For every flame of passion sparked in the great outdoors, dozens of relationships have gone up in smoke. However; gentle readers of the Outdoors & Travel section tell us that a match made in the mountains in enduring - and never dull. Here’s a sampling of readers whose relationsips have survived the bond of sweat, dirt, blood and blisters.
1. Phil and Elisa Kiesewetter, Coeur d’Alene
After eight years of marriage, “we’ve been on a lot of adventurous trips together, with many more to come, I’m sure,” said Phil. The photo they sent shows Elisa catching a quick nap after climbing an old mule trail 3,000 feet in three miles through clouds of black flies.
This just whetted the couple’s appetite for love and misery. Next they took off for a year-long camping trip across North America.
The most strenuous part of that trip has endured as the most memorable, they say.
On the Chilkoot Trail out of Skagway, Alaska, Phil said they had to hitchhike at night to the trailhead before enduring “rain for the entire three-day, 33-mile hike.”
“We had no water purification equipment, so we packed a small vial of bleach. Our water tasted like pool water with added chlorine. We saw large bear tracks. We saw mutilated salmon.
“Chilkoot Pass is a 3.5-mile scramble with 2,500 feet elevation gain over boulders ranging from the size of grapefruits to the size of small freight cars.
“We remember putting more layers of clothing on, but neither of us recalls taking anything off until the trip was over.”
After an hour-long shower behind the gas station back in Skagway, “my Valentine said it was the hardest trip she’d ever been on,” Phil recalled. “She still has the walking stick she picked up along the trail. We bought souvenir T-shirts. We both loved it.”
2. Margaret and Jim Egeland, Spokane
“When I married Jim, I realized how important hunting was to him,” Margaret said. “I was determined not to be a hunting widow. So with Jim as my mentor, I learned to hunt.”
A sort of epiphany in this relationship occurred last year during the late big-game hunting season, when the couple surprised 10 elk in the forest near Cle Elum.
They uncapped their muzzleloader rifles and took aim.
“We both shot, and both elk dropped,” she said. “Jim and I have hunted together for many years, but this trip when we got our elk together was magical and, yes, romantic.”
3. Karen and Jim Schlosser, Spokane
“Love was definitely in the air after I discovered what my boyfriend, now husband, had done so we could spend a weekend together at Mount Rainier,” said Karen.
They had met in college, but during summer, Karen lived with her parents in Puyallup and Jim lived with his in Spokane. The separation was difficult.
Their eager plans for a camping rendezvous that summer were nearly dashed by Jim’s employer, who cut him no slack in the work that needed to be done.
Jim’s summer job was cutting grass and digging graves at a Spokane cemetery. But to have enough time to complete the trip, he have enough time to complete the trip, he needed most of Friday off.
“Being a hard worker, and not wanting to spoil our weekend plans, Jim and his best friend spent the night in the cemetery mausoleum,” Karen said. “They got up at 3:30 a.m. and completed their work by noon.
“Now that is true love for a girl. Definitely one weekend neither of us will forget.”
4. Tina and Eric Christianson, Spokane
For Eric and Tina, the trip to hell ended up in heaven.
In 1994, Eric was riding high. “I was dating a beautiful young lady, who could only have been described as a true city girl,” he said. “Tina was 5-foot-3, 100 pounds, a second-grade teacher, a gentle person with long, painted nails. Tina had no real experience in the outdoors, but was a master at libraries, bookstores and such.”
Only the miracle of love saved Eric from his next, less than well-researched move.
“I talked Tina into a 10-day backpacking trip through the North Cascades.”
That might have been bad enough, but the first day, with fully loaded packs, Eric led his hiking-novice girlfriend on a “scenic route” to the Pacific Crest trail that turned out to be “unmaintained and overgrown with every type of sticker bush God has created.
“Three bridges had washed out and we had to ford three creeks that, for Tina, were waist deep.”
“I have spent much of my life in the outdoors,” Eric said, “but had never experienced deer flies as thick and hungry as that day.”
It gets worse.
After six miles of “absolute misery,” the couple realized they weren’t going to make their link with the PCT. So they had to turn around and retrace the six miles through hell.
“That was the most miserable day we had ever endured,” Eric said.
At the end of the day, “Tina’s arms and legs looked like a cat’s scratching post,” he said. “Upon arrival back at the start, after a bath in a glacier-fed creek, I thoroughly expected Tina to cancel the trip - and I would have agreed.”
But not only was she willing to continue, she was eager, he said.
The couple started up a different trail the next day, and found a new beginning.
Remembering the subsequent night near Image Lake, with Glacier Peak in the backdrop, Eric said, “We climbed back out onto the ridge and sat out on a rock with a 360-degree view in the middle of a field with wildflowers in the peak of bloom.
“Through the light of the beautiful setting sun and rising full moon, we read poems of Robert Frost and made up a few of our own. We sipped brandy and smooched long into the night.”
They married a year later, and still celebrate that moonlit night on the ridge.
5. Lois and Jim Scott, Sandpoint
Fifty-five years later, Jim Scott can admit that his invitation was “a disguised attempt to see if she liked to hike.”
Lois McKenna had just graduated from college when she joined Jim and his family for the campout in Yosemite National Park.
“Lois and I stood together and I pointed to Glacier Point,” he said. Without hesitation, the couple climbed the Ledge Trail, gaining 3,400 in elevation in 2.5 miles.
“Lois did very well, being light and agile,” he said. Admittedly, however, Jim was apprehensive about how she would react to discovering there was a paved road to the top.
“Back at camp, we both agreed it was a thoroughly enjoyable hike.” he Said. Indeed, following days they made numerous other climbs.
Their photo shows Jim washing Lois’s hair on that campout. A little grayer, but still nimble, the Scott’s continue to return occasionally to treasured spots in Yosemite.
6. John and Liz Little, Spokane
There was still room for an epic moment in their marriage, even after 28 years.
John and Liz were hiking with friends last spring in Havasu Canyon of Northern Arizona.
Lured by the spectacle of bluegreen waterfalls spilling through red rock, the group decided to descend to the base of 200-foot Mooney Falls.
Edward Mooney discovered the falls in the 1800s, but killed himself trying to make a similar descent.
This weighed heavy on Liz, who had always had a fear of heights.
Group member Joe Collins, a long-time Spokane Mountaineer, assured Liz she could make it down and out.
“But a quarter of the way down the rock, which had some stakes and chains on which to grasp, Liz could go no further,” John said. “Emotions arose.”
Rising to resolve the impasse and rescue his wife from this psychological torture, John declared they must abort the the feat and retreat to safety.
That’s all it took. Liz was determined to finish.
With Collins above and John below, “we gradually made the descent to the base of the most beautiful water falls on earth,” he said.
“We were elated with not only the site, but with the accomplishment. Taking the first step to overcome our fears is a wonderful feeling.
“Sharing a place like Havasu Canyon with the one you love is a blessing. Overcoming a barrier together is even sweeter.”
7. Jim and Sheila Wagner-Harless, Spokane
Heading outdoors is a regular thing for Sheila and Jim, who find plenty of time to get out together even though they have come to prefer paddling solo canoes.
The photo they sent shows the couple joining gunnels and lips last year while paddling the wild Green River in Utah.
Said Jim, “We have no cute Valentine’s Day story, as moments such as those in the picture were quite brief.”
Pray tell, why?
“I had convinced Sheila to carry the human waste receptacle in the back of her boat.”
8. Marcia Johnson and Tom Blackadar San Leandro, Calif.
The bride and groom stood on an altar of snow. The wedding reception was held a short ski tour away at a natural hot spring.
Marcia Johnson, a Spokane native, married Tom Blackadar on New Years Day last year near a friend’s cabin in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area of Idaho.
“It as the perfect spot for our ceremony,” Marcia said.
“The honeymoon was a month of traveling in Tibet, devoid of usual honeymoon comforts.” No privacy, no bathing, no toilets, no paved roads and no fine dining.
“It was definitely a relationship test,” she said, noting that the result has been a resounding success.
9. Grace and Genro Sato, Nine Mile Falls
During their May honeymoon to Alaska, “It was love at first strike,” said Genro.
Grace’s 40-pound halibut was the largest on the charter boat that day. The love-struck couple brought back fond memories and 80 pounds of halibut fillets to savor the trip for months.
The honeymoon was perfect, Genro said, “except it was a little early for the salmon runs.”
Nadean and Bill Meyer, Spokane
As 20-year-old newlyweds in 1973, Bill and Nadean Meyer set out from California near the Mexico border to hike north back to Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The photo they sent to The Spokesman-Review shows the couple with what was then a revolutionary Jansport dome tent the company had given them to test on the trip.
Bill and Nadean were on the trail six weeks, averaging 12-17 miles a day, before abandoning the trip after Nadean hurt her knee.
But six weeks on the trail was enough to make an adventure they’ve cherished without dousing their marriage or their yen for the outdoors. Now they camp and hike with their teenagers.
Which brought the Spokesman-Review Outdoor Romance editor to ask one irresistible question: What would you say if one of your kids, at the age of 20, told you he or she was going to get married and hike 2,300 miles for a honeymoon?
“I’d say the same thing my dad told us,” Bill said. “You’re nuts!
“And just like us, they’d probably go off and do it anyway.”
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