Distance Hikes Make the Heart Grow Fonder

By Lorie Florence

The first time I went on a long distance backpack hike with my husband Mark, I had to sit down and have a long cry. It was hard, hot, and a little scary. I missed my kids, and my comforts. All we did all day was walk – up hills, up mountains, across sketchy, loose, scree-covered narrow trails. Mark just kept walking, and I just kept trailing along. But by the end of the week, I had decided it was not so bad. The stars were beautiful at night, I was met by a dazzling sunrise each morning, and we had long hours of just being together without interruptions, which was priceless.

Mark & Lorie Florence's first trip in 2008

Our first hike on the Pacific Crest Trail

I followed my husband, walked alongside him, and even sometimes led him, as we hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail each summer. I became more and more accustomed to it, and even got to the point where I looked forward to our trips into the wilderness. I came to cherish the quiet days we walked together through pure nature- flowing streams, towering trees, pure blue skies, and solitude.

I got to know my husband better with every trip and we learned each other’s strengths (and weaknesses) and relied on each other for companionship, navigation, food preparation, and someone to serve as lookout when we answering those important calls of nature that require a little privacy. We completed all 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017 and were not ready to settle down.

We finished the PCT in 2017

Celebrating our completion of the PCT

After we completed our odyssey, I started planning a new hike. I wanted to do a journey that we could finish in one season. I wanted a journey that would be full of culture, camaraderie, and might help to fill some empty place in my soul.  I wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago. Mark was soon on board, and in April of 2018 we set foot in Spain.

Entering Roncesvalles

Entering Roncesvalles

I wish I could say every moment was magical- a completely romantic and refreshing journey that impacted my very soul. It’s a little true. I definitely grew to respect and trust my husband more every day. I loved sneaking out of albergues early morning in the cover of darkness, feeling like a couple of little kids sneaking off on an adventure. I loved dining together every evening and discussing the day’s events, sometimes entertaining company, and sometimes by ourselves.  I loved seeing his adventurous spirit come alive when we wandered into a new town and figured out where we would bed down for the night.

Irache wine fountain

Irache wine fountain

In the woods, on our own, we have a certain routine, a way that each of us plays to our strengths. He sets up the tent, I collect the water. He cooks the food, I do the cleaning. But in a foreign country, with all new habits to learn and language barriers to overcome, he amazed me. My careful, plan-ahead husband surprised me by being able to play it by ear and take advantage of serendipitous moments that arose on the Camino. He made friends with complete strangers, walked with me at my pace, and included me in his planning strategies- mostly because I was the one who spoke a little Spanish.  I saw new facets to his character every day, and in the spirit of the Camino, our love for each other deepened and grew.

Compostelas 2018

Compostelas 2018

The bottom line is, I love my husband, and walking beside (or behind) him all these years, miles, and kilometers, makes me appreciate him and love him even more. He is my friend, my traveling companion, and I would follow him anywhere. Even to the end of the earth.

Mark and Lorie at Finisterre

At Finisterre, the end of the earth

Mark and Lorie, known on the trail as “Snickers” and “Veggie,” volunteer as trail stewards in Trionne-Annadel State Park, walking foot patrol as a way to keep those trail legs in shape. Mark’s favorite trail snack has always been Snickers candybars and Lorie packs a bag of cut carrots whenever they head back to trail. He is a devoted carnivore who is allergic to sea food, and she is basically a vegetarian. In Spain, they both ate a lot of eggs.

Though they are very different, they are always able to find a common ground. At home in Santa Rosa, Mark brews his own beer, and Lorie makes a tasty Kombucha.  They are also active members of the American Long Distance Hiking Association (ALDHA – West).

This year, they will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. They have covered almost 4,000 miles together and do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

I am featuring Camino love stories on this blog.  Why? Because love is in the air! I certainly respect the premise of what happens on the Camino stays on the Camino.  However, love is a splendid thing that should be celebrated. Has the Camino provided you with more than just a long walk? If you have a Camino love story to share,  email me or use the form below. Photos and video links welcome.

Share the Camino love! ♥

Love is in the air

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