A few years ago I made the longest hike of my life to the top of McAfee’s Knob, one of the most-photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. From trailhead to summit and back is only a little over six miles, and I’ve hiked much lengthier stretches. But there’s something about having your beliefs derided most of the way up and the virtues of celibacy preached at you most of the way down that affects your perception of distance.
I’d met the day’s hiking partner, whom I’ll call R., a few months before, doing some local film work. We’d had a good time goofing around on set and became Facebook friends. R. was also in his late-thirties and enjoyed running and biking and performing. We had a couple casual dates, but the potential for a relationship was limited—he lived over an hour away, and our values were dramatically different. He puzzled me, which was dangerous. People who perplex me compel my attention: mystify me, and I’ll stick around a while just to try and figure you out.
So one clear summer afternoon, with nothing (and no one) else in the offing, I invited him to go hiking. Continue reading