[pct-l] marriage and thru-hiking

Eric Lee (GAMES) elee at microsoft.com
Mon Feb 18 20:29:27 CST 2008

Brad wrote:
For those married hikers that leave their non-hiking spouses behind for a long thru-hike, how has that worked for you?
Have you found any particular difficulties or issues come up?

I am happily married, no kids, but have never left home / wife for several months at a time... just wondering if any of you found that difficult for you and/or your spouse, and if so, in what ways?

Kind of a late response, but I was thinking over this question again today and recalled something I saw when I went to the Kickoff a few years ago.  It's one of those things that probably doesn't translate well into words but it was a powerful insight for me at the time.

At the kickoff, I spent some time hanging out at the border monument watching thrus go through their starting rituals.  I vividly remember one couple that drove up to the monument.  The guy was obviously starting the trail and his wife/girlfriend had obviously come to see him off.  Watching the guy made me smile - he was positively quivering with excited energy and just raw passion for adventure that is really hard to describe but that a lot of people here would recognize instantly.  I helped them take some photos, I think, and they both looked very enthusiastic and happy to be there.

After a few minutes the guy hoisted his pack, kissed his girl one last time, and practically flew off down the trail.  I felt really jealous watching him go.  I thought, "One day, after I've fulfilled my parenting obligations, that's going to be me."  But then I noticed the girl walk slowly back to the car and as she did so, her whole body language changed dramatically.  As she sat in the driver's seat watching her husband/boyfriend walk off, she looked absolutely miserable, and I saw tears start to run down her cheeks.  I looked away and tried not to intrude, but it was obvious that there was a whole reservoir of pent-up emotion that the guy was completely oblivious to because he was so focused on his adventure.

It was a very poignant moment and one that's stuck in my mind.  I guess the point is that if you're leaving a significant other behind, be aware of and sensitive to the difficulties that person will face in your absence, because it's *going* to be hard.  That doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't do a thru-hike . . . just be aware, and do the right thing, whatever that may be.


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