We love hearing about love on the trail. Really. We can't think of anything better than sharing the big, beautiful, great outdoors with those most precious to us. Tell us a little bit about how you met and your journey together.
Matt: It was three summers ago now; I'd heard about Kerri – and how great she was – from mutual friends, but had never met her. I happened to be biking through Portland on a cross-country bike tour, though, and so when I planned to meet up with our mutual friends for drinks, I asked her to join. When those plans fell through, I asked her if she wanted to meet up for a hike instead.
Kerri: I almost said no, which seems crazy looking back, but I honestly didn't know him at all. But I'd been working on saying yes, even when it scared me – "Be brave, Kerri" was my mantra for that year – and so I said yes, and then proceeded to unabashedly Facebook stalk him because, as I justified to myself at the time, I needed to know what he looked like to meet him, right? I then told my best friend where I'd be while hiking with Matt (or the general vicinity, anyway), just in case. [Kids! Don't hike with strangers you just met on the internet! Unless they're as fantastic as Matt and you have mutual friends who can vouch for them ahead of time!] I met Matt around 1pm on a Tuesday and we hiked on and around Wildwood trail in Portland's enchanted Forest Park, with never a lull in our conversation, for seven hours. After the hike Matt played his guitar for me (which was as dreamy as you might imagine) and then we went to dinner (fish tacos on the patio of a favorite local pub), and ultimately, Matt ended up staying extra days in Portland and rearranging his bike tour just to spend more time with me. Whenever we tell this story I remember that first yes to hiking with him as being the first best yes I ever said.
Kerri: I borrowed a friend's broken tent and packed my car with snacks and a sleeping bag and drove, sent off from Portland by one of the most stunning sunrises I've ever seen. The 36-hour drive from Portland to Minneapolis was to be my first solo roadtrip, and I'd decided it was also going to be my first solo camping adventure, and I'm pretty sure my entire family had decided I'd lost my mind when I arrived in Spokane (my hometown) with plans to make it through Idaho and nearly all of Montana the next day. But make it I did, despite one of the worst thunderstorms I'd ever seen (replete with blinding, torrential downpour!), and camping that night in Makoshika State Park remains something of a dream: Endless green like nothing I'd ever seen since watching The Land Before Time as a kid, and falling asleep to coyotes serenading the bright moon rising above the Badlands. I bought a bike rack in Fargo, North Dakota (at a bike shop Matt himself had visited on his tour; the clerks remembered him and his epic beard) and after meeting my beautiful niece in Minneapolis, we began what would become of the most memorable of all of our roadtrips: A meandering traipse from Minnesota to South Dakota (and our first peak summitted together) to Wyoming (our first glimpse of the Tetons!) to Southern Idaho (where we had an amazing conversation with a man with a tree in the passenger seat of his car), stopping whenever and wherever we wanted, throwing cell service and itineraries to the wind, basking in each other's company and the beauty of this vast country, Matt showing me some of his favorite of all trails, and the two of us exploring new routes and backdrops together. As would quickly become standard whenever we're together, what was originally planned to be four days on the road turned into seven and became what we still call The Great Roadtrip Adventure (or GRA! for short).
Kerri: Accepting Matt's invitation to live with him in Wenatchee was the second best yes I ever said. The third best yes came the following Christmastime (December 2012), when Matt began the first of what would become 78 total proposals (he said he wanted to keep asking me until we were married), to share his trails and his life for the entirety of both of ours. On August 16th, 2013 we rose long before the dawn and hiked 22 round-trip miles with beloved chosen family to promise our forevers to each other in front of one of our favorite of all peaks, in some of our favorite of all mountains. It was the best day.
Matt: We haven't stopped hiking since that first hike, haven't stopped exploring since that first trip, and don't plan to stop hiking or running or exploring trails alongside each other, forever, amen.
Endless Trails is our recently formed 501(c)3 Washington State non-profit, focusing on trail advocacy and education. Endless Trails is committed to ensuring trails live far longer than any of us. Through trail work, education, collaboration, and advocacy, Endless Trails seeks to preserve today's wild spaces for generations of future explorers.
As for what that means for us? We'll be all over Washington this year, with forays into Oregon and even California, primarily with Rainshadow Running, but also with some other trail series we're working with. While we'll obviously have down days to rest, catch up on email, and update Endless Trails, the bulk of our days will be spent on the trail – at trail races, gathering intel for future endeavors, doing trail work, and/or teaching youngsters and old souls alike about how best to use and appreciated beloved local trails.
We're really excited about the conversations Endless Trails helps us have with other people, including (and maybe especially) with strangers. There's a great deal of love out there for wild places, for trails, for outdoor opportunities, and we're realizing that a great number of people are ready to have conversations about conservation and about protecting sacred places, their extended backyards, the places that have helped define what they consider home. For Washingtonians especially, it seems, there's a sense of place that's tied to our forests and our mountains and our trails, and helping people think about what it'll take to protect and preserve that piece of our identity has been a really fun and rewarding challenge so far. Beyond that, we're excited to get people out on trails they might not otherwise visit, and to help them do so in a sustainable, protective way.
Matt: I ran cross-country in high school, and then in college. First, it was because I didn't make the football team or the soccer team, but then I lettered as a freshman, so I kind of felt like I had to stick with it. Fortunately, after a couple of years, I realized I really loved it. I was fortunate to go to college in a town with great trail access (Decorah, IA), and our cross-country and track teams ran those trails pretty much every chance we got. It didn't take me long to realize that if given the choice between trails and roads, I'd choose trails every time. The distance thing sort of happened by accident, actually. I was training for a marathon while living in Arizona and got lost on a run at the Grand Canyon; my navigational misstep turned into a thirty-mile adventure, and I was sore for days. I realized afterwards, though, that the sort of independence - the ability to run places other people simply didn't go unless on a multi-day backpack - was something I loved, and I've been hooked on that (relatively) quick access to wild places ever since.
Kerri: This is such a great question. I was actually a born and bred sprinter for most of my life and never considered being anything else until a few months before meeting Matt. I ran track in high school and college (100m, 200m, 4x100, and the 4x400) and always marveled and rolled my eyes at the "crazy cross-country kids" who ran multiple miles multiple times a week, for fun. But cross-country was in my blood and, as it turned out, I couldn't run from it forever. I come from a long-line of distance runners - my dad and his five sisters (one of whom was the silhouette on the Bloomsday shirt back in the 80s); my own sister; my mom's little brother - and had I realized I could run the trails I grew up hiking with my dad around Colbert, WA and Priest Lake, Idaho, I would have been trail-running long ago. After college injuries left me estranged from running for a few sad years, I started upping my mileage in earnest in 2010/2011. I was still mostly running roads until the summer of 2011 when Matt showed up to share the magic knowledge that trails were just as runnable as roads, and, like Matt, I quickly realized I preferred them to every other surface. I ran my first half-marathon in November of 2011, on the serenely soggy trails in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. I ran my first 20-miler in Oregon, too, the following April, on the 17th annivesary of my dad's death, and it was the single hardest and single most rewarding endeavor I'd ever undertaken, up until that point, anyway. All of that's a long-winded way to say: Trail-running makes me happy, makes me feel like I'm connected to all the best and strongest parts of myself and my family - makes me feel connected to a living history that's as sacred as it is brutally beautiful.
Is there any one trail (or two or three) that you have particular fondness for?
We wed this past August on an alpine beach beside Snow Lake, at the foot of the Enchantments, so obviously the Snow Lakes trail holds a special place in our hearts. One of the first hikes we ever took together was into the Enchantments via the Snow Lakes trail, and we've backpacked there each of the last three summers. It's a sacred place to the two of us, and we'll admit to thinking of a few special beaches and swimming holes as, well, "ours."