Who goes backpacking for their honeymoon!? What is romantic about hiking 280 miles in three weeks, 30 lb. packs, sleeping on the ground, a lack of showers, freeze-dried meals, bugs, and all other not-so-glamorous aspects of spending days on end in the woods? Honestly, I’m not sure what is so romantic about it; ask me in a month when I get back, but my husband and I are confident it’s how we want to celebrate our marriage. That’s why we are spending the next three weeks backpacking on the Appalachian Trail for our honeymoon.
The idea of backpacking for one’s honeymoon is the antithesis of what a honeymoon is typically all about: pampering yourselves, spending money lavishly, enjoying superfluous comforts of five-star hotels, etc., but it is of no surprise to me that we are choosing a tent and Therm-a-Rests over pillow-topped beds and beaches. After all, the Appalachian Trail is how we met.
I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, known as “thru-hiking” in 2009. It is 2,178.3 miles long and runs from Georgia to Maine. It took me five and a half months. As I was hiking through Pennsylvania, a stranger, my now-husband, Will, offered “trail magic” to me and my hiking buddies. Trail magic can be described as random acts of kindness by strangers to help hikers on their journey. Examples of common forms of trail magic seen on the AT are: rides to town, a bed to sleep in, a home-cooked meal, or a random cooler in the middle of nowhere filled with soda. Thru-hikers rely on the kindness of strangers throughout their journey. Will had a love of the AT, too, but being a teacher during the school year, he knew that a thru-hike was likely not in the cards for him since it’s takes about six months. So, instead, he read books and blogs about the trail and provided trail magic to thru-hikers on his days off during the summer (he worked at a summer camp in Pennsylvania).
I kept a blog throughout my hike which I updated in towns when I had the chance. Through this, Will was able to follow my progress northbound. When he checked in on my blog in early Fall and saw I had completed the trail, he emailed me a note of congratulations. I wrote him back and a couple visits and a few months later, I moved to St. Louis so we could be together. I found a wonderful place of employment at Alpine Shop, which allows me the opportunity to share my passion for the outdoors with customers, as well as the flexibility to pursue my own outdoor adventures, such as three weeks of time off to go backpacking for my honeymoon! And of course, we have been able to completely outfit ourselves with everything we could possibly need for this adventure from the shop! I will be promoting Alpine Shop everywhere I hike on the trail with my new hot pink Alpine Shop Nalgene, too! Gotta represent!
We organically came up with the dream of hiking the entire trail together, in small pieces (known as section-hiking) over our life-time. When thinking about what we should do for our honeymoon, it just felt right to begin our marriage with our first official section hike of the Appalachian Trail. And, as symbolism would suggest, we are beginning at the southern-terminus, Springer Mt., Georgia, and doing the first 280 miles northbound.
There is something special about backpacking with the one you love. There are no distractions. The only worries are food, water, shelter, and physical well-being. It is life and love in its simplest form. There will be sunsets and sunrises, shooting stars and campfires. But let’s not forget the bugs, bears, blisters, and torrential downpours. You need to rely on each other to help make it through the tough times and you get to share in the beauty and magnificence of nature during the good times. Both types of experiences bring you closer to each other and make your relationship stronger – just like real life.
We can’t wait. Who knows when the next opportunity we will have to spend three weeks alone together in the woods will be? Probably retirement.