A LITTLE STORY
I unbuckled my hip strap and let the backpack fall carelessly to the slab of rock, damned if I broke something inside. The white pines, chestnut oaks, and sugar maples thinned as we climbed. Finally, the treeline gave way to a granite outcrop that choked the lush growth we had been hiking through. We had reached our first peak on the Vermont Long Trail. Brian arrived shortly after, his shirt unbuttoned and wearing his buff around his head, collecting any sweat before it could drip down his face. He sucks water from the hose of his Camelback, before gently letting his pack down.
“Yep this is the peak,” I said checking our status on my app, which tracked our movement on the trail. I started to rummage through my backpack.
“Really?” Brian looked around for the view. Nothing but trees.
He looked up, surveying the clouds.
“Is it going to rain?” Maribeth, the third and final companion of our party looked at the austere dark grey clouds.
It was July of 2018. We had filmed 16 out of the 33 weddings we had booked that season and had chosen to hike over 200 miles of the Appalachian trail on our 2-week break from work. This was day one.
“There it is,” I said, pulling out a flask of golden liquid and handing it expectedly to Maribeth.
“Are you serious?” She was already unscrewing the cap.
“Of course I am, it’s a tradition.” I watched as she gulped down the whiskey, handing the flask back to me. I passed it to Brian.
“First summit.” He took his sip.
I took mine, not really enjoying the taste, but enjoying our continued tradition of a shot at our first summit. It wasn’t much of summit, but it felt good to be in a forest with nothing but 30 pounds of gear and 200 miles of trail ahead of us.
Brian and I are an engaged couple living in Chicago, but the mountains call to us like they called to John Muir and a lot of other people, he just said it best. Our spirits belong in the mountains, but most of our friends and family are in the Midwest, and our hearts are with our people. It’s those people that got us into the wedding industry. Sometimes it feels like we stumbled into it, but we love it here. Brian is a bit quieter (at first) than I am. I’ve always admired his ability to be at ease in silence. Although it took some practice, I think I’ve even learned to take comfort in silence. Every now and then, that comes in handy when we document weddings.
CRACK. Thunder booms across the ridge and valley as I finish my shot of whiskey. The comically-timed thunderclap is followed immediately by a downpour of rain. Without hesitation, we whip out our rain flies and rain jackets, covering our backpacks and quickly make our way down the trail.
“How long till we get there?” Brian called out through the rain.
He stood a few feet in front of me, but I could barely see him. “I think 2 hours at a fast pace,” I responded.
“I think this will just blow over,” Maribeth assured us. She had absolutely no idea, but her unrelenting positivity still made me smile. It’s one of the reasons why we have vacationed multiple times with her. Although, traveling in groups seems to be a common thread for Brian and I. We like to call our style of “vacation” type 2 fun. The kind where we could potentially be miserable for hours—sometimes days at a time—but the trips always seem to be worth it. Brian claims the views are worth the struggle of backpacking, but I think it’s something else. The story, the memorability, or maybe just the deviation from normal. Whatever it is, we don’t pretend that these kinda trips are for everyone.
I’m obsessed with story (bet you never read that on a wedding videographers website before). But really, I am. I love hearing, watching, and reading stories. If I don’t like a TV show, book or movie, I’m probably dissecting the lack of tension or pacing. Brian is particular about color as he edits photos; I’m sensitive to story, pacing, and tension. On our type 2 vacations, I’ve been known to invoke “do it for the story” to revive and inspire. When I’ve been accused of embellishment, I’ve stuck to my exaggerations with the dogma; “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
On this particularly miserable day of “vacation,” the rain didn’t let up. And we didn’t keep a fast pace. In fact, we slowed down. As we climbed in elevation, the granite slabs dominated the trail. The dining-room-table sized rocks jutted from the ground in sharp angles. When wet, they became extremely slippery, and required full attention, drastically slowing our pace. Three hours in and we were soaked.
Brian is quiet, but he has a calm, kind and confident presence. He’s one of the easiest people to be around that I’ve ever met, and I spend literally twenty-four hours a day with him most days of the week. The trail had become a muddy river. Caked mud slowly worked its way up to my waist. Morale was low, but Brian could keep a quicker pace than us and looked back. “Come on, girls,” he tried to encourage us. Maribeth and I grunted back, probably a curse word, but I still appreciated his optimism.
“Welcome to Ver-MUD,” a low voice muttered, so close to us that I jumped, nearly sliding down a boulder. The three of us turned around to see a hiker in his mid 50’s had snuck upon us.
He looked at me, “Are we close?”
“I think so.”
“Thanks.” The man moved past us with such ease, that I felt envy bubble up. I watched him hop from boulder to boulder like he had glue on the bottom of his shoes. Every step firmly planted on the rocks.
He clearly was an Appalachian trail veteran. Remembering my trail culture, I called after him, “What’s your trail name?”
“Flash!” He yelled, and per his trail name, was gone in an instant.
Finally, we staggered into camp. I was expecting a dry wooden hut, a flat bunk, and some hooks to hang my wet clothes. Instead, I found a handful of thru-hikers, unwilling to make eye contact with us, sending a clear message: no room. In silence, we pitched the tent in the rain. Night had settled and the bubbling of the nearby river echoed even louder because of the rain. It was only day one and my enthusiasm had been dwindled down to a small spark. In my self-pity, I aggressively ate the rest of my snacks meant for the next 4 days and stuffed all the wrappers in the bottom of my backpack before Brian joined me in the tent. We listened to the rain patter the top of the tent, despite my exhaustion, I couldn’t ignore what a beautiful sound it made. I thought to myself, “I chose to do this,” and fell into an uncomfortable sleep.
In the morning, the sun slipped through the thick forest. I took a deep breath and smiled. To me, there are few places better than a forest in the morning. A mist burned off the forest floor. I felt a dormant part of me awake. It was as if the previous day had disappeared with the morning mist.
I connect being in nature with the creative part of me. Brian and I share that. We love the city. We get excited about the fancy drinks, nice meals, the bustle and connections all around us. But outdoors, some silent agreement is being fulfilled. The cool density of conifer forest, the valley that floods with light that escapes a mountain shadow, the lap of glacier water hitting the river bank are places that awaken us in a way nowhere else can. We will always seek refuge in the mountains or a forest to find and recharge ourselves. That unspoken bond between us is one foundational piece of our relationship.
We continued on to finish 100 more miles of the trail. We ran into many more people, trail dogs, nudists, and storms. I consistently ran out of snacks and spent most of my downtime trying to trick people into giving me food. But if you’re here, and you’ve made it this far, then I hope we’ve answered your most pressing question about potentially filming your wedding day: Yes, we can handle rain if it happens on your wedding day.
JUST KIDDING - But hopefully, this story gives you some small insight into who we really are as people. I find that stories paint a more vivid first impression than a list of our favorite things. Our foundation is simple: we work hard, we live humbly and open-minded, and we love a good story.
Thanks for taking the time to share our story with you.