Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trail Dating

A lot of couples meet on the trail, and oftentimes these couples only exist on the trail. Even though there is a disproportionate number of men and women, couples form quite often. Really...since there is such a disproportionate number...hormones are all ablaze. Especially in the 20 something hiking group. Just spit balling here, but the male to female ratio hiking is probably near 10-1. A more conservative guess would be 7-1. Then count out those females that are hiking as a couple already, like me, and you have a small population of available women for trail dating. (We’re going to count the girls who have boyfriends back in civilization because, from our experience, they function under the rule “out of sight out of mind”.)

Despite the odds, a lot of couples form. It provides a lot of gossip, which is basically all we have besides the rocks and trees, so we love and hate it. We spent a lot of time speculating whether two people that we knew from the beginning of the trip in Maine were hooking up. The girl had a boyfriend and the guy was clearly in love with her from the moment he met her on the trail. They began hiking exclusively together for the last half of the trail. We’d run into them in towns where they split hotel rooms. They’d also do crazy stints like hike for 50 miles in 22 hours. A lot of contradicting impressions...I guess only they know the truth. Either way, at the end of the hike her boyfriend picked her up and they left together.

This is a pretty good example of the main characteristics of trail dating. It involves doing a lot of hiking together, sharing hotel rooms in towns and usually ends while hiking or as soon as the hike is over.

Once we were hanging out in a town around the outfitter taking a zero. There were a bunch of books in the outfitter written by people who hiked the trail. It all seemed like the usual stuff...all about the “journey”, the animal encounters, the bad weather, the sore muscle, the worried parents...all stuff that we were pretty sick of hearing of day in and day out. I opened up a book by a girl who titled her book after her trail name, Cinnamon. By just flipping to the middle of the book I found an excerpt that stayed with me for the rest of the trail.

It was Cinnamon talking to her mom on the phone. She was a single female, thru hiking north and she had just graduated high school or college or something. She had made friends with a group of hikers and had a big crush on this guy named Manhattan. She was telling her mom how they were “kinda trail dating”. Her mom, understandably, asked, what the hell is trail dating? She told her mom “Well, you know. It’s when you hike together during the day, or plan to meet at the same shelter at night. Or one of you will say ‘you wanna go grab water together’.” Gross. Lame. Totally gross. Needless to say Manhattan ditched Cinnamon and just started hiking faster than her.

By that definition, Sol and I were trail dating with our friend Sam for 800 miles, which we enjoyed telling people along the way.

There are some great love stories that come out of the trail. We met a middle aged couple that met while the guy was thru hiking north. He made it about 30 miles to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in NC where he met this woman who lived locally. She honed in on him immediately and the next morning in the restaurant the waitress sat them next to each other. The rest of the story involves him hiking up to ME and her meeting him with a RV to support the end of his trip north. They got married a year later at the place they met. Then we met them while we were hiking through the NOC and stopped in for a beer, dinner and a bed. They recognized us as thru hikers, told us their story and bought us all a beer. It was awesome.

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