I recently had the opportunity to take a 4-day backpacking trip in the mountains with a friend. To provide a little context, we met in college and briefly dated. Since graduation, we’ve kept in touch; but living on opposite sides of the country prevented us from pursuing anything romantically. The interest was there, but the timing just wasn’t right.
Within the last year, he closed a bit of the distance. He took a job in a city that put us just a short plane ride apart. We made plans for me to come visit and go camping. We both love to hike. Trip planning started as “just friends,” but we quickly realized our old spark was still there. I hoped that the camping trip would allow us to spend some time together and see if there was enough interest on both sides to begin a relationship.
Here’s what I learned and observed from the field. (Or the mountains, in this case. :) )
Allow Him to Lead
I’m a planner. I’m organized, detail oriented and a bit of a worry-wart. I’m also the oldest child. (Read: Bossy) So, it took great self-restraint not to badger him with questions like, “What trail are we taking? Do you have a backup water purification system? Did you get the right camping permit? Do you have a bear canister?” But, for the most part, I did. I left planning up to him. Honestly, it made me a bit uneasy not to know every single little detail. He is an excellent outdoorsman and hunter. When he made a suggestion about what to pack or not pack, I took his advice. Inside the hamster was screaming, “What if you run out of food? What if a storm moves in? What if you didn’t pack enough clothes?” But I was determined to ignore it and follow his lead. I needed to trust him. I was in good hands.
Guess what? I had a great time. Because he took the lead, I didn’t have to worry about the success or failure of the trip. I could focus on having fun. It was relaxing. Normally, I’m the one taking care of the details, it was such treat just to sit back and let things unfold.
On the second day, rain moved in. Typically, storms come and go quickly in the mountains, but this time they didn’t. It rained on and off all day and then it poured rain all night. Everything got soaked. Our socks were soggy and rain crept into our tent. Campfires are not allowed in the area, so there was no way to dry out. It was going to be a wet day, but I put a smile on my face and made sure he knew that I was still having fun. Men want to please you. They want to see that you are happy. Mountain Man, as I like to call him, said “Most girls would be whining and complaining by now, but not you.” Normally a lone wolf, MM is content to camp for days or even weeks on his own. But a little later he said, “It’s a lot more fun to take someone camping.” I think it made him feel confident knowing that he could show me a good time. It really hit home for me how important it is to enjoy his company and be happy, despite the circumstances. When men feel like they can’t please you, they feel defeated and just give up. When they know they can make you happy, they will go to incredible lengths to see you smile.
A Good Captain Has Your Best Interest at Heart
After all the rain MM decided we should head back up and over the mountain pass and end our trip a day early. We planned to dry out at his house then take a day hike the next morning.
Mother nature had other plans. A third of the way up the pass a big storm blew in, dropping temperatures and pummeling us with rain and hail. Fierce winds forced us to take shelter under the overhang of a large boulder. We huddled together and waited for the storm to pass. Even with the rock blocking most of the rain, we were still exposed to bitter cold winds since we were above the tree line.
Within 15 minutes of taking shelter I started to shiver. A few minutes later my teeth started chattering too. Sitting still, it was difficult to stay warm. MM took off his insulated hunting pants and gave them to me. He put on a wet pair from his bag. My mittens were wet, so he blew on my fingers to warm them and gave me his gloves. He did without. I didn’t complain, but it was obvious that I was cold. I was starting to get scared. How would we make it over the mountain pass? Hypothermia kills dozens of hikers every year.
“Are we going to be okay?” I asked MM. “We’re going to be just fine,” he said. “We just need to get you warm. We’re not going to make it home today, but we’re going to be okay.”
I knew he was right. We were going to be okay. I completely trusted his leadership. When the rain slowed down a bit he lead us back down the mountain pass and into a heavily wooded area. Getting up and walking again helped bring much need warmth to my fingers and toes.
In the valley, we found a small clearing where we could pitch our tent. Once MM was satisfied with our campsite, he was a man on a mission. He went to work gathering twigs and branches for a fire while I unpacked our bags in the tent and aired out our sleeping bags. Despite wet firewood, he built a roaring campfire and even hung a rope between two trees above the fire so we could dry our clothes. He said he didn’t care about rules and regulations, it was his responsibility to keep me safe. We needed a fire to get warm and dry and if a park ranger had a problem with that, then he would deal with it.
We sat by the fire for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We made noodles and hot coco and talked for hours.
What a privilege to be protected and cared for. I am so grateful for his quick thinking and confidence…his ability to make a fire and take control of the situation.
Despite what the weather threw our way, we had a great time. We hiked up and over the pass the next morning and made it home by early afternoon.
I am grateful for our adventure. I would not trade our time in a tent for a week at the Four Seasons.
It gave us time to talk and learn more about each other. In the woods we were both challenged...physically and emotionally. Sometimes it's the challenges that bring you closer together.