Relationships that form over the course of hiking a long trail are transient, but they can also be transformational.
You might meet someone early on in your hike who, within a matter of days, gets to know the real you better than most people in the “real world” have ever known you.
Maybe you spend 24/7 together—for a day, a week, a month or for your entire thruhike. You share dozens of ramen dinners together. You wait for each other at more trail crossings than you can count. You look out for them during that thunderstorm when their fingers get so numb that they can’t zip up their rain jacket.
They look out for you when you get sick from eating that week-old cheese you insist on eating from the bottom of your food bag. You trudge through snow together, laugh hysterically at each other’s farts, beg for food from day hikers together, whoop in unison at glorious sunsets, and ford dangerous Sierra streams arm-in-arm.
You’ve even watched each other pee.
But when does a trail relationship actually end?
Is it the moment you step off the path where the two of you had been walking side by side for a thousand miles?
Is it the moment in Vancouver when he cut off his wild hair to symbolize the beginning of a new chapter in his life?
Is it the moment he got a tattoo to memorialize the ending of the chapter in his life of which you were a part?
Is it your last kiss before he steps onto a plane to return to a different country on another continent?
And is this really the end?
Or is it just the beginning of something else?
Trail relationships are “summer love” at its finest. They might be temporary, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. Trail relationships are like the trails upon which they form—they start wherever you are and take you where you need to go.
Trail relationships are beautiful reminders that, in the great scheme of things, you don’t actually have much time on this earth with the people you love. So love them hard and love them fiercely, because this moment is really all there is.
I am hiking the PCT as a fundraiser for girl empowerment nonprofits that are getting more young women outside. In these last weeks of my flip-flop thruhike, will you join me in supporting underprivileged girls to go on personal transformation journeys in nature?