This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
I finish the AT, I go back to Alaska and I get a job, intending to put my head down and work for a few years until I have the money to go adventure again. Then Shake’nBake comes to visit and everything changes. I never learned how to listen to my body on the trail, but I did learn how to listen to my heart. It’s no secret that I fell in love on the PCT, not just with the wilderness and the mountains, but also with the man walking beside me. There’s so much red tape to keep us apart though, and I find wading through it as I try and get a visa slower and more frustrating than the hardest days on a thru hike.
Spring comes and I find myself quitting my job yet again, this time not for a trail. Quitting my job with the changing of the seasons has become as natural as watching the leaves bud and the flowers bloom. I can’t work in Canada, and can only be there for six months, but it doesn’t matter. It’s time to do something crazy yet again. There’s an adventure right off the bat, of course, since Shake’nBake knows me better than anyone else. We drive two hours south of Ottawa to Kingston. We’ll spend a week paddling back home. We camp at the lock station at Kingston Mills as Shake’nBake’s friends trickle in. There’s a group of ten, although our numbers will fluctuate as people leave to go to work, or join our little flotilla. We start our morning with our first portage. I throw my pack on my back, our food barrel on my front, grab the paddles and Chester the adorable dog. Shake’nBake takes his pack and balances the canoe on his shoulders. We make it in one easy trip, but our friends don’t have the thru hiking packing light mentality and it takes them an extra trip or two. Finally, we are on the water and I fall in love a little. I have plenty rafting experience, but this is my first real time paddling a canoe. I immediately love the easy way we glide forward, our constant forward progress and the way the lakes and rivers open up a whole new world. We’re not at the mercy of the current like in a raft and the lack of whitewater makes it easy to relax. We spend a week paddling back to Ottawa, portaging locks and fighting waves on lakes. By the time we make it back to Ottawa, Ontario feels a little more like home. The downtime between adventures is hard. I came to Canada without a visa, sick of waiting and long distance, and demoralized by all of the hoops I can’t jump through, so I am unable to work. I explore the city by bike, finding new favorite book stores and donut shops, but I’ve never been very good at downtime. Then we go to the Yukon. It only took moving thousands of miles away for me to visit the territory right next to Alaska. Shake’nBake is supporting some friends who are doing a canoe race. Then finally the race is over and the fun begins. We hike in Tombstone Territorial park, then find a canoe for a three day trip down the Yukon. After, it’s back to Ottawa and I feel like we’re running out of time together. Shake’nBake has had a trip to Europe planned for the better part of a year, but it’s expensive for my unemployed butt, and besides, I’d rather go hiking. I’ve been thinking about the Long Trail since I finished the AT, and my knee is finally doing well enough to attempt it. With the deadline of leaving for different countries hanging over us, and visa red tape making it hard to be together, Shake’nBake and I make a decision that we hope will make it easier. We go to an officient’s house. He takes my hands in his. I slide a ring onto his finger and he slips one on mine. We both say a few words, and then we are married. I thought the story I’ve been sharing here for the last few years was an adventure story, but really, it was just as much a love story. We still have a lot of steps to take until we can be together properly, without worrying that we’ll have to go back to long distance. But we’re used to hard journeys and there’s no one else I’d rather walk next to on this adventure. So, Shake’nBake, I’ll always get the ursacks if you make the coffee. I’ll always help you punch raccoons in the face. And I will never, ever leave you on a windy ridge. You’ve made every step I’ve taken in the past three years so much better and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life sharing adventures with you.