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Posing a Question Not Exactly for the Ages, but Not Bad for V-Day: Are Hikers Sexy?

If LMFAO wrote a song about hikers, would the lyrics be "I'm dorky and I know it"?

Maybe. Honestly, can hikers and backpackers be considered sexy? Hat hair. Sporks. Three-day stubble. (Y'know, in some circles the stubble thing might be a positive.) Are we trail hounds sagacious wilderness adventurers or just a gaggle of outdoor ragamuffins utterly unfamiliar with the tantric arts? (Note: Spreading sunscreen on a companion's neckline is not one of them.)

After traveling hundreds and hundreds of solitary backcountry miles, for me the question comes to mind nearly every Feb. 14—Face Reality Day, known elsewhere as Valentine's Day.

Are hikers sexy? Potentially, yes, though I'm guessing my ilk lags pretty far behind other outdoor types on the That's So Hot Index.

StarsSkiers? They score big, looking so consistently, endlessly fashionable, like steel-jawed aviators and computer-generated Prada models in a Vanity Fair spread on moguls. Snowboarders? Faintly intimidating, like James Dean, and ineffably hip.

Climbers? So valiant looking, with rope and hardware bandoliers adorning their pecs. Cyclists? A vision of aerodynamic cool in multihued, skin-squeezing bodywraps, a kinetic candy store that zooms through our consciousness in a blur. Surfers and swimmers? The gold standard for sensual outdoor fashion allure, coastlines set aglow by free-range loincloths and body paint.

So it's no surprise that for the 49th consecutive year Sports Illustrated has elected not to publish a Thru-Hiker Edition.


Six years ago in a column for The Seattle Times, pondering the gaping romantic void in my little black trail journal, I reflected on a comment of a New York woman recorded in a 2003 issue of Backpacker magazine: "A friend once told me that I should take up more expensive sports than hiking if I wanted to meet sexier men."

Ouch. Isn't that hitting below the hipbelt? Or does she have a point?

Maybe she does, so I continue to take desirability inventory on myself. To upgrade my outdoor vamp, maybe I should ditch the Gilligan-ish bucket hat or the Foreign Legion cape cap (I'm a fan of keeping my ears shaded) for something with a little more panache. A more dapper Dorfman, perhaps, or a swanky Tilley?

Years ago She's gotta be out thereI learned to pony up for wool T-shirts on long-haul trips; they're not nearly as odiferous as synthetics. (Fellow hiking dudes: Seriously consider a wool tee on your next multiday trek with a significant other; the fabric doesn't bank the stank nearly as much as synthetics. Here's some research I did on the topic.)

But that still leaves me flapping in the breeze with my shape-shifting cargo pants, the pockets loaded with gadgets, do-dads, chews and Bonk Breakers. And look, honey; we're 8 miles in, just 10 more or so to go. Care for a stroopwafel? (Hint: Say yes; funny name, but they're really good.)

We'll share peanuts (or nut butter, maybe), pemmican and a NUUN fizzie for lunch. Evening entertainment: a demo of all 17 functions of a Swiss Army knife while a Cyclopsy headlamp sits clamped to my forehead. Cologne? No. DEET? Yes.

Is anyone surprised that I'm still hiking solo? But girl (back in LMFAO mode here), look at that body; I work out.

I camp out, too. A lot. Am I making any progress here?

C'mon, on a sun-warmed midsummer day, with thousands of wildflowers at our feet, with ridgelines and lakes and meadows at every turn as our physical selves adapt to the flow of adrenaline, altitude, solitude and natural sensory overload, can you imagine a more heart-clutching place to be? Those are the moments when I like to believe, despite years of solitary backcountry travel, someday trail dust can turn into stardust for every hiker, regardless of one's individual trail-geek quotient.

Or is that just the delusional daydreaming of a hopeless, hapless trail romantic? Help me out here. What's your best advice for injecting some romantic vibes into an outdoor adventure? (I hear it's a smooth move to break out some really above-average dark chocolate bars in the campsite. Bonus points for embellishing it with dehydrated strawberries.) Beyond that, what are the traits you find most desirable in a potentially romantic trail partner? 

Photos above by Ted Chase; photo below by T.D. Wood.

Posted on at 10:54 PM

Tagged: Hiking and romance

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What is sexier than a couple coping with the elements together, maybe huddled in freezing weather, in snow flurries, no light, no fire, a bed of pine needles, and each other for pillows and warmth overnight....nothing gets more intimate than that! Or more real. The photos you capture of each other during those personal J Muir moments of awe and introspection, alone but one shares those memories or moments by eating out and dancing.
The flowers meadows provide are genuine surprises and gems. I have been in over my head in them, literally, and not a bouquet, but acres of them....forever planted and preserved in both souls. Yes, there are also those planned sweet moments like breaking out the little bottles of red wine you've carried all that way, to have with your extreme and divine chocolates.
But a hiker, especially backpacker is sexier than given credit for because only a person with a deep soul appreciates the elements. We challenge ourselves and support each other. Bandaging my wounded feet is manly...massaging my rigid and snapping IT band so I can sleep is generous to a fault. I know you climbed and descended all the same elevations i did, crossed the same rivers, swam in the same icy glacier lake surrounded by snow., swatted skeeters and biting black bugs, dodging rattlers and scorpions, and enjoyed it....I love you hiker-man! You are my valentines!

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