How to Meet Your Next (Hiking) Partner/ A Love Note to My Hiking Partner
by Liz “Snorkel” Thomas
Last winter, I had a dream of hiking the Great Divide Trail through Canada but was not interested in going alone. On a trail riddled with grizzlies, glacial fords, and extensive bushwhacking, I wanted a partner to laugh through the good times and cry through the bad. The problem was, who could I sign up to seriously consider doing a trip like this? How would I find someone with the skills and experience necessary for such a hard hike?
The short answer was I found the perfect hiking partner at the ALDHA-West Ruck. At ALDHA-West events, there are plenty of folks from all over the region and country who “get” long distance hiking. They’re dedicated to long trails. Unlike your flaky non-hiker friends, ALDHA-West event attendees make hiking happen—not just talk about it. ALDHA-West event attendees know what it means to save money and make time for walking.
I’d met Naomi a few times before but didn’t really know her that well before the 2016’s ALDHA-West Rucking season. After bringing the idea up to her at the Cascade Ruck (admittedly, over many beers), I brought it up again a month later when I saw her at the Colorado Ruck (admittedly, over many glasses of wine).
The GDT had been on Naomi’s list, but like me, she didn’t want to go alone. Despite living in the hiker-filled Pacific Northwest, hunting down someone willing to commit to the GDT isn’t easy. Instead, she found a partner in someone who lives 1,000 miles away: me. The Rucks were a great opportunity to talk trail, logistics, and feel each other out as hiking partners before committing. I like to compare it to taking your pooch to a dog park. We sniffed each other out and got a feel for the other’s hiking style. I must have passed the sniff test because several weeks later, she sent me an email saying she was in.
Naomi and I held several planning meetings on the phone, got together maps, figured out resupply, gear lists, and booked our transportation. We agreed to meet in Kalispell, Montana and take care of our last-minute logistics the day before. She picked me up with my 40-pound box of hiker food. The next day, we went to an Office Max to buy boxes to ship our resupplies. And then, I knew I had made the best choice ever.
As our Altras hit the linoleum of that Big Box store, it was as if we were a marching band. The click of our footsteps on the ground was timed perfectly. Our pace was identical.
Despite the weather, grizzly, and bushwhacking the trail threw at us, the trip was a complete success. I learned we share a foodie’s love for fine dining while hiking and a fondness for nice soap. I always had faith in her ability, strength, and skill.
If you’re looking for the perfect hiking partner, the ALDHA-W Rucks are a great way to gather with your local hiking community, meet people from afar, and talk trail. Who knows? Maybe you’ll strike gold and find someone worth spending a hundred miles with.