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Romance Gap

09/10/07 10:24AM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) What's your idea of a romantic get-away? Recently, commentator Deborah Luskin and her husband rekindled the spark - somewhat unexpectedly - on the Long Trail.

(LUSKIN) Like the narrator in Dante's Divine Comedy who finds himself in a dark wood midway through life's journey, my husband and I, both in our early fifties, recently found ourselves at the mid-way point of the Long Trail, the footpath that runs the length of Vermont.

Trained as a literary critic, I see metaphor everywhere, and on this five-day hike, the place names implied doom. On our third day out, we climbed the Great Cliff of Mount Horrid. The day before, we'd walked from eight in the morning until seven at night, covering fourteen miles. My husband's over six feet tall and was raised in the White Mountains. He's a born goat. I'm a Pisces, just under five-four, a fish out of water on a mountain path. Even weighting Tim's backpack with thirty-five pounds to my twenty hardly slowed him down.

Every hour or so, Tim waited for me. When I caught up with him on the east summit of Romance Mountain, he was reading poetry from a tattered paperback he carries. I would have liked a chance to sit and read poetry, too, but we'd only just reached mile four of our thirteen-mile day. A mile later, when I crossed Sucker Brook, I realized what a sucker I'd been, leaving the planning of this trip up to him. His idea of a vacation hike was beginning to feel like a forced march.

We stopped for a late afternoon swim in Lake Pleiad, just before entering the Breadloaf Wilderness. It's the closest we'd come to a bath in three days, and a welcome chance to rinse our sweaty clothes. But we still had four and a half miles to make the night's shelter, including almost nine hundred feet of elevation up from the Middlebury Gap over the crest of Burnt Hill.

I was burnt, all right, so Tim went into hyper-drive, doubling back to carry my pack. He loves playing the knight in shining armor; I hate being a damsel in distress.

When we did at last make camp, I finally spoke up, "I like hiking-in moderation," I said.

He replied, "You mean you'd like to have fun that's enjoyable?" This is an old joke between us.

"Yeah, a vacation that's not just work."


Together, we revised our plans so we'd cover shorter distances in the remaining two days, stopping shy of our goal for this trip. More profoundly, we changed our goal. We realized that hiking the Long Trail together is not just about walking to Canada. It's about how we can each walk at our own pace and still stay together. It's about knowing when to speak up and how to listen. It's about agreeing on goals. It's about staying married.

Fifty miles from where we started, we emerged from the woods smiling, not just because we were anticipating a good meal and a hot shower, but also because we'd crossed Romance Gap, and we were still holding hands.

Deborah Luskin teaches writing and literature to non-traditional students in hospitals, libraries and prisons throughout Vermont.

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