Most backpackers fantasize about meeting the man or woman of their dreams on the summit of a 14-er or on a trek through Nepal. The reality: Sometimes, we find love in unexpected places. When you find yourself dating or even—gasp!—married to an“indoor cat,” and those precious vacation days are at stake—it’s time to get creative.
Find a Hike With a Payoff
An uneventful, high-mile loop may not appeal to your city-slicker SO. Instead, consider choosing a trail with an enticing ending. A steamy hot spring and a stream-chilled beer can make even the ache of a 9-mile hike up a mountain seem worth it. Think private waterfall swims, glacial lakes, and rowdy rock formations to lift the spirits of a weary walkers.
Plan a Scavenger Hunt
Searching for specific wild species, birds, vegetation, and geological formations along the trail can help bookworms buy into a hike. Positive reinforcement, like a foot massage for every ten items found, always helps. Technology has opened up new possibilities for treasure hunters, too: Geocaching can be an exciting way to become engaged with the trail. More recently, there’s Pokémon Go, too—never underestimate the mountains a devout trainer is willing to climb for that rare monster
Pick a Meaningful Destination
Is your loved one a history buff? Trek through Civil War history along the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Is he or she obsessed with Lord of the Rings? Fly out to New Zealand and hike through the filming locations. Use your partner’s interest to thoughtfully select a hiking destination. You may find yourself struggling to keep pace as your partner races through World War II sites in the Black Forest of Germany.
Sometimes it isn’t the hiking that scares would-be trekkers off: it’s the sleepless nights in the tent, the thunderstorms, and the dirt. Consider taking your partner on a “luxury backpacking trip,” a hut-to-hut hike which entails days on the trails and nights in charming B&Bs. Nothing works like a 5-star dinner and bubble bath to rejuvenate for another day in the wilderness. Perk: Some services even offer to transfer your packs for you. Solid picks: Wales Coast Path, Pennine Way
Sweet treats and thoughtful trail mixes go a long way for boosting morale en route. Roasting s’mores under the stars is a universal, spiritual experience appreciated by even the least enthusiastic campers. Invest deeply in meal prep for trips, pulling out spices and fresh produce for exquisite pasta dishes and ornate cocktails—the culinary works. Plus, taking on the extra packweight for all those gourmet ingredients will even the playing field between you and your less-trained partner.
Bring the Romance
Sweeten your partner’s trail experience with a little seduction: Hike ahead to set up flowers, bring his or her favorite wine to set the mood. Embrace the cheese: Prepare a set of original romantic ballads to perform around the campfire. Nothing woos like a sunrise or sunset serenade overlooking the natural beauty of our world. Invest thoughtfully in the night’s camping location—somewhere private and scenic—and call the results a win-win.
Gear 'Em Up
Maybe your partner just doesn’t have the right gear. Take him or her on a shopping spree to score some modern, lightweight and supportive footwear. Once your partner has invested in some colorful new hiking duds, the urge to show them off may be too much to resist. Don’t forget to browse the more lovey-dovey gear selections: two-person sleeping bags, romantic picnic paraphernalia, and that perfect Bluetooth speaker for slow jams.
If all else fails, compromise: Have your partner drop you off at the trailhead and plan to meet up for more exciting sections or to share a night in a romantic, wooded cabin. Pick a multi-day hike that intersects nearby “greatest day hikes” for your partner to join in on. He or she can take part in your great adventure while keeping your pack light with the frequent resupplies.