Even though Jeff and I have been married seven years, it is a new experience to be together 24 hours a day – much of it in just a few square metres of space.
The mundane intimacies of hiking à deux become our new normal. We know each other’s cat shovel habits, we inhale each other’s unwashed skin when we undress, check each other for ticks like a pair of grooming monkeys – we even share a toothbrush.
It’s not just the being together that is novel, it’s the absence of anyone else. Some days, we walk in virtual silence for hours, lost in our own worlds; but it never feels awkward (unless one of us is sulking). Other days we talk incessantly or we play games, like Mr & Mrs, Who am I? or The A to Z of… fruit/sports brands/songwriters/positive adjectives (the options, as Jeff will attest, are endless).
We learn a lot about each other, and some of what we thought we knew before the trip is challenged. Jeff is a surprisingly good motivator (‘we’ve broken the back of it now, Sam’ ‘Just over this hill and it’ll get easier…’). The more I wane, the greater use he makes of his Mr Motivator act. But he’s also more of a worrier than I expected – and I learn early on that he operates best with a firm plan and goal for the day (or any given time period). Being the sole competent navigator, he feels a weight of responsibility for us out here. My tendency to vaguely hope for the best in a non-committal fashion drives him nuts.
He also finds me stubborn (especially when it comes to the consumption of caffeinated drinks) but is surprised by my resilience and my ability to cope with situations that I know in advance I’ll find difficult (see Pride comes before The Falls for an example).
One of the more challenging things is being under each other’s constant observation. It’s not intentional, but when you only have each other for company, you become hyper observant of every nuance of the other’s mood, every aspect of their behaviour. ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘You’re in a funny mood…’ ‘Why are you doing that?’ we say to each other.
Morris is our saviour, because he gives us a different – external – focus and, quite frequently, makes us laugh our socks off. All three of us have become closer on the trail. I just wonder how we’re going to wean him off crawling under the bed covers when we get home…