I picked Darwin up from the CDT on Sunday. I left not knowing exactly where he was and had no cell signal. After a week without him and driving 40 miles in the wrong direction, I finally found myself driving down a dirt road that he was at the end of. I immediately was relieved to see him standing there. At the same time I couldn’t help but notice he was not as excited to see me; I was the end of his adventure.
I listened to him and Toasted Toad a fellow CDT Thru-Hiker laugh and share stories with me of the events that occurred over the last few days. I watched them consume a large amount of chips, oatmeal cream pies, and beer that I gave them as trail magic. They showed me around the digs they shared the night before at this little hot spring resort in the middle of nowhere; the place didn’t even have an address. I found myself longing to be apart of their adventure but I could only listen, the adventure had passed.
We dropped off Toasted Toad and watched as he headed out into the desert for a seven day stretch of nothingness. I couldn’t help but notice how Darwin’s shoulders slumped as Toad left. The first few hours of the trip home were nothing but stories of Darwin’s week on trail. I listened and tried to play out scenes in my head but the truth was I wasn’t there, I could not fully understand.
We stopped at a dinky little convenient store right outside Gila National Forest. There we were able to provide more trail magic to three other CDT Hikers. Darwin gave them information on the trail ahead and I again only listened to the four of them share stories. I enjoyed the smell of dirt and sweat they put off, the ease in which they moved with their packs, their unmistakable hiker look.
As we continued home I listened to more stories but found myself with nothing to share. “I watched a funny YouTube video,” I said to him and immediately felt embarrassed. I had nothing to show for my week while he was away. I didn’t get sunburned, I didn’t go hours without water in the desert sun, I didn’t meet a hermit or climb a mountain. I recognized it then I had only existed this week, Darwin had actually lived.
After this past week I now feel I have a better perceptive on the non-adventuring spouse. No matter how much planning or pre involvement a hiker includes their significant other/spouse in, there is always going to be a void between them. No matter how many stories I listen to, videos I watch, or fellow CDT hikers I meet, I am never going to be apart of Darwin’s adventure because I simply wasn’t there.
Darwin included me in the pre-planning for his trip. I went on training hikes with him, we discussed gear and food together, I drove him out to the CDT, I enjoyed his pictures and stories he shared during the hike, I drove back out on the CDT to pick him up, I met fellow hiker trash, I provided trail magic, and have since enjoyed seeing Darwin’s eyes light up as he tells me details of his section hike. I see him get transported back when we watch the videos he took, but yet no matter what I will never be able to really understand or connect with him when it comes to the events of the last week.
It wouldn’t be fair if I could fully relate to something I didn’t experience first hand. Darwin came back changed from his experiences as one always does not matter the time spent on trail. As with any healthy relationship you should be able to have your separate experiences and your experiences together. Am I a little depressed because I missed hiker life? Absolutely! I also recognize it was my choice not to go with him. I didn’t slug on my pack and hike.
Darwin has had a lot of questions left on his videos about including a spouse or significant other in trail life when only one person is hiking. I feel that this is not something that will make or break a relationship no mater what the distance. Will your significant other be changed when he or she returns? Without a doubt, but this shouldn’t be a wedge between you.
For the hiker: Share your stories, show pictures and videos, talk with them about plans before, discuss the adventure during when possible, have them meet up with you on trail, and share your thoughts after the hike, train together, etc.
For the stay at home significant other: Listen, ask questions, read into and research the trail they are on, look up the places they send you pictures of, send them care packages, follow them via gps, etc.
If your making the choice not to go with your spouse or maybe you can’t go with them for whatever reason, make the effort to involve yourself when and where you can. A thru hike or adventure of any kind should never pull a couple apart it should make them bring them together. Just as with anything in a relationship both parties have to make an effort to make it work.
(Darwin and Doug at Doug’s Hermitage)