This Post Isn’t About Hiking – It’s About Love

This post isn’t about hiking.  Nor is it about gear or trail food or mail drop locations.  This is a different kind of post.  This post is about what happens when a longtime couple becomes temporarily separated by a long distance hike.   It’s about being honest and facing the fear of the unknown.  This post is about true love.

Ray and I met in 1986 when we were both just starting college.  I was 17; he was 18.  It wasn’t love at first sight – well, at least for me it wasn’t (insert wink wink here!).   For his part, it took some courting and some chasing and some Peachtree schnapps. It wasn’t too long before we became inseparable.  We were married in 1989.  Over the years, we have built a beautiful life, raised two pretty cool kids and lived the vows we made to each other.  No, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses without thorns.  But, when people say marriage is “work”, I wonder what they mean by that.  Ray and I agree that we don’t really subscribe to the theory that marriage is work.  To us, a marriage or partnership is more a matter of mindfulness, of consideration, and of the realization that you are a part of two – that your decisions and actions (good or bad) have an impact on more than just you, alone.  This isn’t a bad thing.  We are still individuals with dreams and desires of our own but we are cognizant of how important it is to give each other space to continue to grow through our own individual experiences…again, good and bad.

That leads us to Ray’s 2018 AT thru-hike attempt.  Now folks have all sorts of reasons for wanting to attempt an AT thru-hike.  Ray has made it clear that he is not running away from anything but rather, he feels, he is running towards a rebirth of sorts.

And this is where my soul-searching, gut-wrenching, self-aware admission comes in.  So I’m just gonna put this out there –  I am scared, worried and anxious.  But not for the reasons you may think.

Honestly, there is a part of me that is really fearful about his thru-hike and here’s why.  For nearly 30 years, Ray and I have shared every one of our biggest moments and milestones.  From major life events, to travel adventures, to quiet talks about anything and everything, we have been by each other’s side, experiencing it all together – simultaneously.  Undoubtedly thru- hiking the Appalachian Trail will be the greatest adventure of all…and yet we won’t be experiencing this together, from the same perspective.  So, what will that look like?  How will that affect us as a couple?  In Ray’s November 14 post on The Trek, he listed his reasons for attempting this thru-hike.  Among those reasons he noted a desire to become more patient, more accepting and more spiritual.  We’ve both read countless long-distance backpacking books, articles and blogs and know that the changes he wishes to make are quite possible and maybe even unavoidable.  His psychological and spiritual being will likely undergo as many changes as his physical self.  Simply put, the trail changes people.  I can’t help but wonder, and perhaps worry, how those changes will feel and how we will adapt to life on and after the trail.  How will I relate to what he feels, or what he has experienced when I didn’t directly share in that experience?

To be clear, I am very eager for Ray to take this walk.  I’m not begrudging him this experience or pulling a “woe is me” routine here.  I am fully supportive and excited for this adventure!  It’s honestly not something I would undertake myself and we both know this.  I’m more of a 3-5 day in the woods max kinda girl.  I am grateful for this opportunity for him to decompress from a less than satisfying career.  I’ve watched his career as a Corrections Officer pick away at him over the years.  I am hopeful that 5-6 months on the  Appalachian Trail will result in the trail giving back to the world a whole and healed person…Ray Version 3.0! I’m just a bit conflicted that I’ll miss out on the transformation process and the memories he’ll have of the trail.

Love…this word is defined as “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties, affection based on admiration or common interests”.  Only recently, and after nearly 30 years with this man, am I realizing what “love” really means.  As I picture us standing at the base of Springer Mountain in Georgia, I can feel the many different emotions that define a complete love. In this image, I am feeling happy, excited, joyful, fearful, sad, proud, lonely, relief, conflicted, the urge to support and comfort.  All of these things, all at one time.  I’m feeling love.  And, I imagine it’s that love that will help us to continue to grow together throughout this separation.

Here we go again with the Springsteen quotes.  This one is a longtime favorite of ours & pretty much sums up the journey of our life together:

We said we’d walk together baby come what may
That come the twilight should we lose our way
If as we’re walking a hand should slip free
I’ll wait for you
And should I fall behind
Wait for me

We swore we’d travel darlin’ side by side
We’d help each other stay in stride
But each lover’s steps fall so differently
But I’ll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Now everyone dreams of love lasting and true
Oh, but you and I know what this world can do
So let’s make our steps clear that the other may see
I’ll wait for you
And if I should fall behind
Wait for me

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Bea Miles : Nov 30th

    These posts make me feel like I’m part of they’re journey.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Bea Miles : Nov 30th

      That sent before I meant it to. ” Their journey”. These are so well written, I can’t believe my first comment has an error in it! Don’t laugh, Cheryl!!!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Cheryl & Ray Galli : Dec 1st

        We knew you’d fix it! Your two smart not too (hahahaha!) –

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Slack Packhiker : Dec 1st

    Married in our early 30’s in 1986, my husband and I have been around each other 24/7 for ~ 27 of those years. What is that in dog time, 150 years of marriage?

    So I was deeply concerned about my first section hike in 2016, as I was going solo. The Mister’s not remotely interested in hiking.

    The hike was intense and glorious and stressful with laughs and tears, starting at day one. Talk about heightened emotions!
    Week 2 I was crippled with homesickness. If my husband had said ANYTHING that wasn’t totally encouraging, I would have come home.
    It’s a testament to his fabulousness that he not only was happy for my fulfilling this dream, he was proud.
    Stand by your man. He’ll experience a whole new approach to the world (as will you), and ripped asunder from his better half, chances are he’ll feel vulnerable.
    We are stronger after this experience, as we now know we can ‘survive’ apart, but all the more appreciative of our marriage.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Cheryl & Ray Galli : Dec 1st

      Wow – excellent advice and insight. Thank you! Very encouraging.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Dan “Scars” Harris : Dec 4th

    Ray, you gotta hook up with Probation Termination on YouTube, very similar profile with 30+ years in corrections. He is ontrail in Feb, not sure what your start date is but watching his channel might give you a common perspective. Cheers, Thru-hiking with Scars.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Cheryl & Ray Galli : Dec 4th

      Thanks! I look him up – Ray

      Reply

What Do You Think?