Thursday, May 15, 2014

How backpacking relates to a healthy relationship

On our second day of hiking, I was feeling very exhilarated and happy from how much fun we were having. And my naïve, silly self said to Ryan, "I think any couple that is having a tough time in their relationship should take a trip like this!!!"

Ryan had to stop walking so he could laugh, and assure me not to suggest this to any couple in trouble.

Bad relationship + survival challenges + wilderness = feed significant other the bear

He had a good point.

A relationship should probably be thriving before roughing it out in the wilderness. Why do I say this? Because you really have to function as a team. Our tent was so tiny, it literally only fit our bodies. We had to squeeze in and out one person at a time.

But as I frolicked through the forest and reflected, there were many analogies between backpacking and healthy relationships.  (or life, in general!)

  • To have a successful backpacking trip, you must be okay with "nothing to do". There aren no TV's. Books add weight to you pack. There are no cell phones. You have to have a sense of peace with just being. Self soothing. You spend time wandering through the woods, exploring, wading in the waters, and quietly waiting to see wildlife.
  • To have a successful relationship, you must be okay with "nothing to do". You shouldn't always need a "thing" or event to distract you. Precious time together as a couple is something you need to learn to be okay with. Especially if you plan on growing old together.



  • In a backpacking trip, you and your partner may have different tasks or strengths. For example, Ryan was more proficient in starting our little camp stove. So he would get the camp stove going, and do the cooking. I would gather water from the river, filter it, and do our dishes. I was better at tightly rolling up our individual articles (sleeping pad, sleeping bag, clothing). Ryan was better at efficiently placing them in our packs.
  • In a marriage, you are going to have your own individual strengths. A healthy family operates like a business. You have a CFO (that's Ryan in my family), and a DO (Director of Operations (that would be me).


  • In backpacking/hiking, you sometimes have to take your own separate paths to get to your end destination. There were river crossings during our trip with rapids, and difficult/slippery rocks. Ryan would take a completely different path to cross the river than I. And that's what had to be done so we could both cross safely.
  • In a relationship, we each have to take our own individual paths to attain success and happiness sometimes, when faced with an obstacle. As long as we are sure to keep each other in sight throughout the "crossing".


  • There are times in backpacking/hiking where you have to help each other out. Give the other person a "hand". On the contrary, there are other times where it's best to do it on your own! You won't feel the satisfaction unless you make it to the summit of that mountain with your own 2 feet. Ryan offered to carry my pack several times, but by doing it on my own, I gained great confidence in myself!
  • In a relationship, it's important to help each other out and support each other. However, there are barriers you must overcome on your own. You'll be more confident in your own strengths, and in turn love your self. And one cannot be loved or love others, until they love themselves, right?!
These might sound a little silly, but this was kind of the theme of our trip. We were "reuniting" after living in separate states for several months. So I couldn't help but relate all the little obstacles to challenges we've faced in the past 18 months of intermittently living apart!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Black River Trail - Our 1st backpacking trip

As I put my feet up elevate my scuffed-up, cut-up, bruised, swollen legs....I feel a strong sense of peace. We completed our first backpacking excursion! 10 miles, 30 lbs on my back (40 lbs on Ryan's back), 28 river-crossings. It was amazing!

I am going to be honest and say, I went into this weekend with great apprehension. I've never done anything like this. I've camped. I've hiked. But I've never had to stress about ounces. And what shoes to wear. Exactly how much food will sustain us. How will we get water? There is so much planning and thought that goes into these trips. But I loved every second of it!

(Well, except for at 3 in the morning, when I could hear something rustling around our tent (black bear?!). Or when it's 30 degrees in the morning and I had to wash our dishes in the cold river...)

So let me try to break down our trip:

The Hike:
Normally we can hike 6-8 miles no problem. This was an enlightening experience. I was humbled. Interesting, when you have 30 pounds on our back, hiking becomes even more challenging! Oh, and 14 river crossings per day?! Talk about balance. Crossing the river, on slippery river rocks, with current and slight rapids, with 30 pounds on my back. There were so many instances where I found myself saying, "There is no freaking way I can do this!!". So every time I made it across, I was so excited!

It was incredibly beautiful. The Black River cuts through a canyon in the White Mountains, AZ. So the entire time you're along a river with forest surrounding. We only saw one other human (another backpacker) during the 3 days we were there, to give you an idea of how remote this location is!

The Campsite:
The neatest part about backpacking is that your campsite is where you want it to be. "This looks like it will have a beautiful sunrise. Let's set up our tent here!" We were sure to set up camp in wind-protected areas, and close as possible to the water. The water was very important for our "survival".

The "fuel":
Eating and drinking takes work when backpacking the Black River. Ryan called the Forest Service to assure there were no "known parasites" in the river. So to drink water, we would fill up a bag, and filter it into our bottles.

To make coffee, we would collect water from the river, filter it, boil it, and stir in our instant coffee.

To make food, we would collect water from the river, filter it, boil it, add it to our freeze-dried food.

You really had to be hungry to make food.

What I benefitted from this trip:
It is extremely liberating to spend 3 days with no mirrors. This may sound strange to some, but for me it was good for the soul.

It was also liberating to spend 3 days with no cell phones. Ryan and I have been living in different states for the past 4 months - and have been apart on-and-off for the past 16 months. What an amazing way to "reunite" life "together, than out in the wilderness with absolutely zero distractions!

I learned I'm much tougher than I give myself credit for. I got cut and scraped up. I stepped on snakes. I had a spider crawling on my leg. I "bathed" in a river. And I'm still alive.

Here a few photos to recap this amazing trip.

One of the 28-crossings! I found a stick that saved my life! (or my bag from getting wet...as I would've fallen if it weren't for that stick. To be honest...it was hard for me to let go of it when we returned to our car at the end of our journey. I got a little attached to that stick! Ha!)

We had to take a few breaks to just take our packs off. During these breaks, Ryan would fish, and I would look for wildflowers. I found this pretty "watering hole"

This was our 1st night of camping. It was really cold!!! Thank God for our down "soft shell" coats!

These views were incredible!

 
Ryan crossing. He didn't need a walking stick like his wife. He's a "tad" more agile than I am....
 

 
In the mornings before breakfast, Ryan would fish. And, again, I would frolick through the forest. I thought this view was so beautiful. It was so amazing how quiet the forest was in the morning.



 
Ryan attempting to find a trout....no love.

And again.....;)

One more view of the beautiful Black River.