This blog post is just in time for Valentine's Day, and answers the question everyone seems to ask me, "why are you always outdoors with your dog and not your wife?" My wife Suzy and I have been together for nearly 14 years, it's not that she doesn't love the outdoors it's just after a few too many mishaps over the years, she prefers to let me do most of my adventures without her.
So after talking the other night we thought my mistakes might help some of you fellas out there thinking about taking the better half out into the woods with you, learn form my mistakes.
Suzy helped me with this list and reminded me of so many of the andidotes that make these stories funny yet nearly unbelievable. These are the top 3 in my opinion- I have so many though maybe I'll make this a series.
We used to have a 16' white water raft, it was a beast and had a steel 1 piece oar frame, it was all Suzy could do to muster the strength to help me set the thing up and take it apart. So for our maiden voyage we decided to go the Clackamas River one March day. The air was about 50 degrees but the water was around 40. We blew up the raft, set it in the river and thought we were all set, so we threw ourselves in and our dog at the time, Erwin who hated water....Not realizing that we should top off the raft after setting in in cold water the entire raft was like a giant trampoline or snake.
We started with the biggest rapid of the day only a few hundred feet from the put in, I rowed us out into the current, and lined us up to hit the wave dead center-to maximize the ride. We plowed into the wave and in an instance I watched Suzy go over one side, Erwin the other-and all this was an ariel view as I was pitched over them both and into the river. I felt the raft slide above me, grabbed the stern line and pulled myself back in the boat, in shock of course. I saw Erwin climbing the bank onto dry land, and saw Suzy flailing downstream until she grabbed hold of a boulder. "Hold on here comes the throw bag" I yelled. I wound up and let the throw line rip and I proceed to hit Suzy dead on in the face and knocked her glasses off into the river.
I was able to recover Suzy and Erwin both, bail out the raft, warm them up some and then proceeded to have the longest most uncomfortable boat ride of the day as Suzy couldn't see and was none too pleased.
It took me 3 months to get Suzy to go rafting with me after that trip.
Shoulder Season Hike, Indian Heaven Wilderness, WA
A friend invited us to go backpacking one year in October out into Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington. We jumped at the chance to get for the weekend, so we loaded up our packs with typical 3 season gear, loaded up our dog and our neighbor's 110lb dog and headed out. As we started down the Forest Service road we ran into about 2" of snow, the further we got towards the trail head the deeper it got, when we finally parked it was about 8"deep. We decided to give it a go, and Suzy seemed game despite the conditions.
The first 3 miles were straight up, as we climbed higher the snow got deeper and deeper. Suzy was a ways behind, but I knew she could make it. After hours of climbing and post holing we finally got to Twin Lakes, but they were under 6' of snow-woops. We decided it best to camp there and get a fire going. I set up our tent and figured Suzy would crawl in and get warm, but instead she said, "let's make a fire, or head home?" We only had about 2 hours of daylight left, so I knew the best thing to do was hang where we were and head out in the morning.
It took us an hour and half to find enough wood and get the fire going. 4 times I was able to get a small fire going only to have it burn out do to moisture. Finally we took a small candle stub, lit it and were able to build a nice fire off that. Suzy finally relaxed once she got warm by the fire, ate some food, and then crawled in her bag. The next day we woke to blue skys, packed up and headed home.
Suzy later told me "I never thought I was closer to death than that night, I was afraid I was going to freeze to death out there"
It took me 2 years and lots of reassurance to get Suzy to go backpacking with me again.
Cross Country Skiing-Fail
Suzy said she always wanted to try cross country skiing, so one day we headed up to Mt Hood to give it a go. I have cross country skied since I was a wee-tot growing up in New England, but Suzy being southern had never tried it. We rented some gear in Sandy and headed up to White River Snow-Park.
Suzy got on her gear and I locked her into her skis, which she described as "toothpicks". the trail started out level but then quickly came to a big climb. I said "it's easy just do what I do" and I skiied right up the hill. I turned around to see Suzy sliding backwards down the hill before crashing. Ever the optimist though, she got back up took 3 strides forward and then slid two back, this went on for about 30 minutes until she finally reached the top.
The next challenge was downhill, I showed her how to make a tele turn and then once again said "just do what I do, its' easy" and with that I glided down the trail. I then watched Suzy rapidly gain speed before she went crashing off the side of the trail. We then spent the next 4 hours navigating our way through the woods and back down the lower part of the glacier. It was a scence Suzy could go about 100' before either slipping, sliding or crashing.
At the end of the trip, she got in the car and started laughing-"Why in the hell does anyone do that, it's stupid. You use toothpicks to walk through snow, and going uphill yeah right that's a joke!"
Suzy has never cross country skied since that trip
What I have Learned
After many years of similar follies along the way I have become wiser and know what trips we should take together, and which ones I should go alone. Every year I make sure to take trips with Suzy car camping in the PNW or hiking in shorter miles to a fire tower, cabin or similar shelter during the shoulder and winter season.
I also learned that Suzy likes the slower paced activities. We often spend time snow shoeing together, going for short hikes in the gorge, and exploring the beaches of the Pacific.
I know that I will never stop exploring the back country and having adventures, I do know that Suzy will most likely not be with me for most of them though.
She will however always encourage me to go have my fun, in 14 years I have never been told I couldn't go on a trip be it a hike, a winter outing, or a fishing trip. I think if more marriages we're built on mutual respect and support of their partner's passions the world would be a happier place, and wives would not have to suffer by being cold standing out in the snow, hoping their stupid husband can get a fire going.
Happy Valentine's Day and here's to the one I love!