Ten Years and Going Strong!

Kyle and Lauren, top of Mt. Si, 3/26/18

Recently, I climbed Mt. Si to celebrate a 10th anniversary. Unfortunately it wasn’t mine, but my son Kyle and his girlfriend, Lauren’s.

Several things were significant about the day and hike: The fact that Kyle and Lauren are only 25 and 26 respectively (hence they have been together since Sophomore year of High School); the fact that all three of us were actually in the same city on that day (both Lauren and Kyle attend graduate school at Emory College in Atlanta and I live in Bellingham —  Mt. Si is in North Bend, WA); and the fact that I could even hike nearly 9 miles (half of it in snow!) so soon after ankle surgery. It was a fun and challenging day all around.

Circumstances of the Hike

Kyle was in Seattle for a 10-week internship at Harborview (in Seattle) beginning March 26. The 10-year anniversary fell on Sunday, March 25. Lauren, still at Emory, flew in from Atlanta especially for the occasion. I was in Seattle for a writing conference that weekend, and invited myself along on a hike to celebrate with them. Thankfully, the idea of spending a good part of the day with me sounded okay to Kyle and Lauren. We all met up in Seattle late morning for a cool, early spring hike.

The Drive to North Bend

The drive from Seattle to the Mt.Si trailhead took slightly over an hour. Kyle drove and I took full advantage of my passenger status to interview Kyle and Lauren about what has made their relationship last. The longest I have sustained a relationship is eight years total, dating and then marrying my first husband. Kyle and Lauren’s relationship intrigues me with its strong bond and bright spark, almost as if the two just met and fell in love. In my experience it’s unusual to find couples as playful as Kyle and Lauren still are, especially having gone through the significant changes inherent with transitioning from childhood into adulthood. I wondered how they have managed to grow closer and more bonded as the years have gone by.

The Interview

Here’s a sampling of the interview, and aspects of their answers that are pertinent to all who seek a lasting, loving, workable relationship.

QUESTION: WHAT DREW YOU TO EACH OTHER TEN YEARS AGO?

Lauren’s response: “I had my eye on some cuties Freshman and Sophomore year of high school. Kyle was one, but we didn’t have any classes together until Sophomore year. Then we had a few classes together and we became friendly and a bit flirtatious. Kyle was a great athlete, and I loved watching him play sports. I was his cheerleader for basketball, which meant I got to do special things for him. I loved his dedication to sports and that he really went for it. It worked well that we developed a fun friendship before we began dating later that spring.”

Kyle’s response: “Lauren was attractive, quiet, fun, silly — and she had a great smile. But I was insecure and inexperienced about girls, and honestly didn’t think I’d have a chance with Lauren. But she was super fun to hang out with, and we hit it off from the beginning. I was amazed when we hooked up at a party later that Spring.”

Kathie’s take-aways: Be friends first, laugh lots, appreciate each other’s strengths. And wear short skirts or basketball shorts for best results!

Kyle and Lauren senior year of high school

QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE OTHER BRINGS TO THE RELATIONSHIP?

Kyle’s response: “Lauren helps me navigate change and break out of my routines. When we moved to Atlanta, Lauren really eased the transition. She finds fun things for us to do on the weekends, where I might be apt to just stay put and study or hang with local friends.”

“Lauren also helps me stay disciplined with my studies. Back in high school, she was the more focused student. She brought me up to her level and we developed a healthy competition that still motivates me today. Even though our academic disciplines are different now, we definitely challenge and encourage each other to do our best every day.”

“Lauren is the more lighthearted and affectionate one and she reminds me to express myself in those ways. I know physical affection is important to her, and I appreciate that she keeps me from getting too serious.”

Lauren’s response: “Kyle is excellent at acts of service! He does little things for me all the time. Makes coffee, does the dishes, keeps things organized. Kyle has a ton of energy, and he uses it to make my life much easier. He is always looking for ways to ease my stress and make life effortless for me.”

“He also pushes me physically, and that has always been the case. I would not be doing things like this hike or much of the outdoor stuff I do without Kyle’s enthusiasm and encouragement. I have come to love and appreciate an active lifestyle in ways that I never would have expected since knowing Kyle.”

The couple that hikes together…

Kathie’s takeaways: Be mutually supportive, encouraging, loving, and playful. Don’t forget to laugh. And get outside together often!

QUESTION: WHAT HAS ALLOWED THE RELATIONSHIP TO LAST AND GROW OVER TIME?

Kyle and Lauren both gave nearly identical answers to this question. Both mentioned that their values have grown and changed together over time. They have always had similar ideals, but this connection has grown stronger as they’ve matured and expanded their world views.

They are both willing to do and try new things that the other is interested in. But of equal importance, they each maintain their own separate activities and friends. Each spends quality time alone and with their own friends, and both feel that makes the time they spend together even more significant and meaningful. They truly enjoy each others company, and each says they are the others best friend.

Kathie’s takeaways: Explore what really matters together, have mutual and independent friends and activities, love the one you are with with all your heart!

WHAT QUALITY STANDS OUT MOST ABOUT THE OTHER?

Lauren’s answer: “Kyle’s dedication. To everything. When he puts his mind to something, he gives it his all.”

Kyle’s answer: “Lauren is a very caring and loving person, not just of me but of friends and family too.”

ANY REGRETS ABOUT GETTING TOGETHER SO YOUNG AND NOT HAVING EXPERIENCED OTHER RELATIONSHIPS? 

Both: “No, none whatsoever.”

The Hike

Mt. Si is the most popular hike in Washington. Over 100,000 people hike it every year, and I’ve been there dozens of times in my life under all sorts of different circumstances.

Kyle and Lauren ready to hike

We hit the trail by 12:30. Two of the three of us were experiencing less than our usual vigor. Lauren was fighting a cold, and I was just plain tired. Kyle had to be patient with us both from the get go. The hike is steep, about 3400 feet of elevation in just over four miles. On this day, it felt even steeper to both Lauren and me, and I know we each thought about quitting (although neither admitted that until the way down). Lauren was short of breath in addition to battling a sore throat and cough. My legs felt like lead right from the start, and my eight+ weeks post-op ankle was hurting quite a lot, especially at the beginning while it warmed up. I had hiking poles thankfully, and that helped.

We were far from the only people on the trail. With our rather late start, many more people were coming down than going up. We laughed and commented at some of the footwear people were sporting — serious mountaineering boots and gaiters, as if they had just summited a glacier instead of a 3900 foot mountain. It wasn’t long before we were eating those words.

Hitting Snow

Just heading into snow

About half way up, it started snowing. At first from the sky, a squall that had us scrambling for Gore-Tex as huge flakes fell through the forest canopy. Soon enough the snow stopped, but it became obvious why we had seen so many people with extreme boots down lower. In the course of a couple steep switchbacks, the trail was completely snow covered. As we continued on up, over half the hikers we encountered were wearing some sort of traction device. None of us were, as we hadn’t expected snow. I never even checked, frankly. Snow in the last weekend in March? Yep, and lots of it!

Quickly, we were into a winter wonderland. The snow fell off and on, sometimes hard, but blue skies also danced above the tree cover. It was a typical northwest spring day in all but temperatures — cooler than usual, but all forms of weather one following the other.

Still smiling through ice and snow

The hardest part of the whole experience was the slick nature of the trail. With so many people hiking it, the trail was completely hard-packed snow. Sometimes almost ice. Because of the steep elevation, people had been sliding down on their butts on the steep sections — which meant that we, still going up, were scaling patches of total ice. Each step up was met with a partial slip back. Even with poles, I struggled mightily. At times Kyle had to haul Lauren and me up a particularly steep and icy part. We all worked together and encouraged each other.

Other hikers on the way down were great, telling us “Only a half mile to go now!” Or, “You’re almost at the top! Way to go!” Honestly, this type of cheerleading on a hike I have done so many times before usually irritates me — but on this snowy, challenging, sometimes feeling-like-giving-up day, I welcomed every word of encouragement that came our way.

Finally, The Top!

Looking down into Snoqualmie Valley

We topped out about 2:40, not a fast time up Si for any of us. But we made it safely, and even wandered up a bit higher than the semi-flat, usual “lunch spot” to get maximum views all around. It was simply gorgeous with the snow, mixed clouds and sun, and views down into Snoqualmie Valley and beyond.

We ate a late but well-earned lunch and watched the gray jays (aka “camp robbers”) and chipmunks try to steal our food. They know exactly what the hundred or so hikers each day are up to at this spot. The true summit of Si lies a bit beyond, up a steep rock scramble, which I am reasonably certain no one was doing on this snowy day.

With the breeze and cold temps on top we didn’t dilly dally after lunch. We knew the way down would be just as challenging as coming up.

Top of Mt. Si

Headed Down

And it was. For the first two miles, the trail was slick as snot in some areas. Like those who had descended before us, Kyle and Lauren sometimes just slid on their butts. But I hate that approach. Butt slipping is too hard for me with so many orthopedic complications, and I fought hard to stay upright. I felt like a grandma, no question, even with the poles. Kyle would help Lauren down, then jet back up to help me. Sometimes it was a matter of literally slipping into his arms where he’d be braced to catch my moving body. It was nuts, but we kept ourselves entertained by laughing at ourselves as much as possible.

Back on solid ground!

Once back to solid mud, I relaxed a bit. For the remaining two miles, I still focused on my feet, as the path was rocky and rooty and uneven in places. But I also observed Kyle and Lauren. They had an evening to plan as they had only that night before Lauren flew back to Atlanta early next morning. They prioritized and problem solved, each stating what they needed and wanted to accomplish in the short amount of time they had remaining together. Lauren was spent, and Kyle helped her figure out ways to rally and even grab a quick nap.  Kyle was stressed about the upcoming week, as his internship started the next day after taking Lauren to the airport very early. Lauren helped him prioritize what needed to happen and what could wait. In essence, they each did for each other what they’ve done nearly every day of their lives for the past ten years!

Overall Takeaways

After dropping Kyle and Lauren back at Kyle’s temporary place, I felt a sense of profound happiness for these two. I also felt pride in the fact that I had a role in the successful upbringing of both my kids. — my daughter Shannon just married her former high school sweetheart at the age of 28 last September. But beyond that, I felt inspired. With so many marriages that DON’T work out, I love seeing couples that make it work. I’m ecstatic that both my kids and their partners are doing it!

As I navigate the waters of my own yet-to-be-determined life partner, work with singles and couples in my health and life coaching practice, and continue to be a part of this exciting venture called being human and interacting with others, I know I will remember this 10-year anniversary hike. Sure it was challenging physically, but the rewards of spending the day witnessing the continuation of a great love story totally made it worth it.

On top of a different snowy peak a few years back…

Thanks, Kyle and Lauren, for setting a great example of what’s possible in relationship through your loving, caring commitment to each other, and always remembering to have FUN.

DO YOU HAVE A GREAT LOVE STORY TO SHARE? Please share in the comments section below. I’d love to hear!

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