Anyone who knows me knows that I hate three things: bananas, people who sing along loudly to songs they don’t know the words to, and hiking. Hiking never hurt my family; I didn’t get molested by a mountain lion while wearing Timberlands. I have no reason to hate it. I just do. Excessive aerobic energy spent on aimlessly wandering through nature? Why? Netflix has Planet Earth on instant play. Tahoe has ski lifts. The Internet exists. I appreciate the pioneers’ trek across the plains so much that I make it a point to luxuriate in the lack of need I have to trek. I’m honoring them. To me there is no reason to walk to a place that I can easily drive to in 1/20th the time. No reason, except for my ultimate weakness: cute guys.
In my life I have hiked for boys three times.
“I’m in town for one more day and I want to see you, but I’m going hiking.” The last word reverberated in my head like a miner in a cave. I had been waiting since I was 14 years old for Spencer to want to spend time with me in a romantic fashion. I didn’t even own tennis shoes for if I wanted to hike with him, which I did not. I ran it by my mom. “It’s your last chance to make an impression before he leaves again for college.” “But it’s hiking!” I tossed and turned and awoke at 6AM to tell Spencer “I’m down,” empowered by the promise of romance. An hour later, we piled into his mom’s car, me squished in between his younger brother and his friend who struggled on the deodorant front. I was wearing this one-piece which rode up in places that made difficult conditions for optimal flirting. Between sweating, heaving and strenuous climbing I did my best to convince Spencer to love me. We made it to the natural waterslides an hour and a half later. I pulled off my slip-on vans to reveal raw heels. Of course I didn’t wear socks. I don’t hike! I am unfamiliar with the special footwear requirements for said activity. The waterslides turned out to be fun, the day cumulating with Spencer lying out next to me and telling me how “cool” I was for “wearing a modest swimsuit.” I allowed the energy of this compliment to carry me back to the car, feet blistering, non-waterproof mascara (rookie mistake) running down my face.
“Cait, I want to double with Michael. Can you ask your friend Emma to come? Michael has a huge crush on her.” “Okay, as long as you don’t make me exercise.” Cut to me trudging uphill for an hour in the pitch black blindly feeling our way towards the hot springs with only the sulfur smell to guide us. “Ug, I think I just stepped in something,” Emma complained. I shined the light from my phone onto her white (now multicolored) Keds. “That’s bear poop…fresh bear poop,” I responded. “There is a bear in close proximity, now devoid of excess weight, ready to eat again.” We looked at each other and back at our dates. “Emma,” I whispered, “there’s no way our dates will be able to fight off a bear.” Emma’s eyes widened in unison with mine. Our fates were sealed. We were going to get mauled by a bear on this mediocre double date. We made it to the hot springs unscathed, somehow. By this point we were so mad at our dates that we decided they didn’t deserve to see us in our swimsuits. The boys waded in the smelly pit for about 20 minutes, unaware of obvious social cues, before we made the two-hour silent hike back to the car. Michael’s wooing attempts were futile. Noah’s and my friendship has suffered ever since.
Pioneer Day, 2007. Yes, Utah celebrates Pioneer Day. I had stalked Maddie the previous Sunday during dorm visiting time and his friend texted me a day later to invite me to “go camping” with them; camping with strangers? I was young and naive. I somehow convinced Tay to come with me, mostly because there was no school and at this particular time in my life I was very convincing, or so I am told. We gathered up our blankets and pillows, as we didn’t have any camping-related supplies and met Maddie, Colt, and Nate outside of the dorms. We ended up driving to an abandoned cul de sac and parked near nature. The boys had Tay and I set up our beds in the back of Colt’s Ford explorer while they slept across from us in Nate’s truck “to protect us.”
I dozed off a couple times but awoke shortly thereafter to ensure that my imminent future husband couldn’t hear my snoring. I awoke from my final 5-minute nap around 5 AM by my own snort and looked over in horror to see if Maddie had noticed. A pile of blankets lay where Maddie was supposed to be. Delirious from a sleepless night, I got out of the trunk, climbing over a knocked-out Tay, and started searching for Maddie. I spotted him about a mile away on top of this cement pipe connecting two grassy hills. Wading through spiky weeds and pointed brush I made my way to the pipe, propelled by a moment of secluded conversation. As I approached the pipe Maddie looked up from his stupor of thought with a puzzled look. “Hi!” he said. “Morning,” I said, trying to not smile too big. I sat myself next to him careful to not slip and fall to my death and careful to not let him see that I was terrified of heights. Together we watched the sun rise on the cookie-cutter housing complex that lined Happy Valley, pondering the meaning of life. I couldn’t help but think that I would walk anywhere for this boy and a few weeks later he would tell me the same.