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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Oh the Places You'll Go!

This month marks the 23rd year of marriage for Mark and I, and the 25th year of camping and hiking together. By my estimates, we have spent approximately 450 days traveling, tramping around mountains and deserts, and sleeping under the stars. That translates to one year and 3 months on the road, over 500 miles of hiking trails, and 425 nights spent in the tent/camper (we have cheated a few times and found a hotel.) That sounds like a lot, but somehow it seems we never have enough time to spend outdoors; with the exception of one horrible cold and rainy trip, we've always been sad to head back home at the end of a vacation. We've got a lot of places on our bucket list and it's growing by the minute. Every trip should be reducing the list, but the opposite always happens; for every check mark three places are added as each trip reveals more places we'd like to see, more hikes we'd like to take and more roads we need to travel.

I'm starting to realize that, barring winning the lottery, we just might not have enough time or strength to get to all our goals, and that's a disheartening thing. I would really like to do the Pacific Crest Trail, but as deep as my Denial Vein runs, my body just might not be up to it anymore. Mentally I think I'm stronger than I've ever been, but my brain can only push my body so far; those mysterious aches and pains are getting more pronounced as the years go by. I'm a little afraid once we got a decent distance into the hike things would start to fall apart. I guess we'll never know until we try...

Border of Alaska and Canada, Alaskan Highway

Our friends and family think being married is easy for us because we both enjoy the same things. I'm here to tell you that yes, a shared fondness for dirt does make it easier--I love road trips and camping just as much as Mark does, and we tend to like the same types of places to visit--but you still have to make an effort to get along on vacation, just like at home.

Let's just say it's not always a walk in the woods.
Racetrack, Death Valley NP

One thing we've learned is it's important to divvy up the responsibilities. Mark's the hardware guy; his job is to prep the truck (oil, water, camper prep, camera equipment, tool packing). My job is typically the food, clothes, sundries and navigation. Once we've chosen our destination it's Mark's job to make sure we have everything we need to get there in one piece and it's my job to make sure we can find the way and eat once we get there.

We have a mental checklist for these things, and after a while it kind of falls together without thinking about it too hard. We try to remind each other too, just to make sure the other guy hasn't forgotten something crucial. If we miss something, usually it isn't earth shattering: I'd say the most typical thing I forget is coffee (because I don't drink it, I don't think about it) and Mark will forget to wash the inside of the windshield (you usually don't notice it's dirty until the sun is rising on a chilly morning as you try to squint through the steamy glare.) Both of these things are easily remedied with a quick stop at a market, no worries.

If conflict arises it's usually due to exhaustion. Trying to push through too many miles on one day, not stopping for a break; things might get a little testy for a minute or two. I think knowing when not to say something is the most important skill you can have in the arsenal for marital harmony. And snacks. Plenty of snacks.
Grand Teton National Park

We're trying our best to stay in good shape so we can continue to do what we love when (and if) we retire, at which point we can pursue our list vigorously. Life can't be about working 40+ hours a week any more than it can be consumed by chores and household to-do lists. As they say, no one on their death bed ever said "I wish I worked more." Well, I sort of wish I will never have a death bed. Yeah, I know I'll die someday, but wouldn't it be nice to reach a comfortably old age then go out with a smile, say, on the edge of the Grand Canyon or on the top of a mountain? Somewhere that the last thing I see is a beautiful view of nature in all it's glory, not the digital monitors and dripping IV bags in some hospital. I'd settle for a hammock swinging in the breeze and the smell of pine trees in the air--a death hammock if you will--but not until I get to the end of my list. Looking at the length of it, I figure we've got to last at least sixty more years. So I'm officially inviting you all to our 83rd wedding anniversary party.

October 27, 2073 5 o'clock sharp. See you there.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park