Why I'm Convinced Backpacking Makes My Marriage Stronger

8 miles doesn’t seem like so much, at least when you’re running. But when you’re climbing 3,309 vertical feet, coming back down a few thousand, only to go back up, those 8 miles all of a sudden become a little more daunting. Then add 30-40 pound packs, black flies, boulders, and high winds.

I don’t glorify it, do I?

Despite these nuisances, I’m convinced that backpacking strengthens my marriage.

I was thinking about it a lot on this last trip. We were supposed to hike 25 miles in 3 days and instead we did 16 miles in 2 days. I couldn’t stop apologizing to my husband because I KNOW he wanted that 25 miles and all those views. But eventually, I stopped apologizing and he didn’t forgive me because I didn’t need to be sorry.

So here’s the thing… when we hike, I’m most vulnerable. I’m sweaty, maybe even stinky. I’m tired, especially after some time climbing. My calf (I have compartment syndrome) can hurt. I’m usually brought to new challenges or new heights where my bravery is tested. Once, on Katahdin, I was even in tears over my fear of heights (climbing ladders on the edge of a cliff is not what I call a good time). Bugs may attack and at some point, I just won’t be able to bare them any longer. It’s no secret when I have to go to the bathroom because I have to grab the shovel. I don’t pack tissues either, so when I have a runny nose, farmer blows happen (gross, I know). That’s how it is on the trail.

When we see each other at our most vulnerable, we learn about each other in new ways.   

On top of vulnerability, we’re disconnected (with a few exceptions, like FaceTiming sisters far away… right, Katie, Tiff, and Mariah?!). When we’re disconnected, we’re with each other. We’re masters at rumi and cribbage. We're also good at being quiet and simply reading next to one another. We make up silly games and place bets for when we get back home. We sit and talk for hours, even after (almost) 4 years of marriage. That 4 pound tent of ours knows us so well.

Because of backpacking, I know my husband in ways I maybe wouldn't otherwise.

That day on Katahdin, a 60-year-old man was hiking alone and was petrified when we saw him in the same spot that brought me to tears. He was stiff against the side of a cliff, unable to move. Dustin was the most gracious man in this situation. He helped this gentleman get over this rock face and hours later on our descent, we saw him, a mile from the summit.

Because of backpacking, Dustin knows me entirely. He knows when to be patient, when to listen, when to offer an option, when to lend a hand, when to just tell me to stop being a baby, or when to laugh at me, or when to force himself awake because I'm afraid. All because I’m vulnerable on these hikes.

I could never backpack alone. I wouldn’t want to. I’m so glad I have Dustin to capture our country’s beauty with.

We grow individually through our trips and so does our marriage.

I think finding these things that make our marriage strong are SO important and I think it's truly different for each couple. For me and Dustin, it's hiking with our packs on, reaching new heights.