Romance Takes a Hike
The lure of love in a long-time marriage.
It was morning, and my wife and I were a quarter-mile along the Mist Trail in Yosemite, holding hands as couples do. The winter air was crisp, and the trees were aglow in the dawning sun. The only sounds were the birds and our easy conversation, uninterrupted by our kids for the first time in what felt like eons. It was perfe—
“This would’ve been so romantic years ago,” she said.
The needle scratch echoed from Half Dome to El Capitan. My defense mechanism kicked in with a joke: “Well, what’s romance to a couple like us, anyway?”
I’m pretty sure she gave me the side-eye, but there was some truth to my question. Chelsee and I met freshman year of high school. We dated senior year through college, then got married at 25. We just celebrated our 16th anniversary. We have two kids, multiple jobs, plenty of bills and not enough sleep. I figured the sweeping gestures of yesteryear left us long ago, like Blockbuster Video and most of my hair. But the “note behind the note” was well taken. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean the romance should disappear.
We concluded that romance has to evolve with our life. Sure, we may not be able to fit epic international travel or spur-of-the-moment date nights into our schedule anymore, but there were simple ways to feel seen and heard. My writing a love letter for her to find. Her helping with chores on a busy day. We squeezed hands in agreement. What started as a potential landmine pivoted into a deeply connected conversation.
But then the trail started its ascent.
We huffed and puffed. Sweat dappled our brows. We unclasped hands, needing the extra momentum to go uphill. I started to move faster, wanting to get it over with, while she decided to go slower. By the time I realized I was 20 feet ahead of her, the mood had soured.
“Babe! You okay?!” I shouted, galloping back.
“I’m fine,” she grumbled.
“Do you want to stop?”
“No. This is just my pace.”
“I’ll walk with you—”
“Keep going! You’re annoying me.”
Oops. Though I came back wanting to help and save the good vibes, she just wanted to get to the destination. She suggested (demanded) that we hike the last leg separately. I trudged ahead, alone and regrets swirling.
Eventually we reunited at the Vernal Falls bridge. She was still frowning. “We did it!” I cheered. She rolled her eyes. Maybe even glowered.
Clearly, enthusiasm wasn’t going to work. Would some big declaration of love? A profuse apology? The promise of an indulgent dessert after dinner? Who could resist those overtures, especially under this magnificent waterfall?
Instead, I just kissed her. “Sorry,” I added. And she smiled. I put my arm around her as we stood in awe of the cascading water. The ponderosas swayed in the misty breeze. The hike hadn’t started with romance, and at one point it seemed truly improbable, but it ended there in the simplest of ways. Evolve, indeed.
Richard Lowe lives in Studio City with his wife Chelsee and their two daughters. On his to-do list: Write a love letter.
Paying it forward.