Pfeifferhorn Trail: How to get Your Wife to Backpack With You
When it comes to the stories we read online it’s easy to make assumptions especially when it comes to relationships. You’ve probably grown accustomed to your feed being spattered with men and women flaunting their love for each other and showing off all of the amazing experiences they get to enjoy together – this is what we call #couplegoals. On the contrary I’m not here to judge them, I’m actually here to add even more fuel to the romantic fire. Recently on a backpacking trek to Pfeifferhorn peak (beginning at Redpine Trailhead) I had a #couplegoals moment myself, worth sharing! I don’t know if this journal is an adventure tale, relationship advice or something in-between, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out.
My wife, Tiffany, and I have been together for nine years. Of those nine years, seven were spent in Wisconsin. If you’re unfamiliar, Wisconsin is flat! She is my high-school sweetheart and as we all know, people go through immense changes from their formattable years through adulthood. I’m just blessed we’ve been able to grow together instead of apart. Being that we are from Wisconsin, she hadn’t partaken in my obsession with the mountains throughout the years and by the time we moved to Utah, mountain culture was just as foreign as living in a new state. This never entirely sat right with me. I wanted to experience the rugged wilderness with her and enjoy it as naturally as the mountains called to me. It was a tired desire of wanting your partner to understand your passion as much as you do. In our case, this was a difficult feat as we are much more of an opposites-attract-type-of-couple instead of a walking mirror. Nevertheless, I never really wanted to change this about her, but I was still interested in convincing her why suffering up a mountain is a spectacular way to spend your time.
Well, patience is a virtue and often the best things in life are worth waiting for. After nine years, there we were, sitting together in our apartment enjoying some morning coffee and I asked if she would backpack the Pfeifferhorn trail with me. After being with her as long as I have, I was ready to be met with an answer I wasn’t looking for. Fortunately, I’m a resilient bastard and am reluctant to give up anyway, you have to be if you have the stomach for a long-term relationship. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. With little hesitance she said yes! I’m not sure she entirely knew what she had committed to (a 9 mile, 3700 ft. gain trek with heavy packs) but that’s a religion for us adventurous types, and I’m glad she decided to come to church. Ecstatically, and maybe a bit frantically, I began running through a must-bring backpacker checklist. This was going to be her first time camping in the backcountry, so I wanted to make sure everything would go as smoothly as possible. Again, if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t always prepare the way I should when I head into the mountains, so since I was responsible for my wife this time around, it was my opportunity to reconcile for the both of us.
A week later, and Friday upon us, after a quick run to Scheels for some additional freeze-dried food, our packs were full, our boots were tied tight, and we were ready to take on the call of the wild. We actually have matching boots, so I don’t know if we looked badass or just like a couple of cuties who didn’t know exactly what we were getting ourselves into. I’d normally say with a hike like this, considering we were going to be in the Wasatch mountain range it’s best to start early and beat the heat, but it was the middle of October and things had cooled off significantly. So, even though we got a late start, we stayed committed (no pun intended) and started the adventure when I got home from work. I have to give Tiff bonus props for facing the unknown in this situation, considering most seasoned outdoorsmen stay away from overnight camping this late in the season. There’s a reason camping season falls between spring and summer and it was further confirmed when about halfway to Redpine Lake a few Utah native trail runners and hikers jabbed, “I didn’t know people camped this late in the season… good for you.” Even as someone as embedded in the outdoor industry and culture as I am, hearing that from a seasoned Utah mountain runner mid-stride is some serious business, and I wore their compliments as a badge of honor. I hope Tiff did too, a little additional encouragement can go a long way when hiking.
At this point, the sun was beginning it’s descent and as it’s energy ran out so did Tiff’s. Alas, Tiff had already managed her way through a couple of mental breakdowns with only Coco Nuts Trail Mix to comfort her. If you haven’t indulged yet, I highly suggest picking up a pack of Archer Farms (Target Brand) Coco Nuts next time you plan a big hike near you. During this stretch of the trail, I know that her inexperienced legs and back were feeling the pain, all while I was just floored to be experiencing such a beautiful trail with her. The Wasatch range is filled with enchanting waterways, infinite eye absorbing sharp granite faces, and specific to the trail we were on, it also has massive snow dusted conifers stretching over the canyon. By the time we made it to camp I had probably carried her backpack half of the way, but as per usual, I gladly accepted the challenge, double packed and all. For one, she was seriously struggling and again, I wanted her to have a great time, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I saw it as an opportunity to get an additional workout in. I simply strapped her 20 lb. backpack onto my chest, sandwiching myself between her bag and mine. Reflecting further on that day, seeing her that far along the trail and working her butt off to make me happy, made me want to do the same for her. Oh, the things we do for our loved ones.
As we approached the lake and began to search for an amicable place to pitch our tent, the sun lit fire to the mountains. An experience I’ve found pure joy in throughout the years and one that ignites an instinctual need in me to deploy my camera. Many have said there aren’t many other places in the Wasatch with a better view. As the cool, mountain air sank into our sweat infused cloths, I knew I’d have to snap my pictures and get on with it as soon as possible. After all, I had a freezing and exhausted Mrs. waiting to seek shelter. Nestled over the shelf of wind torched trees overlooking the canyon we had just navigated, we found a picture-perfect spot a few hundred yards away from the lake. In the distance we could see a single glowing orb from our improbable neighboring campers. We set up our tent, deployed our sleeping bags and Tiff found a cozy refuge under the clear starry night while I stoked the Biolite in preparation for the meal of a lifetime, freeze dried beef stroganoff. If there was a backpacker’s initiation ritual, it’d be downing a hot bowl of beef strogi after an intense day of hiking. Ironically, Tiff and I both passed, as she mentioned to me her first experience with Mountain House was worthy of a five out of five-star review. Was it the flavor or the pure stomach depletion? We will never know. After our meal and a few hands of Chinese Open Face Poker, we snuggled in forehead to forehead sealing the deal on one beautiful day. I knew Tiff didn’t have enough energy left in the tank to go on a sunrise mission to the top of Pfeifferhorn in the morning, but it didn’t matter. With the risk of self-indulging this fairytale beyond its means, we had each other and that’s all I needed. When you’re all alone deep in the woods, it can present an us-against-the-world type of feeling, and that’s a feeling worth savoring. I’m not too sure Tiff understands my passion for the mountains after that one experience, but I think she’s closer to the idea, and that might just mean she’s closer to me.
Our journey presented a few interesting takeaways. First, if there are any other mountain men out there with an unwilling partner, there is hope! Have patience with your partner, it will be well worth the wait. Second, there are many reasons Tiff and I could have called off our date with Pfeifferhorn (or neglected to schedule it in the first place); it was too late in the season, we got a late jump on the trail, Tiff wasn’t in tip top shape to trek a 20-pound bag up a mountain, she normally resisted my invites, and the list goes on. These are all relatively valid excuses but don’t let the fear outweigh the joy of discovery especially when it comes to your partner. You don’t have to love what they do, but embrace it, and grow interested by it. Have courage to do more, even when the stars aren’t aligned. If your partner can’t carry her pack, put that on yourself, pick it up, and don’t be afraid to add more weight. Better yet, prepare for these moments. Even though we didn’t end up making it to the top of Pfeifferhorn, I was abundantly proud of my wife for making it as far as she did. We struggled together, found a sense of accomplishment together and let’s not forget, we basked on a sunny mountainside with a hot cup of coffee side by side. That is simply hard to beat. Not to mention this just gives us a motive to make it to the peak another time around. Stay tuned for #couplegoals the return of Tiff, Pfeifferhorn edition.