My First Outdoor Companions:
I’ve lived in New Hampshire for most of my 33 years. Growing up, my mom would take me and my two siblings to explore outdoor spaces, from playgrounds to museums. We’d visit the abandoned crystal mine, back in the woods of Route 4a. Bogs dotted the 20-minute path, and we’d easily take 45 minutes to wander and wonder about the world around us. When we’d finally reach the top, pockets of quartz glittered and prompted us to select the perfect stone. These adventures not only gave us time to focus on each other as a family away from digital distractions, but also seeded a general fascination with the outdoors.
New Friends in Vermont:
Exploring the outdoors became a natural way of bonding with companions throughout my life. It’s no surprise that my first dates with my now-husband of five years, Derek, were on hikes. Derek’s family lives out near Middlebury, VT, and he would spend most of his summers with cousins there. I remember his cousin Josh leading us from Middlebury Gap, up the Long Trail toward Worth Mountain. We stopped by a ski lift chair near the summit. It was a warm afternoon, and I was embarrassed to be sweating. The cool breeze at the top helped with that problem, though. I listened closely as Derek and Josh recounted past summer adventures, fascinated by all they had to tell me about the area.
Later hikes with Derek, like our climb up Mount Abe, were a bit quieter, and I grew to appreciate the wealth of knowledge he had for the landscape. The wind whipped at our faces as he spun me around and named every peak visible from the summit. Later at the Falls of Lana near Salisbury, I discovered his appreciation for photography. When the pictures from that day came out, he had captured a rainbow right over one of the falls. To this day, the picture sits on the desk in our living room.
Connecting in New Environments:
I’ve not only used hiking to form family bonds, but to strengthen friendships. When new friends—Becca and her husband Eric—invited us to hike in Norwich, Derek and I were on board. We met at their place and rode over together in their Explorer. They had a small rescue dog, Toby, that sat on my lap the whole time. My friends—who had just moved to Vermont from Oklahoma—led us up Gile Mt. Tower Trail, a path they had hiked before. It had a fire tower at the top and a small cabin along the route that passersby had graffitied over the years. We stopped at that cabin for a snack and water break and enjoyed the opportunity for lengthy conversation about anything and everything.
As we continued onward, larger dogs traveling with a group behind us caught up, despite the leash mandate. They cornered and harassed Toby. Becca tensed up as the larger dogs growled, and I expected the couple to leave trail to protect their new rescue dog. Eric however scooped up his white-haired pup. I admired their calm and adaptability, and knew we’d be good friends.
They apologized for the stressful dog encounter as we finished our hike, but we waved them away. “Adventures like this build memories,” I said. I’ve heard that it is good for your health to get at least two hours a week of time outdoors. If those two hours are spent with good companions, I will gladly hike anywhere no matter the distance or scenery.
Karisa Dubuque is a 33-year-old writer with her MA in Creative Writing in Fiction. She has primarily spent her working years in banking and is working to become a teacher this fall. A native New Hampshirite, Karisa loves exploring the outdoors in any season with family and friends. She resides in Lebanon, NH with her husband and daughter.