Editor’s Note: Stories have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Whether holding hands with your kiddo during their first hike or bumping into the person who becomes your partner on a summit, many of us have that one most magical moment of love. This season, we’re celebrating those small moments, when love takes hold in the great outdoors. We asked for your tales, and you offered them with abandon. These are our favorite love stories, as told by you.
By Nicole A.
My alarm blared early one cool April morning, almost coinciding with my mom’s knock at my door. “Nikki, let’s go,” she whispered hoarsely.
The hike was her idea—in her merciless effort to set me up with virtually any eligible bachelor, she was bent on getting me on a group hike with her coworkers, one of whom she was certain was perfect for me.
I, for my part, was just happy to have her hike with me, and perhaps a bit hopeful that the arduous Mailbox Peak Old Trail would teach her a lesson (or two) about butting into my love life. We set off for the trailhead and started huffing up the near-vertical trail as the sun rose slowly behind us, with aforementioned bachelor nowhere in sight. As it turned out, he’d decided not to come.
I wheedled and cajoled my inexperienced-but-fit mother up the mountain, helped her put on my spare microspikes when we finally hit snow, and demonstrated far more patience than I think she had ever seen from me. The soreness in her thighs would, I figured, teach her more than my snippiness ever could (and it did, as did the toenail she lost in the process).
When we reached the summit, I saw her and fell in love instantly. She was young, fit, and had the most beautiful brown eyes, charming every passerby on the summit block. “Can I pet her?” I said to the human attached to her leash, a man about my age in a brown baseball cap. “Yeah, sure,” he said as she bounded up to lick my face, “Her name is Muna.” She was a chocolate Lab, and I was certain I’d never seen anything so perfect.
“I can hold her leash if you want,” I said quickly as I noticed him fumbling to rummage through his pack one-handed while trying to restrain her. “Sure,” he said.
“I’m Nicole,” I said as I reached for the leash. “I’m Mike,” he replied. We wound up chatting for a short while on the summit block before leaving at roughly the same time and leapfrogging most of the way down the steep initial descent. I would stop to help my mom down the slippery parts she was afraid of, and he stopped to move Muna out of the way of oncoming foot traffic.
Mike later told me that he tried—repeatedly—to ditch me (what a charmer), but Muna wasn’t having it. Every time he tried to pull ahead she’d lag behind, glancing back at us. By the time we reached the more evenly-graded portion of the trail, Mike and I were hiking together a little bit ahead (by design—although he wasn’t the specific eligible bachelor she’d hoped for, he seemed nice enough for my mom’s standards).
But every time we sped up too much Muna would sit and whine until my mom came back into view. We were part of Muna’s pack now, and we had to stick together. Four and a half miles later we exchanged numbers (he put himself in as “Mike and Muna”) and I bid my furry friend and her owner goodbye.
The three of us continued to hike together for a few months; every time Mike drove, Muna would bound into my lap for the entire car ride, melting right into my skin. I fell in love over and over and over again. Our hiking went on a yearlong hiatus when I started dating someone else (our relationship had never been overtly romantic before), but when we resumed our shenanigans with a 3am hike in August this past year, Muna jumped out of a car window just to see me—even after a year of absence. True love, right?
Within a month, Mike and I finally got our act together and started dating, and now I spend all of my free days hiking or snuggling with Mike and Muna (now named the world’s best wing-dog), all under the shadow of the peak that started it all.
By Lindsey E.
He never saw it coming.
I had been telling him for years I had no interest in getting married.
But with every step we kicked on the way to the summit, all I could think about was what I would say—the poetry I would spout as I told him how much I loved him. How much hiking the AT had meant to me. How glad I was that he was around.
But when we finally summited Mount Rainier, all I could manage in the moment was to look at him and blurt out, “Hey, would you want to marry me?”
He was stunned and excited all at the same time. I could see it in his eyes and the blush creeping into his cheeks. A bone-crushing hug followed, and we stared out at the lights of the Puget Sound far below.
There is no love stronger than that between two adventure partners.
By Aubree P.
My girlfriend and I took a life-changing road trip this past New Years. We camped in snow-covered Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and even made it through Monument Valley in a 9 degree snowstorm.
To make it even better, we had our 1-year-old pup with us experiencing snow for the first time. Every time we made a snow angel, she got on her back and made one too.
In Monument Valley, we kept crossing paths with a mysterious pup and wondered if she had a home and why she was sleeping out in the freezing cold. Eventually, we found out her whole litter had been abandoned a few months before. It felt like fate. We had to rescue this dog. And so we did.
We’ve had her for just over a month and we’ve noticed significant changes in her body. Took her to the vet and, sure enough, she’s pregnant. She is the sweetest girl and we’re excited to help deliver the pups in a safe, warm place. Everyone and everything deserves love and I’m so glad we all found each other.
By Brisa H.
There were supposed to be 12 of us on the trail that morning. In December of 2017 I had signed up to attend a hike organized by a fellow member of a Facebook group. I had arranged to drive with the organizer, Lauren, and Jen, another attendant.
Reminiscing on the event months later, Jen told me she remembered thinking that “it was too late to back out,” and that now she “had to show up.” But on the day of the hike, nine of the other women felt differently. One by one, the excuses rolled into Lauren’s phone. “I guess it’s just the three of us!” Lauren said cheerfully, as we pulled out of the Greenlake Park and Ride in Seattle and made our way to Skookum Flats, a few hours away.
The ride passed quickly, filled with your typical get-to-know-you questions. What do you do? When did you move here? How long have you been hiking? Jen was sitting behind me, and I never got a good look at her until we exited the car.
There’s a universal feeling, or knowing, when one looks at a prominent peak or a beautiful mountain range. The overwhelming awe that sweeps over you in that moment is the only comparison I can think of to describe how I felt when I first truly saw Jen.
My attraction became a crush rather quickly, as her witty banter and New Yorker sass kept me smiling on the trail. Having known me less than four hours, she was already teasing me like we were lifelong friends. After the hike, I suggested the three of us grab a burger at a local restaurant, to which she replied, “Oh my God, I love you.” We celebrated the fact that we were three carnivorous lesbians, and enjoyed a post-hike meal before parting ways.
After that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Jen, so I asked her to join me on another hike. This time we drove for four hours, to Ape Cave, near Mount St. Helens. The entire way, we laughed and talked easily, we talked about our favorite year of grade school, which hikes we had on our bucket lists, whether we preferred sunrise or sunset.
When we arrived at the trailhead, we donned our headlamps and continued an endless conversation through the dark lava tubes under the Earth. I thought about kissing her, but was nervous that I was misreading signals. After our underground adventure, I asked if she wanted to grab lunch on the way back, to which she asked if we should extend our travel into Portland. This girl had my heart.
Sure enough, the time between our adventures kept growing smaller and smaller, until we found ourselves rock climbing on Valentine’s Day. There was no denying that I was falling for her, but she had expressed a desire to be single. Two weeks later, during what had now become a nightly texting session, she asked me out. I had been discussing my love for ABBA when she casually replied, “Would you take a chance on me?” Stunned, I had to confirm she was asking me out on a date. She was.
Almost a year later and I can safely say there is no one I would rather be hiking the trail of life with.
Together we have traveled to five national parks, summited numerous peaks in Washington and Oregon, rambled up and down the West Coast and, most importantly, fallen in love. On January 7, of 2019, we went back to Skookum Flats to revisit the path where our boot tracks were first laid side by side. Whether navigating the backcountry or filing taxes, I know that there’s an 11th essential in my life today, and that is Jen.
An Outdoor Proposal
By Zak S.
I proposed to my wife at the top of Multnomah Falls in Oregon. She hadn’t hiked much before that and we went all the way up to the viewing deck. It was August 7, 2010.
The place was packed with people enjoying the falls that day. There was no room on the platform to pop the question, so we scrambled off to the side where we found a stranger playing guitar and singing softly. I knew it was time.
I asked her to take off her backpack and retrieve a waterproof match container—where her ring was hidden. She opened and emptied the contents into her palm. Her face was shocked and surprised. I gave a little speech, she said yes, and now three kids and nine years later, we love each other even more.
Torture? Or Love?
By Hazel D.
So, I’m married to an awesome guy who hates hiking.
In fact, he wonders why I insist on torturing myself and cringes at the thought of me asking him to go. We’ve been married 21 years, so apparently, I choose my battles wisely.
I have to say though, when it comes to going on the epic, bucket-list hikes, he’s come to bat for me: peaking San Jacinto Peak in the snow for my birthday; risking his life on Angel’s Landing in Zion (he’s afraid of heights); slipping on ice at Vernal Falls in Yosemite; almost having to fend off a bear in Mammoth and hiking longer than expected to Second Lake at Big Pine Lakes.
Each trail, silently pondering if this was my plan for his demise.
Anyway, when you absolutely loathe hiking, but choose to torture yourself physically and mentally (he only remembers how badly his knees hurt, how crappy the weather was or how long it took to get off the trail) for the sake of your partner, that’s love.