7 tips for backpacking and a happy marriage

To celebrate 7 years of child-free marriage, Josh and I decided on a budget vacation the best way we know how: backpacking in the North Cascades. We spent two nights at Oval Lakes in the Sawtooth Wilderness, just south of Twisp, WA. And of course the pups came, because they believe there is nothing better in all the world than three days of walking, barking at ground squirrels, and pooping in the woods.

Josh and I came to marriage with different levels of outdoor experience and knowledge. He came with a full kit of high-tech lightweight backpacking gear (and a very nice chef’s knife), and a blueprint of the North Cascades in his blood. I came with a plastic-bodied Saturn that boiled break fluid when descending forest service roads, a 10 lb cotton/polyester Coleman sleeping bag, and a questionable sense of “north”. Our first date was an off-trail bushwhack to Riddle Peak, the last 1000 ft. through soft snow, thigh deep. When we arrived, Joshua was exuberant, radiant even, and I was in tears. Miraculously, neither of us called it quits after this.

Over the years we’ve learned a few things about how to make backpacking fun for both of us.

1. Let Gwen choose the trail. This prevents her from blaming Joshua when they encounter bugs/snow/bears/trees/dirt.

2. Acknowledge that the first day (which always starts with a climb) will be very hard for Gwen. The balance of dread and excitement will tip in favor of dread. Fear of unknown (snow levels, bears, adequate water, campsite) will make her anxious. She will make statements about hating the forest, nature, bugs, Joshua, and every living and green thing. She will swear she’s never doing this again. Do not react. She doesn’t mean it.

First Day

We call this Gwen’s “fake smile.” She’s not having fun yet.

3. Let Joshua choose the campsite. He knows that the “good” sites are generally several hundred feet above the designated campsites. Wait patiently while he climbs to scout it out and find “the perfect spot.” Set up camp while he climbs back down to fill up water bladders. Trust that he has always been right about the best campsites, and it will totally be worth that extra 500 ft. climb off-trail.


Josh knows how to pick ’em.

4. Wear out the dogs. If they are not bone tired, they will chase and bark at every snapping twig and every bird that tweets from the next valley over.

A squirrel could walk over them and they wouldn’t budge.

5. Give Josh time and space to meditate.


Even if you’re feeling antsy or want to discuss hamburgers, don’t interrupt.

6. Acknowledging that Gwen is risk-averse, gently encourage her to stretch her comfort zone. This might include scrambling up an 8000 ft. peak, or glissading 400 ft. with an ice axe. She’ll be very proud of herself for doing it once it’s over.

7. Be grateful that you married exactly the right person.



7 thoughts on “7 tips for backpacking and a happy marriage

    • Thanks! Your blog is GREAT! You’ve had so many opportunities to travel! A little jealous 🙂 Someday we hope to do a huge circuit of national parks, but it will have to be post-dogs.

      • Thank you very much! I think that would be a fantastic trip! I love the National Parks, but I still have a lot to see- I also have a dog, so I understand that responsibility! Hope you guys get to continue having many adventures together!

  1. This absolutely warms my heart. Thanks for the honesty about loving nature in your own way/comfort zone.

  2. Pingback: My dog needs a savings account | baD.I.N.K.adink

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