Love in the Backcountry

Love in the Backcountry

“When I started spending time with Robin in 2013, I invited him on his first-ever backpacking trip. I gently implied that if he didn’t enjoy the experience, I wasn’t sure we would work out, and that’s just the truth. A mutual love and respect for the outdoors is something I highly value in my friendships and had looked for in a partner. Luckily, our first outing sparked a deep connection between us and the outdoors. At the end of the trip, and from each trip thereon, we were already making plans for our next adventure.

Photo: Becca and Robin celebrate at the Mt. Katahdin trailhead, marking the completion of thru-hiking the entire Appalachian Trail over six months.

In 2017 we completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail; hiking from Georgia to Maine. We spent six months discovering more about each other and this incredible part of the world, sleeping in our two-person Copper Spur each night and discussing what we wanted life to look like “after the trail”.

Life after the trail brought us to Steamboat Springs, Colorado – a beautiful seasonal ski town with plenty of access to the backcountry year-round. Robin began working for Big Agnes, coincidentally our favorite gear manufacturer, and staffed with an incredible group of people we would soon call friends. Through Big Agnes we became part of a community who shared a passion for preserving and protecting the outdoors, while recreating in those places any chance they had. These friends then became an essential part of what would become our “Big Day”.

Photo: Bride and Groom, break for trail snacks on Leap Day, 2020. Photo by: Sarah Feiges Photography.

It was Robin’s idea to get married on Leap Day. He loved the concept of it being such a special day that only occurs every four years. For those of you asking in your head, yes we will celebrate our wedding anniversary annually – and the best part is, we get to make a weekend of it, rather than celebrate just one day. This year we are planning a hike and on every Leap Day, we’ll throw some sort of party to celebrate the extra 24 hours, and that thing we did on February 29th, 2020.

Photo: Ceremony transportation modes included skis, splitboards, snowshoes and snowmobiles. Photo by: Sarah Feiges Photography.

We planned the wedding in three short weeks; spontaneous, nimble and minimal, just like us. We’ve always discussed having a simple outdoor wedding and loved the 360 degree view provided at the summit of Hahns Peak. The only real challenge would be logistics. Getting married at 10,000 feet on a snow-covered mountain required the help of our small group of friends with outdoor safety skills, experience and equipment. We asked our friends with snowmobiles to tow us in for the first two road miles and asked our friends with Search & Rescue experience to bring extra beacons and two-way radio communication to help keep us safe.

Photo: Wedding guests skin up to the ceremony site near the summit of Hanhs Peak at 10,000 ft. Photo by: Sarah Feiges Photography.

After assessing snow conditions, and coordinating the carpool to the trailhead, we made our way up to the summit while chatting with our dedicated friends who skinned, snowshoed, and snowmobiled to the top. We tucked our wedding attire in our packs – a purple wedding dress and bouquet for the bride and for the groom, a barong (traditional Filipino wedding attire) that Robin’s father wore at his own wedding.

Photo: Wedding guests take a break to delayer under the bright, winter sun. Photo by: Sarah Feiges Photography.

Just below the true summit of Hahns Peak, where the fierce February wind would be partially hindered, our friends arranged their skis, snowboards, and ski poles to create a makeshift aisle and alter where our ceremony would take place. As for an officiant, we asked our buddy Todd to prepare a few words; he had never attended a wedding, so we felt he would be the best person for the task and he exceeded our expectations. It was a perfect day. Bluebird skies and time spent recreating in the outdoors, laughing and crying with good friends, and then making our way down the mountain however we got ourselves up.

Photo: Newlyweds pose in their wedding attire next to a makeshift alter surrounded by incredible mountain views. Photo by: Sarah Feiges Photography.

Little did we know, our wedding would be the last event many of our friends would attend before a year of social distancing kept us from our usual recreation schedule. Being quarantined as newlyweds for all those months felt similar to living in our Copper Spur on the AT all over again. The love we found in the backcountry has sustained us through mountains and valleys both geographically and metaphorically. We have been so thankful to live in a town where we have access to explore the outdoors, keeping us active and inspired for the day when we can meet our friends for a beer after skiing, or a company campout and potluck. We have learned that extra time should be savored, and after a year with plenty of extra time, we feel more fortunate than ever.”

About the Author: Becca Paguia graduated from UMBC in 2016 and completed the AT in 2017 under the trail name Mojito. She continues her education in nursing, while exploring her love for the outdoors through backpacking, hiking, paddle boarding, camping, and uphill skiing.