Surviving the End of a Trail Relationship

Sigh. Trail relationships. They are transient at worst, transformational at best.

Perhaps you met someone early on in your hike who, within a matter of days, got to know the real you better than most people in the “real world” have ever known you.

You spent 24/7 together—for a day, a week, a month or for your entire thruhike. You shared dozens of ramen dinners together. You waited for each other at more trail crossings than you can count. You looked out for them during that thunderstorm when their fingers were so numb that they couldn’t zip up their rain jacket. They looked out for you when you got sick from eating that week-old cheese you insisted on eating from the bottom of your food bag. You’ve trudged through snow together, laughed hysterically at each other’s farts, yogi’d food from day hikers together, whooped in unison at glorious sunsets, and forded dangerous Sierra streams arm-in-arm.

You’ve even watched each other pee.

But when does a trail relationship actually end?

Is it the moment you step off the path where the two of you had been walking side by side for a thousand miles?

pct northern terminus

Is it the moment in Vancouver when he cut off his wild hair to symbolize the beginning of a new chapter in his life?

Is it the moment he got a tattoo to memorialize the ending of the chapter in his life of which you were a part?

Is it your last kiss before he steps onto a plane to return to a different country on another continent?

And is this really the end?

Or is it just the beginning of something else?

Trail relationships are “summer love” at its finest. They might be temporary, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. Trail relationships are like the trails upon which they form—they start wherever you are and take you where you need to go.

Trail relationships are beautiful reminders that, in the great scheme of things, you don’t actually have much time on this earth with the people you love. So love them hard and love them fiercely, because this moment is really all there is.


I am hiking the PCT as a fundraiser for girl empowerment nonprofits that are getting more young women outside. In these last weeks of my flip-flop thruhike, will you join me in supporting underprivileged girls to go on personal transformation journeys in nature?

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