My cramped feet stumbled down the descent after my partner and I steamed past the “Oregon’s Highest Point on the PCT” sign and all I could think was: “gawd there better be a flat spot at this next campsite.”
All Mermaid could think was: “NO TIME FOR PHOTOS THE MOSQUITOS ARE SWARMING!”
As the last bits of our energy puttered us to the site, we saw 11 tents set up. ELEVEN. No matter, as someone must have seen the glazed look in our eyes and shouted, “there’s one more spot right over there!” They were pointing at the most gorgeous piece of 8ft. by 10ft plot of land I had ever laid eyes on. We hastily made camp and downed some dinner as we leaned in to the conversation our neighbors were having. Wildfires were ahead, and this was sadly be the last night on trail with my partner— an ending I never wanted to come.
Something I Had Always Gone Solo
Backpacking was a hobby I started to explore when I had some opportunities to travel in my college years. It was something I had routinely convinced myself I wanted to experience alone. The trail was a place I could escape societal reality; the trail was also a place many people did not enjoy— I learned this the hard way, having brought non-backpackers along on a few trips, to their (and my) displeasure. Then, I met someone. She really wanted to come with me on a backpacking trip; this, I realized, could double as an excellent test to gauge our budding romantic potential. I needed a partner who would like backpacking. So, I promptly took her on the worst trip I had ever been on myself. No kidding, she ended that trip saying, “I’m in pain, but can’t wait to do it again.” My heart was no longer mine at that moment and my mind was still thinking how horrible the previous 3 days were.
Now after thorough examination, I believe I have a solid list of why I enjoy hiking with my partner. Naturally the list grew into what I extremely disliked about hiking with a partner. In brief summary I want to go over the ‘Pros and Cons’ of hiking with and without your partner. This is not an advice piece and rather subjective so do not take this as truth.
Hiking With Your Partner
* They carry some of the load
* My pack was a little heavier these last couple days because Mermaid had been helping distribute some of the items that I now have to jam into my pack.
* They encourage you in the hardest of times
* There were definitely moments where I was in literal tears of exhaustion. Mermaid was either there leading the charge up climbs or verbally encouraging my feet to keep moving.
* The beauty of the earth shouldn’t be experienced alone
* Misery might love company, but experiencing beauty without company is misery.
* You’re an early riser and your partner is a heavy sleeper (or vice versa!)
* Maybe this could be put under a Pro list. I always woke up to the alarm, but Mermaid’s eyes would flutter shut just as fast as they opened. That would be my signal to snooze the phone 10 times and wake up at 7:00AM rather than 5:30AM.
* You’re with that person for every second of the day
* Every second of every minute of every hour of every day for a month. Some would say that’s too much time. I can barely stand to be with my own thoughts for that long!
* You see them poop
* You really don’t know a person until you have to get shaken awake at 3 in the fucking morning to go walk outside in the scary dark to stand guard for lions, tigers, and bears as they pop-a-squat. This only happened once at the very early part of the trip and it was me doing the waking, but it really tested the strength between my partner and me.
Hiking without Your Partner
* More space in the tent
* I CAN HAVE ALL MY BELONGINGS INSIDE MY TENT. That is all. Just nice to not have be so cramped in our tiny little nylon mobile home.
* I get to leave earlier in the morning
* You’re telling me I can leave as soon as I finish packing my pack? I don’t have to wait another hour for my partner to pack hers? Deal.
* Filtering water is quicker
* Filtering 2-3L of water is faster than filtering 5–6L. That’s just a scientific fact.
* You are lonely
* I did not realize how much I liked having someone to share my day, my thoughts, and emotions with out here. Mother Earth can only be so much of a companion until you miss your companion. You start to feel insane when you don’t get to talk to anyone for days
* The landscapes can start to seem bland
* As I walk past incredible ridges with distant views of snowy peaks I look over to share a smile with someone who is no longer there. The landscape, objectively beautiful, but the experience feels jaded without my person.
When it comes down to it I will be hiking more miles without my partner than I have with my partner. I know Mermaid will continue to encourage me each step of the way, but it may take a few business days to get to me. Whether one hikes alone, with a partner, or with a group, I know I am out here sharing this trail with the thousands of people that have the wonderful opportunity to hike its path.
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