Stepping Out

"The ultimate act of trust in a relationship, I believe, is climbing into a car with the intent of vacationing together. This is the real reason why the honeymoon is such an important part of the wedding ritual - despite what others may think - it's a test vacation. Sex is a minor issue, comparatively. When Jeanette and I married, we were too broke to have great expectations of fun on our honeymoon trip to the city of Everett. I haven't tried to change that in the pursuant years; it seems to have worked in my favor. Low expectations keep me looking OK, in a relative sense. But you aren't reading this to get my marriage advice, however good it may be, and my editors don't pay me to pass it on here. They want me to write about outdoor subjects.Hiking partners must also extend a lot of trust; there are usually not a lot of other people that will be able to help out on the wilderness. The same goes for those who choose to venture onto the open water together in kayaks, or even on an extended bike trip. Climbing is probably the definitive example of needing to be able to trust one's partner.Many people think of hiking, climbing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and similar activities as expressions of individuality. Certainly, there's an element of self-expression inherent in these sports. Nobody, for instance, is going to drag anybody else to the top of Everest, despite what's been written in the past few years about guided trips on that mountain. A backpacker traveling with almost any group of people is probably going to have to carry his own pack, unless dealing with a severe injury.What makes these experiences enjoyable for most people, though, is sharing them with others. My experience is that hiking alone isn't very fun - at least not for extended periods of time. There will always be those who wander into the wilderness alone, or solo-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Even these people, though, seem to end up writing books or showing slides in an effort to share the experience.I hike several times a year, but my favorite trips are always the ones I take with Sherman and Pete, my brothers. These trips aren't memorable just because of the great places we've been; one that I remember most vividly was a trip to the Bogachiel Rain Forest, a trip that was fraught with miserable conditions. As I reflect, though, I remember that all of our trips have been pretty miserable. I think that's what made them so much fun, at least in retrospect. Shared memories like these help cement relationships. The worse the experience - the better.Immersion in the wilderness isn't a necessary condition for great memories to happen. Bonding takes place whenever people and miserable situations unite. It happens at high school dances (miserable), in hospital waiting rooms (more miserable), and at church potlucks (let's just not talk about it, okay?).Do you remember that seven-bean salad back in 96?Do I? That was Satan incarnate!Outdoor settings, though, are great for this. On a backpacking trip there will not only be adverse situations to overcome together, there will also be long stretches of silence, and great opportunities for meaningful conversation. This is where my brothers and I can talk about God, our families, or our frustrations.My wife hogs the blankets!Yeah, that's a tough one, Pete. Maybe you should cut your blankets in half.Despite the great conversations we have on the trail, Pete rarely takes any of my marriage advice. He's just like my editors - he's not buying my best stuff.-------------------John Case can be reached at "

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