist pack for me. With our new setup, my overall weight would be decreased, and I wouldn’t carry the food. If I were alone, it’s likely that I would have had to drastically slow down, or leave trail to heal up. Instead, Smugness was able to take some of the load, which enabled us to continue progressing.
The Comfort Bit
Next, we realized some flaws with the new system: its uncomfortable, and lacks convenience. We spent many nights trying to cuddle and instead fall into the chasm between our sleep pads. Further, the liners and seperate quilts were not conducive top late night snuggles. Finally, although everything that I need fits in the waist pack, it requires meticulous packing, and refilling the hydration pouch became tedious due to the necessity for everything to be perfectly packed. This led to another gear swap. We returned the sleeping pads for a double wide exped pad, and the quilts for a double wide quilt. Turns out, the net weight is lighter, and it’s infinitely more comfortable for a couple… This led to ANOTHER necessary gear swap….
The Synchronicity Bit
Tent! Now that we have our bougie double person matt, our tent is no longer suitable. The 40″ pad hypothetically fits in the 43″ bathtub floor, but in reality, the widest part of the pad causes the tent floor to bulge out, making rain issues with our DupleXL even worse. Not to mention, the quilt now takes up what feels like the entirety of the tent and has no chance of staying dry in any semblance of rain. So, we had our Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3 shipped out to us. All the bougie extras are worth the extra 2 pounds, we feel, and now our sleep system will work with our tent… But not our packs…
Packs Swap. Now that we have our new gear, and I’m all healed up, we have different requirements of our packs. The sleep system no longer fits in the waist pack, and I have no opportunity to share the load. Similarly, Smugness’ pack can stand to lose some weight and bulk. Thus, we traded out our Osprey Seral 7, and Gregory Baltoro 65, for the Gossamer Gear Kumo, and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. Now, I can carry our sleep system, and some food, and Smugness can lighten his load a bit. Overall, we have sacrificed some weight for versatility and comfort, but it took a lot of trial, error, and injury to get to this setup. Who knows if this will be our final swap.
Naturally, Smugness and I have very different goals for this trip. For Smugness, this is a walk in the park by comparison to his rigors through previous military service, so he came with the goal of supporting me to my goal. For myself, I just want to finish it. Having a supportive partner has made everything that much smoother, and I’m so glad he’s behind me for every step of the way, literally.
Now, I think it’s only fair that he has a say:
From Smugness Himself
As Sprite has said, I’m no stranger to long walks with heavy packs, and while she set her sights on completing the trail it’s my hope to help her to be successful.
So what does that look like, what do I bring to this team, and how hard could it be to support someone walking the same trail as me?
Firstly, I spent several years in the military learning about carrying heavy loads for extended periods, both the physical and mental aspects. I like to think that I know what someone having a bad day looks like, and know enough to prevent the most common (and some uncommon) mistakes people make when taking on big challenges like this.
Secondly, I received training as a civilian paramedic, and still carry a fair bit of life saving gear (and probably more importantly, knowledge about injuries) in case of emergency beyond the standard first aid kit. Having that extra gear weighs a bit on the back, sure, but it takes an incredible load off the mind so I think the trade off is worth it.
Finally, the issues I’ve faced on this journey with Sprite. It’s been a test of patience at times to walk with someone slower than my standard pace, and mindfulness has been key. It’s been great to remind myself that it’s not about me, and being able to focus on helping someone else has been a great change of pace for me (pun intended).
Some of the main things I’d recommend anyone else to consider when entering a similar role is that this is their trip and it’s going to go the way they want it to. You can make recommendations and suggestions but at the end of the day they’re the one deciding how they want things to go. I’ve tried my best to help alleviate some of the load for my partner both physically and mentally whether by carrying a little extra when she’s struggling; getting water and filtering it so she can have a break; navigating the route and looking for stops so she can pay attention to her footsteps; by being there to offer support when the day has really piled it on for her; and trying to help her have a magical time on the trail by pointing out any interesting plants, animals, or bugs not directly underfoot.
I encourage anyone who feels like they’re well prepared to take on the challenges of the trail to take someone under their wing and help them to find the same appreciation for the outdoors. If doing it is easy, try teaching, you just might find a whole new level of enjoyment to smugly enjoy.
The Journey Continues
Sprite, again! Overall, I am so happy to be taking this on with my life partner, and I’m happy that we have a relationship that allows us to do this together. More often than not, we run into people that jokingly ask us if we’re still married, or will be by the end. Many people can’t fathom taking their partner on a trip like this, or they feel they are lucky that their partner “let” them go in the first place. I know this experience is different with my partner. I also know that I can complete this on my own, but having him here makes me happy, and I believe he’s happy to be here too… I think.
Bonus Goat fact: you’ll love sleeping in the shelters until mice poop all over you in your sleep… Then your tent becomes your forever home.
Another Bonus Goat Fact: a tiny tent takes away your sanity after time. And no amount of anything will make you want to continue staying in it.
Bonus Bonus Goat Observation: the trail won’t change you. You change you. If you came here to find yourself, you have to start by actively looking. The trail won’t show you who you are… Maybe it gives you time, maybe it gives you space… But really, in choosing the trail, didn’t you make time and space for yourself? If yes, what stops you from making little bits of time and space for yourself every day, everywhere?
-A Mountain Goat names Sprite
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