Thru-Hike Relationship Survival Kit

Preparing to hit the Trail with the ol’ boyfriend

I’ve heard the two-person tent referred to as a Divorce Shack. From on-trail breakups to adorkable videos of Katahdin proposals, it seems like anything is possible when you thru-hike with your significant other.

Relationships can be pretty easy in the real world, once you’ve got the basics down. Rocky and I live together, prepare for bowhunting season together, and go on shakedown hikes together. He’s slowly converting from wearing cotton and riding a dirt bike to flaunting synthetic materials and carrying an Osprey pack. It’s a promising sign, considering two months ago I told him that canvas Carhartt pants probably weren’t the most packable option.

Mr. Montana Native is turning into a bonafide flower child

Mr. Montana Native is turning into a bonafide flower child

Since I was a 12-year-old obsessed with the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I assumed I would go at it by myself. My plan was to not only do it alone, but interact with as few people as possible. As a natural loner, this seemed like the most natural option. Rocky threw a wrench in those plans when I told him early on that I was leaving Montana in March 2015 to thru-hike the AT.

“Awesome. I’ll do it with you.”
Uh what?

Despite my initial skepticism, his wasn’t a passing interest. An AT map went up on the wall, the gear hoarding started, and planning became real. Guess I’m hiking with my boyfriend.

Do I believe we can do it? Definitely. Do I daydream about sitting on top of an unnamed mountain together, watching the sunrise on a clear, temperate morning? No. I’m sure those mornings will happen, but I’m also envisioning what Rocky recently verbalized:

R: I picture myself telling you to walk ahead so I can’t hear you whining about how cold/tired/sore you are.”
M: We’re only going to have one tent, so you’ll have to meet up with me at night.
R: Yeah, when you’re asleep.

At least if we get irritable on the trail, we won't be carrying bows.

At least if we get irritable on the trail, we won’t be carrying bows.

We have an honest, communication-oriented relationship that makes our friends want to hurl. I think that’s what’s going to make this possible. It’s going to be a life-changing experience, but it’s not going to be a love song the whole way.

Madison’s article was a real inspiration, and made me think yes, we can do this. In that vein, here’s a few things I’m packing in my Thru-Hike Relationship Survival Kit:

1) Communication. Silent stewing gets you nowhere—just builds resentment. If you want the last packet of powdered Alfredo, tell your partner. Otherwise you’ll end up sitting on a stump 10 feet away furiously choking on a Clif Bar while he eats the noodles you really, really wanted.

2) Compromise. You have blisters and want to stop, he wants to reach the next shelter. I see both of us pushing each other when the going gets tough, but if someone is really hurting or just sick of the rain, pitch the tent and avoid early-onset burnout.

Seems that neither of our strengths include 3am tent assembly.

3) Be realistic. It’s not always going to be rainbows and those weirdly friendly ponies eating out of our hands. There will be thunderstorms, endless ascents, and knee pain. By leaving the rose-colored glasses behind, we won’t be unpleasantly surprised when it hails on our two-year anniversary.

4) Play off each other’s strengths. If you’re feeling like a mountain-eating badass, and your partner wants to crawl under a rock and die, pump him up. I dislike the cold, and Rocky becomes an angry tomcat in the rain. You better believe we’ll be motivating each other through the inclement weather.

The most important thing will be to encourage each other and stay positive. It’s going to be more than just splitting the weight of the tent—we’ll be in this together, and it will be the experience of a lifetime. As always, tips, advice, or life experience is always welcome.

PS: I wonder what this post would look like if Rocky wrote it….?

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