The Dating Game: Hiker Style
When I decided in June of 2016 that I was going to take on the PCT, I obsessively started following current hikers on Instagram. Through comments and hashtags, I came across @thefalingfox: a creative Instagram where artist Lindsey Fox painted and crafted beautiful textile watercolors of the Pacific Crest Trail. The name was created by combining their last names: David Faling and Lindsey Fox.
Lindsey would not only paint scenery, every 100 miles, she would create a trail marker that included the mile number along with it’s matching scenery.
As an artist, and someone who wanted to not just hike, but to do something creative with my journey, I became a big fan of Lindsey’s work. Lindsey and David’s Instagram has a lot of character. Not just from the artwork, but from their adorable, quirky and fun personalities depicted through their photographs.
I was star struck when I found out they lived in Portland and that we had mutual friends. I officially met them both at Lindsey’s PCT art exhibition at The Lizard Lounge. It was amazing to see all of Lindsey’s work in real life after following her for months. There was even a massive painting of Burney Falls in Northern California; which holds a place in my heart as its only an hours drive from where I grew up.
Now that you have their back story, this blog is actually focused on how Lindsey (Miyagi) and David (Aquarius) survived the entirety of the PCT as a couple. I asked them a set of questions and had them respond separately. Their answers will make you laugh, tear up a bit and say “AWEEE”.
1. What is the biggest advantage/disadvantage of thru-hiking with your significant other?
Sharing a tent, and sharing a tent.
Sharing the experience and literally everything else on your back is both an advantage and a disadvantage of thru hiking with a partner or significant other. For us, we wanted to get a bit of both worlds. Thats why we made sure to hike separately for parts of the day. It allowed us to connect with other people and hike our own hike a bit. Hiking by yourself is so different than hiking with a partner (even when in silence). You only have yourself to talk to, or maybe you listen to Two Dope Queens and laugh yourself into oblivion while alone in the middle of the wilderness.
– Best: You are hiking with your best friend.
-Worst: You are doing everything in your power to remain best friends.
Dave was the start to this whole trip for me. I dont think I would have done it alone. Now that I look back, I believe I would have been able to do it alone, but starting it alone was a whole different matter. Sometimes I need an initial push off a cliff in order to find something magical. Dave gave me that push. He challenged my idea of status quo, of my career path, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Oregon was rough for me call it hitting the hiker wall. She kept me going with her amazing spirit; always finding something positive to focus on during the long flat featureless sections of the trail.
3. What would you say was your partner’s best/worst quality while thru-hiking?
Dave’s best quatlity is his ability to let things go and roll with the punches. Sometimes I found myself getting lost in the logistics of the trail, or shit getting broken, or things wanting to kill me. But Dave, he really was able to see how much those things mattered in the grand scheme of things and continue to push north.
His worst quality is that he hogs the food container at dinner (we shared one), but really, he probably will say the same thing about me.
The Hiker Hanger was strong with Miyagi. You know those Snickers commercials well it took a bag of skittles, a protein bar and several boxes of Mike and Ike’s to put the Hanger Beast down! That, and she wins the award for worst smelling feet on the trail. Ask her, she wont deny it!
4. What was the biggest fight you had on trail?
Our biggest fights on trail honestly had to do with me being a wannabe purist, and Dave being more focused on the trail experience. I remember our biggest fight on trail occurring on our last day of hiking in Oregon. We were making the last miles into Cascade Locks, and each making our cases for what we wanted to do for the last state. Dave was worried about the weather turning for the worse in Washington since we were getting there a tad late in the season. We were considering going up to the Northern Terminus and hiking back south to The Bridge of the Gods, still hiking the total miles, but going with a more weather safe option. This was when I was a total trail romantic. I realized how much it mattered to me that we hike in one continuous line. I loved and still love the idea of hiking from the southern boarder of my home country to the northern boarder. This really mattered to me. We ended up weighing our options and coming the the conclusion that it was going to be a close call, but that we thought we could make it. Just to give you all an idea of how close it was It dumped 6 of snow the day after we made it to the northern terminus. One thing that we didnt consider fully was how many people we would meet and become close with in that last month. We had a second hiker family that we never would have been a part of if we hadnt decided north.
I cant tell you what it would have been like flipping south, it probably would have been absolutely wonderful, but in the end I am so happy to have hiked in one beautiful line.
Whether we should flip or not. I was worried about the weather closing in on us as we neared the border so I wanted to flip North once we made it to Bridge of the Gods and hike SOBO back to Portland. I knew winter was coming early this year and I didnt want to be those hikers who were shutdown 20miles from the end after walking 2600. Miyagi wanted continuous footsteps north and I didnt blame her for that, but I though it was a poor reason for risking the completion of our hike. Anyway, we argued over it a lot and the compromise was to set a hard date for reaching the Bridge of the Gods. If we made it on or after September 12th we would flip north. We made it on September 10th and kept walking all the way to Canada. That crazy weather I was worried about hit the trail 24 hours after we finished. How’s that for Karma?
My favorite memory was getting to the top of Muir pass on my birthday. At that point we had been out of contact with the world for a while. Every pound on our backs really mattered so there were no stereotypical birthday gifts hidden in a pack. I have never been one for birthday celebrations, and this one made me so happy. I was happy to know that my happiness was totally because of this shared experience. I didnt need gifts, I didnt need candles. All I really needed to be happy was a shared bowl of shitty ramen that tasted like gold, a birthday kiss on the top of the world from a wild curly haired boy, and the magic of The High Sierra. I will spend the rest of my life finding moments like that.
Anytime we camped alone; surprisingly rare on the trail. But thats when the real conversations happen and the real tranquility of the trail sets in. It was nice to share those quiet moments with each other, even if one of them was interrupted by two large bucks trampling our campsite at 1am.
We probably should have brought two different containers to eat out of. We shared a stove which was fine, but we also shared a pot, which ended up meaning that we had to take turns eating dinner. This in itself was fine, but when you have someone who eats slowly, and someone who scarfs down their food like they are starving (which lets be real, with the amount of calories you are burning, you basically are) it becomes a problem.
Never put the female in charge of carrying the toilet paper! No, but seriously, more date nights. Sometimes you forget to keep those key relationship goals alive while out in the wild. Just because you are hiking doesnt mean the romance needs to stop. When we were in towns, we did our best to grab dinner and a movie but sometimes we were just to preoccupied with logistics. I wish we would have taken some extra days or half half days to leave the trail behind and just be!
7. Advice to couples who will be experiencing an upcoming thru-hiking together?
Make sure you continue to work on your relationship every day while on the trail. Do something for your significant other that isnt necessarily trail related that shows them you value them. Cooking for each other or doing chores for the other person can only be considered romantic for so long. I found that the hard part of hiking the trail as a couple didnt come until after the trail. When you are constantly relying on each other for survival for five months and then you go back into real life where you lead your independent lives, sometimes you need a reminder of why it is you chose to commit yourself to this person. For Dave and I, we are adventure buddies, we love each other, we love spending time adventuring in the outdoors together. But when that became our everyday life, I took it for granted. Its been a few months since the trail ended, we are finding that we need to continue to plan adventures together, and that is what makes us happy.
If you havent lived together for at least a year, watched the other person perform every bodily function known to man and/or have your own agenda for hiking the trail Dont go! Seriously, I look back on our hike and I cant give you the magical recipe for making it through still attached/attracted to your SO. But what I can tell you is never go to bed angry, hike alone once in awhile (It helps a lot) and remember that change in all forms is inevitable. Embrace it or perish!
8. Something you learned about your partner that you wouldn’t have without thru-hiking together?
I learned that I was the Thru Hike Romantic. This hike was Dave’s dream first. We talked about hiking it as a couple but for me it always took a turn on the back burner. I didnt know whether I wanted to hike a long distance trail, and because I didnt know, I constantly would find real life excuses not to do it. Dave decided he was going to hike the trail in 2016 and as soon as I knew he was serious about it I kept finding time to research it. Then I started to want to do it, and like every other thru hiker, as soon as I found myself seriously wanting to do it, I would sacrifice pretty much anything to hike from Mexico to Canada. As we were hiking we found that I was the purist, which is something I did not expect. Dave had been dreaming of this hike seriously since he was a kid and I had only been seriously dreaming of it for under a year. I was surprised anyone that it really mattered to me that we hiked the whole thing. I didnt care about hiking the original trail, I cared about hiking a I cared about hiking a continuos line. Where as Dave cared about hiking all of the miles not necessarily connected.
Her incredible resilience, steadfast perseverance and amazing talent for the visual arts! I had a clue about the talent but she keeps finding ways to surprise me, and I think herself, which is why I love her.
Photographs by Tommy Corey
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