Why Relationships Thrive on the Appalachian Trail
One of the aspects of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail I was most excited about was all the people I would meet along the way. I heard stories about friendships on the trail forming much more quickly and intimately than they would in the real world. What I didn’t expect was the possibility of starting a relationship while on the trail. But that was pretty naïve of me—if a bunch of people go into the woods together for six months, things will happen.
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes on the trail, much like in the real world. Sometimes it’s just sex, other times it’s a short-lived romance and then you have people who start real relationships, hiking all the way to Katahdin and letting the adventure continue post-trail. To my surprise (and especially to the surprise of my friends and family) I found myself in the latter category.
At first I thought we were crazy, but as the miles and conversations rolled by I realized it was the healthiest and most intimate relationship I had ever been in. Being in the woods with one person for months and miles on end allows you to get to know them on a much deeper level, and here’s why:
- There are no distractions. When was the last time you went on a date that didn’t involve a TV or computer screen, the ringing of a cell phone or alcohol to give you some liquid courage? With the exception of alcohol (which wasn’t worth the weight for us), none of these exist on the trail.
- You have six months to do nothing but hike and talk. This allows you to become much more intimate much more quickly. Two weeks of hiking together feels like months of dating in the real world. The dates last all day and night instead of just a few hours on the weekends or after work.
- You deal with incredible amounts of stress together. Hiking the whole trail is hard. Having someone with you to help deal with the hunger, difficult terrain and unpredictable weather is a blessing and a curse. While it’s awesome to have someone when you both agree about the best way to handle a situation, you also have to learn how to work through issues and compromise. You both have the same goal, but your ways of reaching it might be a little bit different.
- You become each other’s support system. Without the support of my boyfriend, it would have been much more difficult for me to finish. There were days when I came around a corner crying, telling him I needed to go home. Luckily, he was there to talk me out of it and remind me why I decided to hike the trail in the first place. Also, when (not if) one of you gets hurt or sick, the other will be there to help.
So what are the cons to meeting a significant other on the trail? The dirt, of course. No matter how accustomed to each other’s dirt you become, there’s only so much cuddling that can happen when it’s been weeks without a shower or Laundromat.
Also, odds are you and your significant other do not live near each other—maybe not even on the same coast. Going from being within eyesight of each other for months to chatting over text messages and a computer screen is just plain hard.
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