16 Comments

  1. Jim Santiago
    Jim Santiago January 24, 2017 at 4:44 am

    First let me say that I always enjoy reading your blogs. I just wish I could have read and absorbed the wisdom of this article 45 years ago. At the time I was into what I called survival camping, which was taking minimal supplies and foraging, fishing, and trapping my food. My young, beautiful, but definitely NOT outdoorsy new wife went along on three expeditions before deciding that she would never sleep in the woods again. My bad! But at least she is very supportive of my going solo.

  2. Karen Noel
    Karen Noel January 24, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Those are good suggestions. I have convinced my husband to do The High Sierra Trail with me this summer. Hiking your own hike while hiking together isn’t easy. I did the JMT 2 years ago, in the smoke, with 2 men from my hiking club, the company wasn’t ideal, so my husband, who is an outdoorsman, has graciously taken up hiking and will try a long thru hike with me. I will definitely keep these 3 points in mind. Thank you, Ray.
    Karen Noel
    p.s. I hope he enjoys it because I have the JMT planned for us in the future! 😉

  3. Diane
    Diane January 24, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Hi Ray, not a chance my husband will join me, but these points are equally valid no matter who your partner is. Makes for an amazing experience to consider the needs of the other person and treasure the journey. Happy and safe hiking, Diane

  4. Betty
    Betty January 24, 2017 at 8:46 am

    I agree with Diane – and I’ll share some steps I’ve taken to induce my (male) partner to join me for a few wilderness treks.

    First, with a partner who is not used to hiking with a pack, be willing to carry a disproportionate share of the weight. I’ve gladly done that (26-30 lbs. vs. 18 lbs.) and it was totally worth it to be able to share with my partner one of my favorite views – Marie Lake from the top of Selden Pass.

    Second, consider taking something “ridiculous” if it makes your partner more comfortable. My partner’s bad back makes him loathe to sleep on the ground. I once carried a “Cadillac” therm-a-rest pad, really suited only for car camping, up into Agua Tibia Wilderness, even though it was crazy-bulky & heavy. He slept well, and afterwards, he was more willing to go out backpacking again (and to try a more backpacker-friendly sleeping pad).

    Third, be completely willing to have the day’s hike end when your partner has had enough. It helps a lot if your partner knows that there will be great views & experiences even if you don’t make it to the intended destination, and that you are genuinely willing to stop short of the intended destination, with no nagging or bad vibes. That creates a comfortable space for your partner to take on the challenge knowing there are multiple options and turnaround points if need be.

    Fourth, build in some luxuries as inducements. For our Selden Pass/Marie Lake overnight hike, I arranged to start with two nights at Muir Trail Ranch, not only to help acclimatize to altitude, but also so that my partner could enjoy those luxurious Japanese-style hot springs, terrific meals, and some fly-fishing in the San Joaquin.

    Finally, I totally agree with Ray’s rule that the slower person leads. That takes the pressure off with respect to pace, stopping for rests, and the ability to enjoy the moment. Following this rule, my partner, who has atrial fibrillation, was able to succeed in getting over Selden Pass, and enjoy a night of camping by Marie Lake. The little things I did to help make this easier for him were nothing in comparison to the joy of sharing one of my favorite spots on the JMT with my partner. And if he hadn’t been able to make it all the way, who could quibble with the Sallie Keys Lakes as a consolation-prize destination?

  5. Dony Erwin
    Dony Erwin January 24, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Great stuff Ray! My wife will go car camping with me but I haven’t been able to talk her into the idea of a multi day backpacking trip, much less the JMT! The idea of digging a cat hole just doesn’t pique her interest! When I do go, I usually go solo because I really enjoy the solitude and I really just don’t have any friends that are into it as much as I am. When I return from these trips I am usually beaming with joy and enthusiasm and I show her pictures but there is no way to convey the way I feel when I’m out there to anyone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand. One of my dreams is to hike the JMT but onvincing my wife to let me go is pretty much out of the question because of the length of time I’d have be gone. I started with the idea of the AT and then thought the JMT would be more reasonable but haven’t mustered the courage to bring it up. We have a great marriage but it would be a killjoy to go knowing I truly didn’t have her support. I wonder how some of your readers have approached this delicate situation with their significant others. For now, I can do my weekend trips, read your wonderful blog, and dream of someday hiking the John Muir Trail. Best, Dony

  6. RedDerek
    RedDerek January 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    I believe the key point is letting the slowest hiker lead. If not willing to do so, then the faster hiker should stop at EVERY trail split that is even minor obvious. This way everyone will be on the same path and no wandering or others thinking left or right?

    My wife has no desires to go backpacking, her belief in camping is a nice Hilton.

    I have had hikes (day and overnight) with other female friends and I always let them lead since my pace is usually faster. I use the slow time to play with maps, practice my navigation and land-marking skills; also, you can teach your hiking partner these things as you go about a slow pace with lots of stops. At every stop I always ask my hiking partner to spot where we are on the map and by what method – GPS is cheating 😉

    If the skill level increases, then you could start practicing heading out ahead and play hide-and-seek – you hide and wait for your partner to catch up to see if they stop where planned.

  7. Linda Selover
    Linda Selover January 24, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    The Key is letting the slower hiker lead, or only going the pace of the slowest hiker, not rushing ahead then waiting. I saw several women huffing and puffing after their 6 foot husbands/friends who were hundreds of yards ahead of them, powering up a pass.
    I felt so sorry for these women, as they were clearly having a hard time trying to keep up.
    I like RedDerek’s idea of keeping partners involved with the navigation — practical and educational. I met newbies, dragging behind their experienced partners, with the experienced people carrying the maps, and the newbies had nothing to follow. Worrisome in the least, with a potential lost hiker making a wrong turn down the trail.

  8. Chip Oldgoat Cenci
    Chip Oldgoat Cenci January 26, 2017 at 2:56 am

    I can’t remember how many times I saw a couple where one member of the group was smiling ear to ear and say “Isn’t this great!”. The other partner has this look on their face that says “l would kill this SOB for bringing me here if I knew how to get out of here.”
    I’ve also saw a couple who took a short hike to a nice overlook and set up camp there. They were sitting on the ledge looking down at the world while holding wine glasses in their hands and smiles on their faces.
    Keep the hike fun and well inside their comfort zone. Then if you have a successful trip make the next one a little more challenging. In other words introduce your partner gradually don’t break their back on the first trip.
    The forest is a scary place to many people who don’t venture in it. They see themselves being eaten by bears, who by the way get a bad rep, or some other monsterous animal.

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