By Brianne Dela Cruz; Gather & Grow
The snow compacted and crunched under our feet as we trudged upward along the snow-buried trail on a bluebird day. Five paces in front of him, I paused to catch my breath and have a look around. In the frigid temperatures steam rose from our bundled up bodies while clouds puffed out of our mouths on each labored exhale. The grove of pines and aspen, heavily laden with freshly fallen snow, seemed to be waking up after hunkering down to withstand the last blizzard. As I caught my breath, I watched the trees unceremoniously shed clumps of snow from all heights of the forest, which sent wafts of glistening dust into the atmosphere. All was quiet, except for us and the winter chickadees. They were obviously pleased to see the warmth of daylight and blue sky. They showed their merriment by whistling and sailing from one powdered perch to another. I could hear a faint trickle of water pattering on ice in the distance and knew that we were not far from our destination.
On this winter hike, we set out to discover a new-to-us but well loved local trail not far from home. The glistening snow and expansive views of white capped peaks captivated our interest for hours after our arrival. We found a secluded grove of pines to enjoy the winter wonderland and nestled close to snack on morsels of manchego, cured meats, fruit, and bits of chocolate, while we drank together in celebration of such a glorious day.
In our ten years together, we’ve always favored adventurous outings in nature over traditional dinner and movie dates. Nature runs deep in our bones, both as individuals and as a couple. Many of our most defining moments have, in some form or another, happened in nature. For instance, the time we survived a three day onslaught of voracious insects deep within the Amazon rainforest, which was certainly a test of patience for us both. Or the time we lived for twenty-one days on a raft as we floated down two hundred and eighty three miles of the Colorado River.
The day we exchanged vows while standing on fallen aspen leaves in an alpine meadow not far from this trail also makes the list. Although, I would say that it is the mundane excursions, like our walks in the woods where we spend time dreaming up our future and working through utterly average human dilemmas, that make up the bulk of our life defining moments.
We have countless more memories intertwined with nature that have shaped our love and life together, but for as many times as nature has brought us together, she has also drawn us apart. When the river calls to him in the summer, likewise, my garden beckons me, and so we part ways for one season each year to do nature’s bidding. Both of us are wild creatures, each with our own inspirations to be discovered, only to be tamed for each other. At the end of those long seasons apart we always return to one another, a bit more weathered and wiser, but no less connected.
Throughout all of the expeditions and adventures we’ve had together and alone, we’ve learned that the most simple outings in nature oftentimes offer the greatest respite, inspiration, and connection, more so than any other date we’ve ever experienced. Nature has a way of drawing out our vulnerabilities and pushing us to our limits. She tests our grit, character, and instincts. And in return, she reveals splendor beyond measure. Spending time in wild landscapes, either solo or with another, always shows us who we are and what we are made of.
This primal call to lace up our boots and hit the trail, climb a snow-covered mountain, cultivate the earth, or swim in the wild rivers is strong for each of us. And it is a call we’ll always answer. We spend our Sundays, holidays, vacations, dates, and completely ordinary days reveling in the majesty of Mother Nature. Like any relationship, there is no shortage of realms to navigate, nor wonder to be provoked when we wander through uncharted territory.
While sometimes we find ourselves exploring these lands independently, today’s adventure is an invigorating and heart-warming winter hike for two.
Brianne Dela Cruz is a master gardener, wild forager, campfire foodie, and acclaimed writer and photographer. From her home in Salt Lake City, she teaches online gardening and foraging courses for modern folks and budding naturalists as well as hosts seasonal community gatherings. Brianne's blog and online school, Gather & Grow, is a community of folks exploring the intersection between nature and personal growth by discovering ways to slow down and nourish themselves with nature.