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Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cyndie and Pat Killien: Hiking (and rafting) toward matrimony

Pat Killien met his future wife, Cyndie, during a group hike to Palouse Falls. They bonded over hikes they’d done and rivers they’d run. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Pat Killien met his future wife, Cyndie, during a group hike to Palouse Falls. They bonded over hikes they’d done and rivers they’d run. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

I met Cyndie on a group hike of 65 people at Palouse Falls on March 15, 2014. I had lost my wife a year earlier to Alzheimer’s and was looking for a hiking partner, not a wife. My friends had told me I should go on group hikes because that’s where I’d meet someone. I didn’t believe I’d meet someone that way and was on the hike because I liked to hike and the Palouse River Canyon.

I spotted Cyndie early on as the only person in the group even remotely possible as a potential mark. I was having trouble finding a good way to make an entry but got my chance late in the morning. We were hiking down a steep slope and she told the lady she was hiking with that “if this were a river trip there’d be a boatman here to hold your hand down this steep slope.”

Cyndie and Pat Killien were married during a two-week rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. One of their river guides performed the ceremony.
Cyndie and Pat Killien were married during a two-week rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. One of their river guides performed the ceremony.

That was my opening. I was near enough to her to hear the comment and asked her what river she had been on. She replied that she had done the Grand Canyon on a two-week trip in a paddle boat. Having done multiple river trips myself, including the Grand Canyon five times, I was obviously interested in this lady. We walked side by side for the next 30 minutes or so leading up to a lunch break, talking the whole time about river trips, hiking, etc. At lunch she sat down on a rock, I sat down next to her expecting her friend to join us. For some reason she didn’t, so Cyndie and I spent the entire lunch break talking about outdoor adventures, what we’ve done and what we’d like to do. In my case, it was mostly what I’d done and in her case it was mostly what she’d like to do. I told her my wife had passed away and I was not interested in a relationship but just looking for someone to do stuff with. She bit, and we exchanged names and phone numbers and I agreed to call her later in the week and set something up. It didn’t hurt also that we hiked together the rest of the afternoon and in the process learned quite a bit about each other.

I called Cyndie a few days later and we agreed to meet and hike that weekend. We had so much fun that at the end of the hike we agreed to meet the following weekend and do it again. Cyndie was still working and lived in Moses Lake. I was retired and living in Spokane. I had many varied interests and friends in Spokane to do stuff with so this was the perfect arrangement.

As time rolled on, our hikes took on multiday trips but we continued to be just friends. It took about five months for me to come to the conclusion that I was having so much fun with her that if she were to start dating some guy I wouldn’t be too happy. So I took things into my own hands and one bluebird day on a mountain with a gorgeous view of Mount Rainier, I kissed her and drew the response, “What was that about?” I said maybe there’s more to this than just the hiking.

A year later, we were in Switzerland hiking in the Alps. She left a few days earlier than me to join her son’s family in Germany. I stayed back a few more days and hiked and in that time realized I couldn’t live without her. I proposed to her in October, a proposal that came out of the blue since we hadn’t discussed marriage.

Not being able to agree when and where to get married, life went on with no wedding date in sight. In April 2016 while on a two-week river trip in the Grand Canyon, I asked one of the boatmen if any of them could do weddings. Our boatman that day, a man I knew from previous trips, said he could. I looked at Cyndie and asked her what she thought of that. It didn’t take long for her to agree, and we were married on the banks of the Colorado River at Mile 143 in Grand Canyon. We walked under crossed oars, the passengers threw rice and we took three laps around the eddy in a dory with “Just Married” written on it in duct tape and empty beer cans dangling from the side.

We are living in Spokane, happily married and still hiking and taking adventure travels. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

– Pat Killien

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