I planned this romantic date night hike with my wife back when we were dating. The plan for this warm summer night—after a brief walk in a city park, waiting for the sun to completely set—was to return to a hillside overlooking the steeple chase course in her town and watch the stars come out. I had brought a picnic blanket to sit on, jackets, a lap blanket in case she got cold and a travel tea set. I brought her favorite kinds of tea and honey. The setting was perfect to talk into the night, drink hot tea and watch the stars. I was planning to have her home around midnight and be back to my apartment by 1:00.
We left my truck just at the start of nautical twilight and sashayed hand in hand in the grey light. Down a paved road we went to explore the park for about 20 minutes. We crossed a field to see a picnic area and then hiked a few hundred yards down an old fire trail behind it. It was getting too dark to see very well so I led her back to the blacktop. I was so pleasantly distracted by her presence, her conversation and her beauty that I walked right past our turn. When about 20 minutes had passed, I admitted that I had better look at my map.
I got out my phone and saw that my mapping program was running my phone battery down fast so I had better memorize how to get back and shut it off. I was so embarrassed that I needed to check the map that I couldn’t think straight. I began to wonder if she would think I had lied about all of those hiking adventures I’d told her about. She thought she was with the Pathfinder but I was needing a map in a city park!
In my metal fog over this issue, I kept forgetting the next turn and had to use my phone a few more times and the battery died. I made one more error and got us hopelessly lost. We walked all night looking for my truck. I’m guessing that we covered 8 miles. About 2 am we sat down in the middle of the road leaning against each others backs so she could take a nap for a few minutes. When I helped her back up, she was so light headed that I had to partially hold her up and she stumbled along with her eyes shut. God blessed me in my foolishness and let me find the club house of a golf course. We got up under the overhang around 3 am just before it began to rain. I gave her my shirt outer layer and held her on my lap to try to keep her warm. My actions helped a little but I could not hold back the chill from the air that was now 50 degrees from the wind and pouring rain.
To be continued…Romantic Date Night Hike Turned Lost in the Woods!
I’m going to talk like we are brothers and sisters here because I’m not a bear expert—hope that is ok. I do know a few things and want to share.
Bears are sooo rare! in Middle Tennessee—During dozens of hiking trips in Middle Tennessee I have never seen a bear.
In other areas like the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee I have seen black bears on almost every trip. But it’s ok as long as you learn a few things and apply them. When you are up moving around and making noise, they steer clear of you. When all is quiet I always put food, tooth paste, chapstick, cosmetics etc in a bag. Then I hoist it up on a bear wire about 150 feet from camp. If a bear is out taking a walk in the dark, smells something yummy, it is up in the air where he can’t reach it and not in your tent. Once agin he moves on—problem solved.
In Yosemite on a week long trip I saw one bear. Because I was in brown bear country and they are a bit more aggressive, I bought a bear canister for about $80.00. I put all the stuff I would hoist in the air in the Smokies in the can at all times. At night I put it on the ground at least 150 feet from the campsite so it wouldn’t attract attention to the camp. If a bear had found it, decided to play with it, no bid deal—it’s smash proof and the bear can’t get the lid off gets tired with no reward and moves on. When I saw the bear on the trail I stopped, crossed my hiking poles in the air over my head, stood up on my toes, turned my body slightly so he could see my backpack to make myself appear bigger. I do the same thing in the Smokies with black bears. Each time I have done this, the bear takes a second or two to look me over. Then he decides that whatever I am, he doesn’t want anything to do with me and runs off.
Leave the bear alone and respect it. Don’t approach a cub for a photo shoot. Don’t try to feed the bears. Don’t approach a bear at all.
But don’t worry about the bear. Seriously, if we thought about the odds of having a car wreck, we would not drive. The odds of you being hurt by a bear are so so much smaller than that of having a car wreck that, in my opinion, it shouldn’t keep anyone out of the woods anymore than knowledge of a car wreck will keep you from driving a car.
Hope this helps you hike without irrational fear. Respect, yes—fear, no.
4 lessons from that first trip
Buy lightweight rain gear and always have it with you. We researched the weather like I had never done before. Before hiking with my honey, I just prepared for all weather and didn’t look at the forecast. But my Sugar melts in the rain so I watched the sky closely to choose the right day. The forecast was perfect so off we went with my guard down. She got wet that second day when rain surprised us. Although she did not melt, she was uncomfortable without her lightweight rain gear.
Practice setting up a new tent no matter how many others you have set up. I could whip up a tent in a flash with the best of them. I had set up many small tents made for backpacking and back country camping. But this time, I was embarrassed when it began to rain because water came into the tent. This old large 6 man tent had to be firmly fastened to the ground perfectly flat before you could extend the poles to full height…oops! I didn’t do that and our gear got wet.
Secure the right shoes—don’t skimp. God has blessed me with tough feet and balance like a goat. As a result I don’t give much thought to the terrain when I select my shoes. I may wear trail running tennis shoes, ankle high boots or just go minimal with a pair of water shoes on a rainy day. I dress my feet based on my mood and the experience I want to have. Bad idea when helping my Baby pick shoes. She wanted to know what the trail surface was like and I tried my best to remember. She withdrew a pair of hiking sandals that would have done well on what I described and off we went to explore. About a half a mile in we both realized that we should have invested the time to dig out her high top boots from the car trunk. It was a slow and rough walk at times. She is a tough soldier when she has to be and we still had fun but we leaned to go over-prepared on the shoes.
Assemble your new toys before you leave for your trip. To help me deliver on the image of a warm cozy fire I had painted, I had bought a new folding saw. Normally I use two trees close together, trap a long branch in between and break off a piece. I didn’t think I could gather enough wood with that method. It looked simple to assemble and I left it in the package not realizing that there was a one time assembly that required some tools. After that it is a nice compact foldable backpackers toy. Well you guessed it, I was dragging large branches through the woods and breaking them for the fire without my new saw. To my delight she was impressed when she turned around to see me with what she perceived to be an entire tree on my shoulder. It was about 40 feet long and I guess it gave me that Daniel Boone look with it on my shoulder. It was fun to impress her with my wood gathering skills but it would have been better to have had my saw.
So save yourself some sticky situations by practicing the assembly of any new equipment and don’t cut corners on the rain gear or the boots.
Avid primitive backpacker gets to teach his honey all things outdoors…becomes more civilized and loves every moment.
Come share our adventure!
Let me celebrate! Now that I’ve shared what I learned to say and not to say, let me tell you a little about our first hiking/camping experience. We started early on a Thursday morning in July. We drove two and a half
hours of beautiful road to the Savage Gulf in Middle Tennessee. We stopped first at Greeter Falls and took the short trip to the beautiful water falls and had a fun photo shoot.
Then we drove a little further to the Ranger Stone Door camp site parking lot. The camp site was .3 miles from the parking lot so it felt primitive enough for me but was close enough for her. She wasn’t too far from a real bathroom and I could easily make a few trip to the car to carry enough gear to make our first night comfortable. We set up a large 6 man tent that I dug out of the closet and I fixed her a dinner of Packet Gourmet. I built us a fire and we enjoyed its sound, flicker and warmth. We slept well on a blanket pad and really enjoyed our time in the tent.
The next day we used out camp as a base and first hiked .9 miles to the Stone Door and climbed all over it. Then we hiked about 2 miles total out and back on the Big Creek Rim trail. We stopped at each over look and marveled at the grand vistas of green tree tops in the valley. Then we finished up with another short hike behind the Rangers station to Laurel Falls.
This first trip was the result of much conversation trying to merge what we each liked about being outside. I got her and enough primitive camping features to feel like I went on an adventure. She got enough comfort features to sleep well and have fun in lots of beautiful settings.
Over the next few days I’ll share what we learned from that trip. Hopefully it will help you have some good times on the trail too.
Avid primitive backpacker gets to teach his honey all things outdoors…becomes more civilized and loves every moment.
Come share our adventure!
My wife really does enjoy going on adventures with me…honest!
Here is the numero uno don’t – don’t tell hiking war stories—especially the ones about snakes. War stories are for the guys who love overcoming raw nature like you do. You can share your coldest most painful adventure with them…your worst time in the rain…the long distances and fatigue…the time it took an hour and a half to get a fire started…don’t brag to her about those things.
It is no small wonder however, because I did talk the wrong talk.
We were with another couple around a patio fire and I started telling stories. I proudly told about the time I slept under the stars by the fire when in was 13 degrees and the snow was falling on my face. I told about the time it was 20 degrees and I fell in up to my chest in ice cold water at a creek crossing. Sloshing up on the trail, I had to take off all my clothes, wring them out and put them back on. I laughed about standing there wet and naked. It was funny and one of the most painful experiences of my life.
When the laughter died down she shared how impressed she was with my toughness in the cold but that she did not want to go with me. My heart broke like dried out asphalt— I had stuck my foot in my mouth. I wouldn’t have asked her to go on harsh and primitive adventures (unless she wanted to go) but I had made it all look ugly and painful. They were great adventure stories but they did little to attract her to what most adventure are: fun and beautiful.
I suppose that she gained some sense of security by knowing that I could take a punch or two from mother nature and still have fun. Perhaps she knew by the stories that I could be counted on in a crises if she needed me. But I had some work to do to over come those stories to get her out there.
So, guys, save the war stories!
Share them sparingly during a very brief but meaningful conversation about safety and security. We don’t want to deceive to entice but there is no point in focusing on the painful stuff. She will be drawn to what you use your words to paint beautifully.
Do you want your girl to go with you on your out door adventures? I wanted it so badly. I longed for the companionship of the woman who loves me and am so thrilled that she is happy to “go with.” In case it might work for you, I want to share what I did.
Let your desire for adventure be a natural part of life.
In the course of normal life, I showed my interest in hiking, the outdoors and adventure. I found that when I let my girlfriend and now wife know what I wanted to do that she has found a way—because of her love for me—to do the things I like to do. Your Honey may not always respond to this just because you like it but give it a shot. I had to learn how much to say so that I didn’t bore or annoy her with the topic but let it show as a part of me that was permanent. You have to do the same for your honey as well. You have to let her know that you have a passion for it. I shared pictures and stories with her; I talked about equipment for comfort, and mentioned adventures and hikes I wanted to take.
Be willing to do what she wants that might be uncomfortable for you.
On the flip side of the talking I did about what I liked, I listened to her talk about her love for dancing and I have gone to many dance fitness classes with her at the YMCA. I have often been one of the only men in the room. I started out awkward and somewhat wooden but learned to loosen up. Just like she may have some difficulty getting used to and having fun with you on the trail, you may have some dues to pay. Do what she wants to do and talk about what she likes. Then, the trading and participating lovingly begins. You might be surprised—like I am—about how much you like what you have learned to do with her.
Talk about the beauty.
When you share stories with her of where you’ve been and where you are going, make it about the beauty. I told my baby about the beautiful places I wanted to go and beautiful sites that I had seen. I talked about the warmth of the fire and cozy times. I told her about how we could wrap a sleeping bag wrapped around us both. Tell her about the waterfalls, the refreshing clear clean sound of the splash and the cool breeze that blows up for the cave where the water disappears below. Share how you can sit and eat your lunch together with the sound of the wind singing in the tops of the trees. Paint a picture about how you can watch the water fall as you talk about your dreams. Tell her about the time you sat on the top of a mountain and saw the sun rise as the fog lifted or describe what it will be like. Recall the time that you sat drinking a hot cup of coffee from your jetboil stove and listened to a dozen different bird calls as the forest woke up. These are the kinds of things to talk about. Tell her the parts of the adventures that you know that she as a girl will like. Study her and tell her what she will appreciate about the adventures.
Tomorrow I’ll share what not to say…
When I was a child, I spent every minute I could in the woods. As I have grown older it has become harder to find the time and less enjoyable with my sweetheart at home. This is a journey we are on trying to find what works for us and meets our yearnings for the outdoors. I hope that you will find some ideas to help you get outside with the love of your life and make your memories together like we are.