823 miles down, and I feel it is necessary to clarify some things that may not have been explicitly and accurately represented in my previous posts. For those who read these little blogs, understand, I am not alone; I hike with my partner. That alone drastically changes the way I experience other people’s hiking, as well as almost every other aspect of hiking. From gear to support to objectives, I imagine this hike differs a lot from what others may experience.
Equipment is a bit of a double-edged sword for us. On the one hand, there is flexibility in our choices in that we can choose to change things between us depending on the needs of the day. On the other hand, every gear choice you make has a real possibility of negatively impacting your partner.
Weight from winter to summer
Smugness and I started with our own individual setups and have since changed almost everything. For example, once I got injured and our winter sleep systems were no longer needed, Smugness decided it would be better for us to redistribute the weight and swap some things out to accommodate my healing process. We bought SeaToSummit sleeping liners, 2 Big Agnes AXL sleeping pads and an Osprey Seral 7L fanny pack for me. With our new setup, my overall weight would be reduced and I wouldn’t be carrying the food. If I was alone, chances are I would have had to slow down considerably or leave a trail to heal. Instead, Smugness was able to take on some of the load, allowing us to keep moving forward.
The comfort bit
Then we realized a few flaws with the new system: it’s uncomfortable and lacks convenience. We’ve spent many nights trying to cuddle and instead fall into the chasm between our sleeping pillows. Also, the separate liners and duvets weren’t conducive to late night cuddling. Finally, although everything I need fits in the fanny pack, it requires careful packaging, and refilling the hydration bladder became tedious as everything needed to be packed neatly. This led to another gear swap. We flipped the floor mattresses for a double wide exped mattress and the duvets for a double wide duvet. Turns out the net weight is lighter and infinitely more comfortable for a couple… This led to ANOTHER hardware swap needed….
The synchronicity bit
Attempted! Now that we have our matte double person candle, our tent no longer fits. The 40″ pad hypothetically fits into the floor of the 43″ tub, but in reality the widest part of the pad causes the floor of the tent to bulge, further compounding the rain issues with our DupleXL. Not to mention that the duvet now takes up what appears to be the entirety of the tent and has no chance of staying dry in any semblance of rain. So we had our Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 3 shipped. All the candle extras are worth the extra 2 pounds we think, and now our sleep system will work with our tent… But not our packs…
Exchange of packs. Now that we have our new gear, and I’m healed, we have different requirements for our packs. The sleep system no longer fits in the fanny pack and I can’t share the load. Likewise, the Smugness pack can support losing weight and bulk. So we swapped our Osprey Seral 7 and Gregory Baltoro 65 for the Gossamer Gear Kumo and Gossamer Gear Mariposa. Now I can carry our sleep system and some food, and Smugness can lighten his load a bit. Overall, we sacrificed some weight for versatility and comfort, but it took a lot of trial, error, and injury to come up with this setup. Who knows if this will be our last exchange.
Naturally, Smugness and I have very different goals for this trip. For Smugness, it’s a walk in the park compared to his rigors during his previous military service, so he came with the purpose of supporting me in my goal. For my part, I just want to finish it. Having a support partner has made everything so much smoother, and I’m so glad he’s been behind me every step of the way, literally.
Now I think it’s only fair that he has his say:
From Smugness himself
As Sprite said, I’m no stranger to long walks with heavy bags, and while she aims to complete the course, I hope to help her succeed.
So, what does it look like, what do I bring to this team and how difficult could it be to support someone walking the same path as me?
First, I spent several years in the military learning to carry heavy loads for long periods of time, both physically and mentally. I like to think that I know what someone’s having a bad day is like and that I know enough to avoid the most common (and some uncommon) mistakes people make when facing big challenges like this one.
Second, I’m trained as a civilian paramedic, and I always carry quite a bit of lifesaving equipment (and probably more importantly, injury knowledge) in case of an emergency beyond the first aid kit. standard first aid. Having that extra gear puts a bit of a strain on your back, of course, but it takes an incredible load off your mind, so I think the trade-off is worth it.
Finally, the issues I encountered on this trip with Sprite. It was sometimes a test of patience to walk with someone at a slower pace than my usual pace, and mindfulness was key. It’s great to remember that it’s not about me, and being able to focus on helping someone else has been a big change of pace for me (pun intended).
Some of the main things I would recommend anyone consider when stepping into a similar role is that it’s their journey and it’s going to be the way they want it to be. You can make recommendations and suggestions, but ultimately it’s up to them how they want things to go. I’ve done my best to help lighten some of my partner’s load both physically and mentally, whether it’s carrying a bit more when she struggles; get water and filter it so she can take a break; navigate the route and find stops so she can watch her steps; being there to support her when it’s been a busy day for her; and trying to help her have a magical time on the trail by pointing out interesting plants, animals, or insects that aren’t directly under her feet.
I encourage anyone who feels well prepared for the challenges of the trail to take someone under their wing and help them find that same appreciation for the outdoors. If it’s easy, try teaching, you might find a whole new level of fun to smugly enjoy.
The journey continues
Leprechaun again! Overall, I’m so happy to take on this with my life partner, and I’m glad we have a relationship that allows us to do this together. More often than not, we come across people who jokingly ask us if we are still married or if we will be in the end. Many people can’t imagine taking their partner on a trip like this, or they feel they are lucky that their partner “let” them go in the first place. I know this experience is different with my partner. I also know I can finish this on my own, but having him here makes me happy, and I think he’s happy to be here too…I think.
Bonus fact about goats: you’ll love sleeping in the shelters until the mice poop all over you while you sleep… Your tent will then become your forever home.
Another bonus fact about goats: a small tent makes you lose your mind after a while. And nothing will make you want to keep staying there.
Bonus Goat Observation Bonus: the path will not change you. You change yourself. If you came here to find yourself, you must begin by actively seeking. The journey won’t show you who you are… Maybe it gives you time, maybe it gives you space… But really, by choosing the journey, haven’t you given yourself time and space for you? If so, what prevents you from saving yourself every day, everywhere, little bits of time and space?
-A mountain goat named Sprite