Friday, March 29, 2013

After three hundred miles, we'll either love or hate each other

Big news, outdoors peeps! I now have a PCT hiking buddy and I believe (crossfingerscrossfingers) that the hike can be expanded to start at Snoqualmie Pass in Section J, adding another 74 miles and the gorgeous Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This makes a grand total of......282 miles. Or so. Start date is August 10, and we hope to finish in about 21 days in Canada. My longest backpack trip yet, it beats the JMT by two days. And about fifty miles! That means we need to hustle our buns, but I know we can do it. No, it's not fastpacking, but I'm not a fan of that anyway. What I love about backpacking is that singular moment when you wake and step outside of the tent and see where you really are. The moments when you stop on the trail just to look and imagine and stare. The foot soaks, the afternoon swims. Lying on sun-warmed rocks. I don't have anything to prove anymore.

Good outdoors partners don't complain about small tents.

For over twenty years I fought fires on twenty-person crews. Because we were only skilled amateurs, we were cobbled together from different parks and forests, often not knowing each other until we met up at the airport. Sometimes a crew would gel, like the 1989 Cottonwood Creek fire, where we gave each other fire nicknames (Mine was Target, for a tree that fell nearby) and spent the weeks spiked out far from civilization. Other times a crew would completely fracture, like the dismal SO Cal experience near Cabazon, where lazy young men sat down complaining they were tired. Once on an Alaska crew, I met another Alaska crew at the airport. The second crew raved about how close they had become. I was currently hiding from my crew because I could not stand them.

Good outdoors partners know that yoga is important in the backcountry. 

The right outdoors partner makes the trip. I spent weeks in a kayak with C, who cheerfully shrugged off the torrential rain that blasted our heads and the gloves-and-hat wearing June nights under a tarp. On another trip, my co-worker alienated everyone until in exasperation the crew leader paid for a thousand dollar floatplane freedom flight for him. I've witnessed meltdowns and freak-outs and people who screamed because we lifted the pot to see if the rice was done. Then there were the ones who stayed cool under pressure, who slid the bullet into the magazine when the bear surprised us on the trail (we didn't have to shoot, thankfully) and the enablers who allowed me to go see what was around the bend.
I don't know how you could have a bad outdoors partner in a place like this.

Good outdoors partners like B. don't care if it's not sunny

A good outdoors partner knows when to chill by the plant press.

So you just never know when you sign up for something. The wilderness can bring out both the good and bad in everyone. We all have our moments when we are freezing, tired, or just crankypants in general. The trail doesn't care, and our partners somehow put up with us. I apologize in advance to my PCT buddy for any tantrums that may occur.

Other than that, I've been throwing pieces of gear in the air and reveling in how light they are. I'll post some reviews soon. Hike on.


  1. Loved this. It's amazing the impact just one person can make on crew morale,good or bad.

  2. Wonderful blog about partners. I've experienced much the same. All those experiences (good and bad) have taught me to be a better partner. Soooo looking forward to this. Carol

  3. This is so true!!! I even thought I didn't like camping for years and viewed as a necessary evil to hiking - turns out I just didn't like who I was camping with.

    I've become a lot better at choosing my outdoor companions as I go along and I'm so lucky to have found some truly amazing people to be outdoors with.

    Just like the wrong person can break a trip, the right person can turn a bad/wet/uncomfortable/frightening situation into something positive!

  4. I like the comment about good and bad partners teaching us to be better partners!

    Good piece, Marre!

  5. Looking to throwing your gear up in the air in June (and maybe adding some tiny, tiny items to it)?


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