Why Heading Outside is Great Marriage Therapy (Michelle Abbey and Derek Abbey)

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As a certified forest therapist, Michelle Abbey knows the personal benefits of heading outside. She’s even shared them with us during Humans Outside Season One. But getting into nature isn’t just something she recommends for clients — it’s also a tool she and her husband Derek Abbey use for bettering their marriage.

In this episode of Humans Outside Michelle and Derek reveal not only why spending time has been an incredible marriage tool, but how others can leverage nature for both themselves and their relationships.

Some of the good stuff:

[1:49] Derek Abbey’s favorite outdoor space

[3:18] Derek and Michelle’s National Parks challenge

[4:13] A reminder about forest therapy

[5:56] Derek’s outdoor story

[7:57] Michelle’s outdoor story

[12:02] Outdoor appreciation vs. connection

[13:06] The value of getting outside your comfort zone

[16:05] Is three a crowd outside?

[19:02] How the outdoors has benefited their relationship

[28:01] An epic couples adventure

[33:04] How to get past hard stuff outside together

[41:00] How to compromise outside

[47:32] Creating ‘sacred spaces’ outside

[50:19] Derek’s favorite outdoor gear

[52:52] Derek’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/contact-us/

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz 0:01

If you listened to season one, you remember our fascinating discussion with Michelle Abbey, an actual certified forest therapist. She talks about what forest therapy is, why you should give it a try for yourself, and how she uses it for herself. In Season One, we also talked to Corey Weathers, who spoke with us about how heading outside can be a tool in building better relationships because of the way it creates shared experiences. Back to Michelle. Michelle is just one half of the Abbey duo. Derek Abbey, a Marine Corps veteran who leads Project Recover, which helps fund the recovery of the remains of US troops missing in action, is the second Abbey. Together, Michelle and Derek use the outdoors in the way guest Cory Weathers described as a tool in the care and keeping up of their relationship. And today, they’re both here to talk to us about that, including hopefully some tips and tricks for replicating what they’ve done. Derek and Michelle, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

Michelle Abbey 1:30

Thanks for having us.

Derek Abbey 1:31

It’s a pleasure to be here.

AB 1:33

So as Michelle knows, we start these conversation just sort of like envisioning ourselves chatting and our guests’ favorite outdoor space. So Michelle, I know you and I had one you love before that maybe there’s a place we can go in our brains, obviously, with both of you at the same time. What do we got?

DA 1:49

I love that. And I have the perfect place actually, that’s special to me. There’s a peak called Bogachiel Peak in Olympic National Park. And it’s up in the Olympic Mountains. It looks down into the Seven Lakes Basin up there. And you can see the stretch of Hurricane Ridge and other mountain tops. It’s an absolutely beautiful place. And it’s actually one of the first places Michelle and I went together on an outdoor adventure. So I pick that spot.

AB 2:19

And why did you pick that spot as the first place you went together on an outdoor adventure?

DA 2:23

Well, I grew up in the Northwest and Olympic National Park is a very special place to me. It’s my favorite National Park. Mostly because of nostalgia. So going there as a kid, but it’s just an incredible place because you know, you can literally go from the beach, to the rain forest to Alpine all in the same day. It’s an incredible National Park and then it just has a special place in my heart. So it was one of our first trips to a national park together.

AB 2:59

Um, everyone knows, I think, that I am a national park enthusiast, so I can totally endorse this. You guys have this little like group or group couples challenge to visit national parks. Right.

DA 3:18

Yeah, that’s right. So we’re trying to visit every National Park. All now 62 of them.

MA 3:25

We’re not trying, we are.

DA 3:30

It only counts if we do it together. So it’s not I’ve been to one and she hasn’t been to one so that that doesn’t count.

AB 3:41

Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, the invite to at least point you in the right direction in Alaska certainly stands, although I have not been to all the national parks here. So I would love to go with you guys. That’s definitely a bucket list item.

So Michelle, when you and I talked, we pretty much talked exclusively about forest therapy, what it is and what it means. I don’t want to dwell on that today. But I was hoping you could remind everyone with a quick description.

MA 4:13

Sure. So I guide forest therapy walks. And what we’re doing basically is we’re getting people into the outdoors to connect with nature and connect with nature in a very basic present way using their five senses, or starting out with their basic five senses. And we kind of move on to other senses beyond that, but just kind of helping them to slow down and use those senses that I feel in today’s society have just become a bit more dulled on an everyday basis, because we’re trying to pay attention to other things so we don’t pay attention to those senses anymore. So practicing using them out in the outdoor space and to be able to connect to nature in a way we normally don’t do because we just slow down enough. And in that time, you know, I see a lot of wonderful things happen to people. And different things are going to happen with every person just depending on what’s going on in their head that day and what it is they need to work through. And they’re allowed that time to do that in nature.

AB 5:19

Awesome. Thank you so much for that. So what we did not talk about before was how you’ve experienced nature and the outdoors beyond your professional work. So I’m excited to dive into that today. But I want to do the same with Derek. So first, Derek, give us the lowdown on what you like to do outside and how that came to be how you got to that point.

DA 5:30

I like to do pretty much everything outside. And Michelle and I live in Bend Oregon, so living here makes it really easy. You know, we can walk across the street to undeveloped land and go for a hike or run or bike ride.

As the seasons change, you know, we’re snowshoeing and other winter sports, or we live 10 minutes from Deschutes river so we can be paddleboarding on the river in the morning. And, and my connection to the outdoors really just I think started growing up in the Northwest. So I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. And also, my family was the you know, if you’re gonna do something, get outside, get outside, we didn’t have video games, or we did when I was a kid. But really, most of my time as a youth was spent outside. And then as I’ve grown older, I just, I just really love the escape and kind of turning off the rest of the world and going and spending time in nature and honestly do that in any way that I possibly can. You know, I don’t participate in every single sport, but I definitely hike and backpack and run and, and I like to do those in nature. And I don’t even do like road races anymore. So running like a marathon or another race like that. I, for the most part, don’t do any of those city runs anymore. Now I like to do them in the outdoors. And I rarely wear headphones when I’m running in nature. You know, like a lot of people you see him running down the road and in town and I used to do that and I’d have my headphones on as a distraction and things like that. But when I take off and go for a run in the outdoors, I really want to connect with it. So I try and you know, run by the river and listen to the river or listen to the birds or things like that. It just has such what I think is a positive impact on my life.

AB 7:36

It sounds like Michelle is rubbing off on you.

DA 7:43

Yeah, sometimes, you know, it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Yeah.

AB 7:48

Michelle, what about you? What’s your outdoor background? Before forest therapy, before that became a profession and a calling? What brought you outside to start with?

MA 7:57

I’m like Derek, you know, as a kid. I loved to play outside. I was big on play, which I think all kids were when we were young, really. And my step mom, actually, we lived on a little eight acre ranch and she raised horses and we had all kinds of different animals and I loved animals and hanging out with them. But you know, if I think about it, I feel like in my teenage and kind of early college years, and it wasn’t, I don’t know, if outdoors was as important to me, maybe possibly, because I grew up in Louisiana, the weather there was just horrible. But I wouldn’t say that I consciously considered it part of my, my values, my teenage and early 20s. It wasn’t until I moved to San Diego and found the outdoors as pleasurable, I quickly got into, well kind of quickly got into running and, and quickly for running I got in a triathlon and you know, started hanging out with that crowd, which meant, you know, made sure that I was outside all the time. So my initial experience in wanting to be outdoors, enjoying the outdoors was a lot of pushing myself in races. So while I was outdoors, I was definitely kind of focused a little bit more on me. And I appreciated the outdoors, that’s for sure. Especially moving to San Diego and appreciating the beautiful weather we had there. Um, but I feel like slowly but surely that appreciation kind of grew more into connection hopefully, especially when I you know, came across the the forest therapy certification and that work and and so it was just really cool to kind of see that that switch and that that growth from from the appreciation into connection, which I think are kind of two different things. But really cool when you see it develop. And now of course I always say that I blame forest therapy for really slowly down my running time. I do a lot of stopping. And Derek and I also do a lot of stopping in hiking, particularly me, I’m always taking pictures of all the plants, because I’ve got to figure out what they are. But I feel like it’s definitely added, you know, value and quality to my life to have done that.

AB 10:21

It’s interesting what you’re talking about – the appreciation? You said appreciation versus connection. Okay. So it’s interesting that you bring that up, because as we get closer and dive into maybe it’s weather changes that are not everyone’s ideal, right? I’m getting a lot of questions from folks asking me, you know, how do you continue to go outside when the weather’s not great, right? Because it’s really easy to make a habit out of this in the summer when all you need is a light jacket, or it’s easy to find things to do, or there are things to do that are well within your comfort zone. It’s a lot harder when it requires buying some new gear or figuring out what to do when it’s cold. And I wonder if you see that a lot that people start doing outside things, because there’s something to do, and then move from it to being that connection? Because what I told someone actually just today was that, well, you know, yes, she said, I don’t want to just go outside to go outside. But I don’t want to just go for a walk just to muscle through it. And what I told her was, Well, I mean, that’s how it starts, like you kind of have to muscle through it. But at some point, you’re going to be going outside, because you want to even though the weather’s bad, you’re going to just buy the big jacket already. Okay, just do it. And then you’re going to put the big jacket on, and you’re going to go outside, because it’s something that you have to do not because you committed to going outside everyday. But because you know that for you, this is what you have to do. And it becomes a practice of appreciation. Am I crazy? Or is this a like, normal thing that you see other people talking about?

MA 12:02

I feel that many people, I don’t know, if they move past the point of appreciation to connection, I mean, maybe different levels. But not completely, I think a lot of people throughout their lives, take their enjoyment of the outdoors, as it’s a place where I run, it’s a place where I exercise, it’s a place where I connect with friends. And again, yeah, they’re, it’s pretty to them. It’s a nice, beautiful background. But I don’t know if there’s that true, like sensory connection, consciously that they’re going through. And then especially, like you talked about the point where people, you know, start to love it so much that they’re willing to go out in, you know, not as exciting conditions. I think to get to that point, the point of where you’re going to push past your comfort zone to go outside is also maybe something that a lot of people appoint that they don’t get to.

DA 13:06

There’s that, you know, oddly enough, I just had a conversation about this last week with a mutual friend of ours, Brian Von Herbulis, him and I spent four days hiking around Mount Hood. And oddly enough, you know, we were planning on doing it in three days. And then we ended up adding an extra day to it. But part of our discussion while we were out there, as we were appreciating and connecting with the wilderness and being outside, we had a discussion around, you know, the discomfort piece of it – literally getting outside of your comfort zone, we’re so shielded, and we have these luxuries of the society that we live in. But in many ways that kind of dulls down our senses. And part of what I like about going outside is being a bit uncomfortable, and being reminded that I’m alive and that I have the capability to challenge myself in certain ways. You know, we talked about exercise, but then, oh, yeah, I might be a little cold. Or I might be a little dirty, or this hill might be, you know, a long climb or things like that. But it adds to the hardiness that I think a lot of people are missing out on. And I can think of back of a conscious moment when I was spending time outside and oddly enough, it was in Iraq. And I was on a deployment there and I would run and most people know that Iraq is a desert. But the winters get very, very cold and the wind blasts across the desert and it can feel like it cuts through you and I remember enjoying going out in those runs when it would rain and the wind would blow and because it reminded me that I was alive. The cold and the hurt on my skin. And I’m not sadist or anything like that. But just the reminder that Oh, you know, I’m alive, I can feel these different feelings and senses and things like that. And they’re, they’re part of the experience, I truly believe that they add value to your life.

AB 15:13

I think that the like, the soft word for that hurt is called invigorating, right?

MA 15:23

That is a great word.

AB 15:27

Okay, so it’s interesting that you bring that up, because that’s exactly a great segue into talking about the couples thing that I promised we would talk about on this podcast. And it’s actually what Cory and I talked about in the episode I mentioned earlier, about building relationships or using the outdoors rather to build relationships. So let’s pivot a little bit and talk about the role that heading outside plays in your relationship. And we’ll get to the doing hard things here in a second. So talk to me about that. What is the role? How do you see the outdoors as being a part of it – is three a crowd with the outdoors?

DA 16:05

Not at all. But we definitely spend a lot of time together outdoors and the more numbers that you add to it, the more difficult. Yeah, it does become difficult. But um, you know that spending time outdoors has always been a piece of our relationship. And I think it’s something that really makes our relationship strong. So we actually don’t buy gifts for each other, in the sense that, you know, when our birthdays come around, or Christmas comes around, or other holidays, where people tend to give each other gifts, we actually, we share experiences. And our birthdays happen to be six days apart, in August.

AB 16:50

Excellent time to have a birthday, I think you and I share a birthday.

DA 16:56

We do! And Michelle’s is six days after mine. And so we usually try to plan some sort of trip, we try to do it to a national park, for our birthdays, or multiple national parks. And then we do the same thing for Christmas time, we’ll try and visit a national park and experience those and now it’s intangible, but it’s a shared experience, we’re spending time together. It’s not this kind of token or whatever that you many people give as a gift. And then you’re trying to figure out if it measures up to what the expectation was, or things like that. We have enough things, we don’t need any more things. Although we get outdoor gear every once a while, and other things. But it’s not that we don’t have events around those occasions. And almost all the time, those events include an outdoor experience, you know, whenever we’re traveling somewhere, you know, we look to see Oh, is there a hike we can go on in this area or some neat place that we could go visit. And even you know, Michelle brought up growing up in Louisiana and loving the weather and stuff of San Diego. And now we’re in Bend because we love the outdoors and what Bend has, has to offer. But as I’m going through time, you know that that appreciation and connection of the diversity of the places that we can go from, you know, the mountains of the Northwest, and things like that, but then also going and seeing some some swamp in the South is also now really, really fascinating because we started to connect more with like the flora and fauna in those areas. And so really, from the very, very beginning, when we started when we first met, we realized that we had this appreciation, deep appreciation for the outdoors. And our relationship has just continued to grow around that to the point where we were living in Southern California and we were spending all of our time outdoors. And sometimes that included oftentimes that included driving three hours to get to a trail that happened to be packed with people. When we were no longer anchored there, we intentionally picked out a place to move to that we could more easily have these outdoor experiences together and now it’s a daily occurrence.

MA 19:20

I think something really important in how us sharing the outdoors has benefited our relationship and made it stronger are two things I think about communication and I think about expectations. And the thing that about expectations for instance, that that I think is helpful when we share our outdoor experiences. So I tend to be a bit more of a planner, scheduler. I have a lot of expectations. And I can see what I want to happen. Um, Derek is a little bit better at just kind of going with the flow. And so I think that that’s been helpful when we go on these experiences together, that I’ve been able to come down a little bit on the expectation setting, and I’ve become a bit better at going with the flow. And Derek has become a little bit more accepting of my scheduling. So we’ve kind of like, you know, found this kind of middle ground. I mean, yeah, we’re still different, but we know that about each other, we’re kind of able to, to make it harmonious in our relationship. And then with the communication piece, I think this is huge. And I’ve seen these examples, and a lot of couples that do a lot of hikes and races and things like that together. So I feel like you always hear about the arguments or the fights or the the just, ill feelings that couples may end up having towards one another if they do like a hike or run. And the problem is that they’re trying to stay side by side, and you’ve got one of them that’s like stronger, and the other one that’s weaker, and he’s getting pissed, because she can’t keep up, she’s getting pissed, because, you know, he’s trying to pull her along. And that never works out. So well, Derek and I, we go out on a lot of a lot of our hikes, well, definitely we race, we know, you know, we give each other a kiss at the beginning, it’s like, see you later. And a lot of times, you know, Derek’s, you know, flying up the hills, and then he slows down, I’m flying down the hill. So you know, if we were to try to stay with each other, like, we would always be mad at each other, because we’re both strong on one end of that hill. And so we’ve learned that and, and I feel like it’s just a good communication skill to know that about each other, expect it and be okay with it. And, and I think it spills out into other areas of our relationship, which again, is another thing that I see in a lot of relationships is sometimes I feel that people will try so hard to be together in relationship as one, that there are ways they don’t allow each other to grow individually. And I feel like with Derek, I finally found that person where we’re really good at just allowing each other to grow individually, yet we still are together.

DA 22:22

It’s a cool thing and a collective identity, but then also individual identities. And you know, there’s overlap and those individual identities as well. But we acknowledge that and support each other and each of their individual endeavors. And, and I just want to point out and make sure that it doesn’t sound like I’m a faster runner, because she beat me in our ultra that we ran last year.

AB 22:49

That’s because walking the hills is always a good idea.

DA 22:54

There was a big storm that came through.

MA 23:00

Fear made me fast. Yeah.

AB 23:03

That’s also a strategy. That’s so great. So um, one thing that pops to mind, while you’re talking about looking at other couples who have had challenges with this is my family. And I really enjoy these adventure race TV shows, like The Amazing Race, I’m like, I’m an Amazing Race junkie. And I, when I had my surgery, I spent quite a lot more time watching TV than I ever have in months in a month. So The Amazing Race is an excellent family friendly show, right? So that, you know, you don’t have to shoo your kids out of the room at any point. So we watched that. And that it’s like, based off of this premise of poor communication among couples, you know, the two people, so whether it’s like an actual man, you know, man, woman or man, man couple, or you know, whatever it a romantic relationship, or just two friends, right? The whole premise of this show is conflict between the two people on the team. And you can see that they have to stay together for the most part, or they have to do things individually, while the other one watches helplessly. And the whole thing is based off of this lack of communication. But if you watch the seasons, where there’s a really successful team, first of all, they’re not as fun to watch because again, the entire premise. But they’re fine in their own way. Because you watch the success of this team. And it is a communications thing that they are able to meet expectation, and not be at each other’s throats and able to tell each other what they need in that moment or give instructions of you know what one person knows that the other doesn’t, and so on and so forth. So that’s just what came to my mind. And I know that you guys moved to Oregon very, very intentionally to pursue better or more outdoor life. What else of this has been intentional, or was this sort of natural progression to spending time outside as a couple, just based on your own personal preferences?

DA 25:07

Well, I think it just, I think we just realized it from the very, very beginning that we had this draw to spend time in nature and in a variety of ways. And then we realize that as we just kind of moved forward in our relationship, it was good for us that we really, really enjoyed it as individuals and as a couple. And we found just everything that we were doing in our free time, included, you know, taking off to a mountain or going to some national park or an adventure on a river or something like that. And so it was difficult on the logistic side to do that in Southern California, just because of all the people and the distance that you would have to travel. And so we realize, you know, more and more that we like this, and we wanted to get somewhere closer to it. And, and yeah, we just doubled down on it. And I think initially, it was just an unconscious thing. It was, yeah, I like this, you like this, let’s do this together. And then we realize just what we both love this. And this is good for our relationship. And we’re just going to keep on doing it. And I mean, it is pretty neat. And the cool thing about bend and you know, Michelle mentioned that I’m fine with the impromptu, let’s, let’s go do something. And especially during this ongoing pandemic, and now my home office is my workplace. So I can, you know, you can find yourself just being stuck in a room or behind a computer, and Michelle’s really good about just coming in and be like, hey, let’s take a break and go down to the river, let’s take a break and go for a run or a hike or a walk or anything like that. And it’s really easy to access these things. So I think it started off as you know, not so conscious. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. And then it became far more conscious as we grew in our relationship.

AB 27:14

Yeah, it’s interesting, though, because for some people, I think it’s the opposite, right? You have to make that effort and then it becomes just something that you do. But I know, neither way is wrong, like as long as we get to the end result where we’re experiencing this benefit of, you know, this free, literally natural resource, then, you know, whatever. Let’s just do it. And you guys have done quite a lot of like very epic things as a couple of sort of nonchalantly mentioned ultra running and snow storm races and just you know, that’s a Tuesday. What’s like something epic that pops to mind that we can fill people in on what’s something really epic that you’ve done together?

DA 28:01

The Beaverhead Ultra Marathon was pretty epic. I mean, that was an incredible race. We did the 55K, so about 36 miles. Most of it on the Continental Divide trail between Idaho and Montana. And but just I mean, I like the storms that roll through you know, I mentioned you know, the invigoration but you’re still you know, you’re running on this, quote unquote, trail if you if you want to call it. Yeah, tell us fields. And then on one side of you is a 1500 foot drop off. And then from the other side is this thunderstorm coming in and you’re slipping and sliding on some rocks. You definitely you definitely feel alive up there. But I think that’s probably one of our most epic adventures.

MA 28:55

Mount Whitney, I guess. I guess some people will call that epic.

DA 29:00

In 2018, we did the highest point in the lower 48. We climbed Mount Whitney. We did a single day ascent of Whitney and then for Christmas, we had a picnic in Badwater in Death Valley, which is the lowest point in the continental United States. So that’s pretty cool.

AB 29:29

Does Death Valley get cold the same way Iraq does?

DA 29:33

Well, we didn’t spend that much time there. It was actually pretty nice when we were there. And pretty, pretty comfortable. I mean, it was kind of silly because we got dressed up and we hiked all this picnic gear out to the middle of Badwater. And in a suit, it was kind of hot. Yeah. So we could take the cool pictures out in the middle of this national park and but yeah, it turned out to be a pretty, pretty cool picture.

Another one that I really enjoyed, we hiked up to Sequoia National Park and it was supposed to be a snowshoe adventure. But it ended up being microspikes because there was a lot of snow on most of the trail. But there was a lot of ice. And we hiked up to this ski cabin, and spent the night there and then woke up on Christmas morning and hiked up to Pear Lake, which is just this mountain lake in the Sierra. And we were by ourselves that morning in the Sierra, which is just absolutely incredible. So we’ve had some pretty cool epic adventures.

AB 30:54

I think those sound epic and and I appreciate the devotion to getting cool photos and getting the gram man. Yeah.

DA 31:04

And we saw that so that we stole that idea, oddly enough. We were going to visit Bryce Canyon for another Christmas and we wanted to see the snow on the Hutus. And we were staying in Kanab, Utah and just happened to be having dinner. And these three British guys sat down next to us and we just strike up a conversation. And they mentioned going to Death Valley. I think it was on Thanksgiving.

MA 31:32

They were in like tuxes or something.

DA 31:34

Yeah. And they shared their photos with us. And we just immediately said, we’re stealing that. Yeah, go do the same thing. But I mean, that was another thing that you know, we have 62 national parks. And that’s just a national park that does include a National Forest and all these other incredible monuments, incredible places around our country. And they’re so diverse. And many people just don’t go out and visit them. And I just feel like man, you’re missing out. And so seeing somebody from another country come and spend time in this incredible space that we have here in our country was nice to see and I wish more people would would take advantage of these.

AB 32:19

Hard things get real hard fast in the wilderness. You know, we’ve talked about snow storms talked about you know all sorts of adventures, you probably have a certain tolerance level for a friend pushing you that you don’t have for a spouse. So like when I’m out running with my friend I’m okay if she’s just sort of nagging me on, but when it’s my spouse I’m less kind about that. Right? And just, you know, he might not make it off the trail we don’t know, you know, so. You know, I took Luke actually on a 30 mile run this summer that he was arguably very not ready for although he totally crushed it. Okay, but he wanted to do it and it’s possible that he now refers to it as the death run. But you can say — Ah, so how do you get past those moments of trail anger and frustration that and make them help your relationship instead of hurt it?

MA 33:58

So it’s funny. The weird thing that I experienced this and I feel like it’s something totally different. Um, because Derek doesn’t really push me if anything – I ,push him so he’s fine. He’s probably gonna be able to comment on that more than I am. But what I do realize I do very much when I am saying like a hard hike or something with Derek, I feel like I – more so with him – I allow my weakness to show more than when I’m with a friend. Well, if I’m with a friend or someone that’s not Derek, I’ll put on the tough suit and act like I’m hardcore. But I will definitely allow and I think it’s just because I am the most comfortable with Derek and I consider Derek my, you know, knight in shining shining armor who’s gonna save me and take care of me if needed. And so I don’t know, I guess I have this this thing in the back of my head that I can allow myself to be weaker around him. And sometimes I just don’t realize it and I’m like, Oh, I’m doing that thing again.

DA 34:57

There’s been a couple times where she has gotten a little frustrated with me. Usually it’s dealt with heights, I think.

MA 35:04

Oh, yeah, well, that’s totally there. Well, that’s pushing in a different way. But that’s the other thing that’s about me is I do I like to put myself. I love to push back past this comfort. It’s hard. It’s really uncomfortable. But I do love to push past it, but I do need someone to push me and I can’t do it all on my own. So Derek is good in the heights thing. I’ve had a couple of wonky times specifically on what was it? Mount St. Helens? Oh, yeah. Mount St. Helens – while I’m thinking about it, I get woozy. I feel vertigo, I feel like I’m gonna fall off a mountain or whatever. And so I just, you know, need to focus on him. And I and again, yeah, I allow my weakness to show. So I say way more curse words around him.

AB 36:06

But, but Derek, you like, take that on? Like, that’s not a we’re doing this again moment for you. I think if I was out with a friend who was always turning to me, for those moments, I would be maybe less. But you know, I felt like, Oh, can she keep up? Or you know, does she really want to do this and maybe not seek that person out again?

DA 36:37

We’ve had relationships like that, or people yeah, they’re just they just, they advertise one thing, and then they show up and you end up doing something completely different because the capability is not there. And that’s okay. And my thing is, just be completely honest on what your capability is. And then we’ll plan our event or our time around that. But yeah, you know, I just try and stay calm. And Michelle maybe gets a little worked up. And it doesn’t happen very often. And the truth is, most of the time it’s related to food. Like, you just need a snack.

MA 37:09

Yeah, I’m hungry.

AB 37:11

This is my life. I understand this statement touches me very personally.

DA 37:18

She just happens to be hangry. Yeah, and that’s the thing, get a snack out and she’s good. But Michelle also pushes me. You know, she, she does take advantage of kind of my impromptu attitude. Not in a bad way. But she’ll sign me up for things like, hey, do you want to do this race in Colorado? And I’ll just say, Yeah, okay. And, you know, it turns out to be the Leadville marathon and in the middle of the race, I’m like — how did I end up here?

But I’m always happy. I’m happy during the moment and definitely happy after it. Because it’s such an incredible, they’re always incredible experiences. I’m pretty sure you’ve been on the Beaverhead ultra. Yeah. And sometimes I think she thinks my ability is more than it is with some of these races that she signs me up for, but then we get out there and do it.

AB 38:25

And that’s what you’re saying is a trust thing, right? That you trust her to not take you on something that will end in your death, you know, even though it might feel like that. You know?

DA 38:39

It would be a nice way to go, I suppose.

AB 38:42

I said I feel the food comment very deeply. I’m a food hoarder. So if I’m on a trail, and I’m having a hard time, it is because I haven’t eaten. And if I’m having a hard time, I will also not eat on purpose. Because I think something in my head is like, What if you get to the end and you don’t have a snack? Mm hmm. Yeah, I better save this snack, even though, arguably, I have plenty of snacks. Like it’s not a problem. And you know, and you save this for later, even though there is no later because they’re, I mean, I need to eat this right now. Or everyone’s going to have a very bad time, mostly me. And so my friends have started, you know — eat this now. So they get out of the bag, and — eat it right now.

DA 39:34

I’m the way where I’ll just go and go and go and go throughout the whole day. And then she’ll be like, have you eaten? You know, maybe you should eat a snack or something like that. Oh, that’s a good idea. No, I haven’t eaten at all. And she never forgets to eat.

MA 39:50


AB 39:52

It’s not so much that I forgot, it is that I didn’t want to because I have that. It’s like a supply and demand thing. So we did this. I did this one really long run this summer that was like 23 mile trail run. And it’s a trail that’s very popular with mountain bikers. And so we actually, we saw quite a few mountain bikers out there who were like, Oh, my God, I can’t believe you’re running this. And I’m thinking, why are you riding a bike, you know, sort of that situation. But it was a long trail, we weren’t quite sure how long it was, because some of the trail reports said 21 miles, some of them said 23. So to me, that just means you should hoard your snacks. But who knows how long we’ll be out here. And so at around 20 miles, I was, I mean, I needed to eat the, you know, three extra things I had in one of the three, okay, like, it wasn’t like a starvation situation. And I just, I couldn’t do it. Because I didn’t know when the end was going to be, even though it was, you know, probably within a couple of miles, almost, for sure. And so, yeah, I had to get over it. You know, it was a learning experience that, like all of these experiences are because now I know I do that. And next time, I’m having a really hard time, I’m going to have an honest conversation with myself about eating the snack, you know, yeah, just eat the frickin snack. Amy, come on.

DA 41:08

Well, in the in the ultra side of things, like training wise had to, I had to make sure I concentrated on, you know, caloric intake and eating while I was doing my long training runs, because you know, as you know, you get the distance in, you’re going to need those calories to make it all the way through. And for somebody that usually doesn’t have a lot of intake, beyond water, and a couple little snacks, I had to make sure that I was training. So my body got used to it and actually worked out pretty well, I would stop at those aid stations and just gorge myself and manage keep on going across those races.

AB 41:48

So I think there are lots of, you know, obviously there are a lot of different kinds of couples out there. Do you have advice for couples who maybe one partner is really outdoorsy, but the other one isn’t? Or maybe they are into two totally different kinds of outdoor experiences? You know, you have people who really like to hunt, and then people who really like to run, and they’re not always the same people? Um, would you have any advice for sort of meeting in the middle on that stuff?

DA 42:16

Yeah, I mean, if there is a if there is a potential type of, quote, unquote, compromise that you can do, you know, hey, maybe one person’s to hunter and one person’s the runner, but is there something that you can do to, you know, find overlap, where you can spend time outdoors. I think that’s what, what I would recommend, or maybe even try new things together. One of the things that we’ve taken up significantly, both of us since we’ve been a band is, I’m, I am a birder now. Like, I love searching for birds. And like, I bought binoculars and everything for it. And we do it together. And then we talk about, obviously, you gotta do it outside. But then we talk about finding these different birds. And we kind of keep track of the different birds that are migrating through and the ones that we’ve seen and the one that we haven’t, and, you know, if you would ask me, if I’d be interested in that, you know, a year or two ago, I probably would have known again, you know, I like I like seeing birds and stuff in the wild, but I wasn’t completely nerding out on it. But now I nerd out on it. And it’s something new in our relationship, though, that we do together while we’re walking. And, you know, there’s so much you can do in the outdoors. That’s not just hiking, I mean, there’s tons and tons of things that you can do. So maybe just exploring new activities, or trying something new as a couple in the outdoors. You might find something that you can do as a collective. And then again, now you have a collective identity, those things that you like to do in the outdoors, but then the individual pieces that you do by yourself, maybe without your spouse or your significant other.

MA 44:01

Yeah, places like that. Yeah, really good one that’s quite easy. It’s like, okay, you just have to go to the place. Like this place that both of you want to see or, you know, it’s got some weird interesting things to it. Like, let’s go check that out.

DA 44:15

And, you know, we’ve been talking so much about national parks, I mean, you don’t have to, you know, backpack into the wilderness. Um, you could stay at a lodge and then do day hikes. What Michelle introduced me to car camping, I never car camped until her and I became a couple. I was always a backpacker. And then she’s like, Oh, well, no, we can just drive in and camp here. And then we would do the hikes and I’m like, wow, I’m not carrying you know, all this weight. I’m just carrying some snacks and it’s wildly wonderful. Sleep in a more comfortable spot. And so I became, I never camped before and I just hadn’t even thought about it. I had only been a backpacker my whole life. And it just opened up this whole new experience for me that I hadn’t thought about before. And so just things like that, well, hey, maybe you haven’t tried this, or you may not really know what it is, but you know, as a couple, hey, let’s, let’s try it out once. Or, you know, the other thing that I would recommend is, you know, if one person likes to do one thing, you know, you can go back and forth. And maybe it’s not hunting. I don’t know what I mean. But it’s like, Oh, you like to go for a run? Well, let’s do a shorter run, and I’ll participate on that run with you and the other person likes to do I don’t know, paddleboarding or something like that. Okay, well, let’s do that, or something like that. And so compromising, you know, that we’re, hey, we’ll do you know, back and forth, you pick one, I’ll pick one, things like that. That’s another way to look at it.

AB 45:58

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, because that’s exactly what Corie was talking about in our episode with her. It’s this idea of creating this shared space, where you have shared transformative experiences that lead to having – she uses the term sacred spaces, and she uses it mostly in the context of military marriages where one partner is, say, deployed, and has a transformative experience downrange. And then the other partner is back home and has a different transformative experience. So one example would be when my husband was deployed, and a lot of people in his unit were killed. And then I was back home, and I went to a lot of military memorial services on base. Those are two very different experiences that really impact us both, quite strongly, but they’re not something that either of us can really understand for the other, we just have to respect that they exist. A relationship draws apart when that’s all you have. And instead, you need to be focused on creating shared experiences that are also transformative, hopefully, in positive ways that you can then hearken back to and the outdoors is great for that, because you’re doing hard things, you’re conquering stuff, you’re, you know, learning that car camping is a thing. And you’re having, you know, you’re learning how to slow down in the wilderness, you’re learning how to go up those high peaks that you may not do on your own, and you’re having these transformative experiences, but together, and that’s something that you can build your relationship around going forward.

DA 47:32

It is, and it’s so healthy. I mean, not just not just moving around, and stuff like that with the things that we do, but just just the time in nature. I mean, the science side of things that Michelle knows the science name, but I call them tree farts, but the chemicals the plants and trees give off that have a benefit to us, that there’s that healthy element to being outside. But then disconnecting from the things that weigh us down so much in our day to day life is over abundance of communication through, you know, TV, and social media and all those things. It’s really nice to disconnect from just that flooding of your senses and not so much a positive way, and then getting out and being able to slow down. And then if you’re conscious about it, you know, maybe you’re somebody that sits down and meditates – that’s a great place to do it. But I’ve learned, actually from other friends about just meditating in motion while spending time outside. And yeah, so I don’t you know, the headphones because I want my senses to be stimulated by these things around me. And it could be the wind blowing through the trees, or it could be bird singing or it could be the smell of you know, pine or whatever it happens to be that you’re within. There’s just so much healthy benefit that comes from it.

AB 48:53

Michelle, what’s the technical name for tree farts, please?

MA 48:58


DA 49:02

But you’ll remember tree farts.

AB 49:06

You’re not wrong. I’m just you know, we like both sides.

Okay. All right. So we’ve come to the end, unfortunately, because I like so many of our guests, I could talk to you guys forever. At the end of the podcast, we have a leftovers round where we just sort of wrap things up by talking about some of our favorite gear and then favorite moment outside. Michelle, when you are on the episode in season one, you said your buff is your favorite outdoor gear and a headlamp and emergency blanket are your most essential. Has that changed?

MA 49:41

Uh, you know, no, I think I think they’re pretty much the same. And specifically the buff right now because boy, they become super popular with the whole COVID thing, right? I’m out for a run or a hike. It’s super easy. I mean, I already just wear it around my neck to for all kinds of reasons. But now in addition, I can just throw it up over my nose whenever I’m running past people and that kind of thing, so that’s yeah, it’s become even more of my favorite outdoor gear item. I would always say that my most essential is having some sort of light just in case and emergency blanket just in case.

AB 50:11

And what about you, Derek? Got any favorites or most essential?

DA 50:19

On the favorite side, I have two answers. One, just my hiking shoes and, and sometimes those change – right now I’m wearing ultras for hiking and backpacking. But what I really like about it is just watching my shoes wear down, because it just, it’s a sign to me that I’m doing something and using them and getting outdoors and things like that. So that’s one of my favorites. The other piece is kind of a nerd geek thing. Like I’m really fascinated with my Z Pack backpack right now, which is an ultralight backpack. And that was really nice to have on those four days around Mount Hood, because it’s not as heavy as another pack, but it works just as well. So that’s awesome. And then on the essentials you know, water filters seem like the big thing now and Sawyer water filters are incredible. So I don’t have to carry gallons and gallons of water as long as there’s a water source out there somewhere. And then trekking poles. You know, I’m not as young as I used to be and those trekking poles really save my knees and I almost always have them when I’m when I’m taking off into the wilderness on a hike or even on a run on ultras. I ran with trekking poles and learn to train with trekking poles especially for the downhill.

AB 51:38

Absolutely. The poles thing, I’m just like, why didn’t I do this before?

DA 51:44

That’s exactly what I thought when I started using them!

AB 51:46

Why would I ever not do this? We have one race here that I just absolutely love. It goes up a mountain called Lazy Mountain. But really, that’s just not true. Anyway, that mountain is called Lazy Mountain. And this trail is like a lot of trails Alaska is straight up. And that race specifically does not allow poles. Oh, no, there is reason to train without them. But otherwise, I’m all about that whole life. Like just sign me up and hand them to me. Because yes, and I am a no shame uphill pole user as well. Just drag yourself up the mountain with your arms.

Big, big fan. Okay, so we like to close the podcast hearing about your most favorite outdoor moment ever. Just like one of these, close your eyes and take us there kind of things. Michelle had one last time. Derek, you described a place you love to be at the beginning of the podcast. But maybe you have somewhere that you have shared together that’s your most favorite outdoor moment. So if you close your eyes, where are you?

DA 52:52

Well, I actually mentioned it earlier. And it was our hike up to, or it was supposed to be a snowshoe up to Pear Lake. And we stayed in the cabin, but then got up early the next morning and hiked the rest of the distance up to the Pear Lake in the Sierra Nevada. And it was absolutely incredible. I mean, you’re looking at the spires of the Sierra, the sun is rising, you’re standing on this frozen lake that’s covered in fresh snow. So the crunching of the snow as you walk across that lake or spend time on that lake, and you know the crisp air the cold is on your face and your nose as that morning cool here is blowing against it is definitely one of one of my favorite experiences. And we experienced that together. And we’ve had a number of them. But that’s the one that’s come to mind right now.

MA 53:50

I think I remember another cool thing we did on the lake that morning was, and we do this a lot. You know, we’ll be in a place and one of us is like, wait, be quiet. You know, we kind of sit there for a minute and it’s just so insanely quiet. It’s just like the coolest thing. And I do think we did that that morning. And it was just beautiful. Because like you said, you’ve got that crisp air that you’re feeling at the same time that morning sun shining through your eyes, just like all of your senses are are feeling this thing and even in the absence of sound that it makes you just kind of more in tune with your sense of of hearing because there is no sound, which is kind of cool.

AB 54:26

Cool. Thank you both for being on the Humans Outside Podcast today. Really appreciate it.

DA 54:31

Thank you for having us.

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