One of my favorite activities is hiking, so of course I was really excited when in 2010, I moved to Colorado.  I could enjoy some real mountain trails within reasonable driving distance of my home!

When I first met Zach, I told him how much I like hiking, especially to mountain lakes.  We went on a few amazing hikes together, taking things slowly because of Zach’s vision.  We summited Pike’s Peak…

[Us at Pike’s Peak Barr Camp, August 2011]

We went hiking in Estes Park, where we had a close encounter with wildlife…

[Elk in rut, Rocky Mountain National Park, September 2011]

He even proposed at the top of a waterfall!

[Waterfall not shown, November 2011]

[There’s the waterfall!]

But, as time went on, Zach’s true feelings came out.  He likes hiking too, and he especially likes doing things that make me happy, but it is very difficult for him.  It’s not that he falls down more (I think he and I are pretty even on our hiking stumbles count), it’s just that the constant vigilance about unpredictable terrain kind of sucks the fun out of it for him.  And if he’s not having fun, it’s hard for me to have fun.  I want to be able to help him hike better, but it is really hard to describe upcoming obstacles before it’s too late.  In suburbia, it’s easy to say, “three steps up,” but out in the mountains it’s more like, “there are three big rocks and the top one is loose so you can avoid it by staying to the left but watch out for those tree roots” before he’s already slipped a little bit and there’s a new obstacle that I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to describe.  He’s lucky to have exceptionally strong ankles.

This has led to a bigger problem for us.  If he doesn’t want to go hiking and I do, he feels guilty, like he’s holding me back.  If we go hiking anyway, we can both get frustrated, which means neither of us enjoys it.  And then I feel guilty for “forcing” him to join me on a miserable adventure which now not even I am enjoying.  I know that I shouldn’t feel guilty –  it’s his choice to come or not, and he is really good about speaking up when he’s had enough – but I can’t help it.

We’ve tried to come up with a few solutions to this problem.  The first is that we join a hiking group for blind/visually impaired people and their friends.  There is a group in our area called VIBeS.  We are excited about this because we would both enjoy the group atmosphere, as well as giving both me and Zach training for how to make hiking an easier and more enjoyable experience.  The problem is that our schedule has prevented us from going to any of the VIBeS events so far this summer.  Bummer!  I really hope we can go in the near future.

Another solution is that I go hiking without Zach.  Recently, I have been trolling some hiking-oriented Meetup groups, which would be an organized group of strangers going on a hike together.  The idea is to make those strangers your friends, which could be fun, and the Meetup groups I’ve been looking at are big enough for me to feel safe attending.  So I geared up and RSVPed for a Meetup hike today…and then chickened out.  It just sounds so socially intimidating!!  I want to hike, but am not sure I have the courage to show up to something alone.  Sigh.

What do you do when meeting a group of new people for the first time?  How do you approach an intimidating social situation without the safety net of a friend with you?