Rules for Surviving First Dates on Trails in Colorado

This kind of photo is all over dating apps.
This kind of photo is all over dating apps. Andrew Davidoff / Flickr / Creative Commons
Browsing photos on dating apps in Colorado is like wading through a swamp of cardboard summit signs, cars decorated with bumperstickers fronting whatever sort of backcountry activity people like to do (and just how skilled they are at it), and outdoor brands like tattoos — not to mention real tattoos, advertising their love of the wilderness.

When you only have a glance’s worth of time to capture someone’s interest online, putting easily recognizable Colorado stereotypes to work is an effective way to show off how you might spend a potential first date.

All this makes sense in a state where the outdoor recreation industry — which is even more ingrained in the state’s culture than craft brews and legal marijuana — rakes in $2 billion in revenue each year. And that industry is only growing. During the pandemic, in 2020, the backcountry has exploded with an even larger pool of new and diverse outdoor recreationists looking for something — anything — to do.

And with singles just as single but with less money than ever and fear of infection crimping their indoor activities, of course the backcountry’s becoming a go-to destination for romantic adventures — or at least hopefully not disastrous first dates.

It’s low-key, low-cost and low-risk — most of the time.

But there are a few rules to follow if you want to keep those dates safe, less embarrassing and fun.

Don’t Hike the Manitou Incline

I can’t recall the number of times I’ve politely declined a Manitou Incline date knowing there would never be a second date if the person witnessed what I do to coax myself through steep uphill treks: I start pouring sweat immediately and profusely and desperately gasp for oxygen trudging up slopes. That is not something I want a potential partner to be exposed to before they have already fallen for my personality.

Don’t Relieve Yourself in Front of Your Date
Imagine the anxiety that already goes into the first time you poop around someone — that’s way worse on an overnight camping trip. And squatting is hard enough, let alone trying not to let your date hear the magnitude of your urine’s velocity as it splashes onto the ground. Stay near a trailhead with a bathroom, and spare yourself the embarrassment.
click to enlarge Stay safe on your hiking dates. - JARED HANSEN / FLICKR
Stay safe on your hiking dates.
Don’t Go Somewhere You Can’t Escape From
If two people have never met before, it’s hard to gauge whether you’ll be compatible adventure partners. And it’s not much fun to discover you’re a horrible match, miles from the trailhead, when your date sprints ahead or drags behind.

Stick to the Front Country
Yes, you can find more solitude in the backcountry, but sometimes, on first dates, it’s better to stick to the front country, where crowds keep you safe and take some pressure off of you feeling completely alone and claustrophobic — no matter how wide the views. There are still pleasant hikes, but if you need to escape, you’re a short walk from the car. As long as the hike remains on a popular trail, you’re less likely to have to send out tracking notifications to your friends through your Garmin InReach.

Love Can Be Found in Filth

Just like I have friends who have met at filthy clubs and married and had kids, the same happens for hikers. Dirtbags meeting dirtbags while doing dirtbag things, and becoming dirtbag couples on longer trails is always a romantic meet-cute, covered in glorious filth. And isn’t that what we’re hoping for when we advertise ourselves as outdoorsy and looking for other self-professed adventurers?

Keep Hope
If you love the trail — or post pictures that suggest you do — you might just find a suitable match and not blow it. That is...if you can bushwack through the people who capitalize the first word in every sentence or still have a text signature or are going to try to rope you into a multi-level marketing scheme or like Chicago-style deep dish — maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of the trail.
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