When Kyle and I began hiking together we pretty quickly fell into patterns and practices that we have continued to use whenever we backpack. We each ended up having our own roles that needed to be filled every single day, our own sets of tasks and chores.
I am the alarm clock and I wake up early. On the AT I was waking up as the very first rays of sun filtered down through the trees or the very first bird called out to us. I try to stay still and wait for Kyle to wake up but it never takes long. He claims he can feel me staring at him, my eyes pull him out of a deep sleep and into the day. He usually puts up a fight but as an alarm clock I am pretty persistent. Once we are awake it is his job to go get the food bags from wherever we hung them the night before and it is my job to pack up everything inside the tent. When he gets back I usually make breakfast while he starts to gather his things into his pack and check out our water situation. Usually if we are low on water he goes and gets some. Then we eat breakfast, take down the tent together, and pack our packs. After I force him to do a little stretching we are on our way.
I always hike in front. We started this on the AT because I hiked slower than Kyle so I needed to be in front to pace him. Now it is a habit and a order that just feels right. We typically hike continuously, interrupted only by views, picture taking, and snack breaks, which Kyle insists on. One thing that is changing about how we hike is who takes the pictures. On the AT I was the camera carrier and photographer but with the purchase of Kyle’s new camera that duty has shifted onto his shoulders. We also stop to filter water, which both of us despise but both of us partake in, one of us squeezing the filter and the other one holding the receptacle.
When we finally get to camp at night we reverse our mornings actions. Together we set up the tent and then dump the contents of our packs out inside. I hop into the tent and begin to un-stuff stuff sacks and organize while Kyle goes to get water. When he gets back I have usually moved on to getting the stove going and dinner cooked. After dinner it is Kyle’s job to “do” the dishes. This means adding water, rinsing, and drinking the dredges. Yum. Together we hang the bear bags or put the food bags on the bear pole. Then we climb into our tent and read or write until bedtime. I always fall asleep first. Kyle waits for me to be asleep before passing out himself. And thus we have shared the load that is backpacking. Some days are shitty for me and Kyle takes on more of the load and sometimes I pick up the slack for him.
But it isn’t just the chores and tasks that we have divvied up. It goes deeper than that. I am the one who chats with strangers and hitches for rides. Kyle is the one who tells the story of how I got my trail name. Kyle is the one who makes me laugh, he is the comedian all day long. And I am the one whose job it is to laugh it off, laugh off anything that is hard or challenging or that seems hopeless. I put on the positive happy face and push through everything. Kyle gives me hugs and tickles me with his beard. I have the big ideas and the passion to fulfill them, Kyle fine tunes and keeps me on track. Together we make a team that is balanced but flexible. We don’t only share a stove and food and a sleeping bag. We share everything else that comes along with an adventure.