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My Wife and I Had This Game

Terry on the AT

My wife and I had this game whenever I’d go hiking or backpacking. I’d take a stuffed animal, one of the 90 or so we owned, pose them on my hikes, and take pictures of them to share with her. My wife isn’t a hiker but she knows it’s something I love and the stuffed animals gave us a way to stay connected during my absences.

I have thousands of pictures of our stuffed animals from my trips on Vermont’s Long Trail, the Appalachian Trail, The TGO (Great Outdoor Challenge) and The Cape Wrath Trail in Scotland, and a gazillion on the summits in the White Mountain National Forest. She always got a chuckle out of seeing them and hearing tales of their adventures with me.

But the joy of our companionship may soon come crashing to an end. While we have grown apart in recent years, we still shared a deep friendship for one another, respect, and admiration. She is fighting for her life as I write this and I fear the worst. The world was a better place with her. I cannot imagine what it will be like if she leaves.


  1. Philip, I do not have words that can comfort or cure. I am stunned to read this. I’m so very sorry you both are experiencing this.

    • Thank you Cheri. I’m going to have to step back for a while, do some walking, and process this turn of events. I’ve been hit with a sledgehammer.

      • So sad to hear your news… thanks for sharing. This past year I lost my two best friends within a 3 month period, both unexpected. As we all know, there are no magic words to make the pain go away but there is comfort in realizing the memories will never fade away. May peace and grace give you strength and be your constant companion…

      • MICHAEL Douglass

        Hi Phil , I wish you and your wife the best of luck , I am fighting my own health challenges ! Big Hugs !

      • Sending healing thoughts.

      • All the very best Philip. I hope your wife wins the fight and you do take strength from the great outdoors.

      • Philip,

        Your sharing brought back memories of when my first wife and I learned she had incurable cancer. After two years of being her caregiver she lost her battle and I was without her for the first time in 40+ years. I turned to trekking and backpacking in far flung wild places. Partly for passion, partly for sanctuary but as I came to realize several years later it was my way of grieving and healing.

        All I can offer from experience is make the most of this time. For us it was the most open, honest and loving time. There is no pretence or other agendas.

        This time will be hard but it will get better. Honour your wife by carrying on with your life to the fullest. It sounds trite and selfish but I believe it is the best way forward. For me, I still have moments after nearly a decade and fortunately finding another amazing women who thinks I am okay to share her life with, when her loss hits me like a freight train. They are fewer but I embrace them as reminders of the love we shared.

        Take care. All the best to your wife and you.

  2. Such a sad time. You have unknown reserves of strength and courage. Try to use them for her.

  3. I am so sorry to read this, Philip. Thank you for sharing such deep pain and sorrow with us. I will be praying for your wife, and you as well. Take all the time you need; we’ll be here whenever you are able to step back in.

  4. Although we’ve only met a couple times on trail I will keep you in my thoughts. Best wishes

  5. Philip, I’m so sorry to hear of this sad news. I’m happy that you will have a record of all of these great memories that you have shared with her. Best wishes for both of you.

  6. Though I’ve never met you in person I’ve enjoyed your site for several years – have always wondered if we might cross paths while out on trail. My best wishes to you and your wife as you both deal with the challenges ahead.

  7. Oh no, so very sorry to hear this Philip…I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. You and she will be in my prayers this week. I hope you will find some comfort and peace in the woods as you process this. ??

  8. Thanks for being willing to share this with your readers. I imagine it was a tough decision. While I don’t pray, I promise to think of you and your wife often during the coming days, just in case that may be of help and comfort.

    • It was and it wasn’t. I did the same when my father passed. I’ve found a great sense of community through this website and have developed many close friendships through it. It was a relief to share the burden. Without “this”, my grief would be unbearable. The connection is keeping me going and will get me though this.

  9. Philip- I’m sorry. Be strong, be positive and be there. And don’t forget that all of us section hikers are depending on you.

  10. 90 stuffed animals? That’s a respectable collection!

  11. Philip,

    I am so sorry to hear this. Although we’ve never met in person, I have valued the friendship of you and Meryl over the years. I appreciate the concern you and the Captain showed me when I was going through some of my health struggles, although mine were nothing like what you guys are dealing with now. I am praying for you both to be able to cope with these changed circumstances in your lives.

  12. Phillip,

    Thank you for trusting in us enough to share this difficult experience. My heart goes out to you during this heartbreaking time.

  13. Very sorry to hear this, Philip. Your family will be in my prayers.

  14. Philip,
    I am very sorry to hear of this news. I have you and your wife in my prayers.

  15. Hi, Philip:
    You certainly have my best wishes and sympathy as you go through this. I’ll be thinking of you.

  16. I’m so sorry, Phil. Wishing her all the best, and strength to get through this for both of you. Hang in there.

  17. I’m so sorry, sending prayers for both of you. Take care.

  18. Sorry to hear this, thanks for sharing. Best wishes!

  19. Philip, this is heartbreaking news. Sincerest wishes that your fears are stilled by hope and joy.

  20. David and Moose

    I know what you’re going thru, last year my wife of 40 years passed away on Mother’s Day.
    In her final days all she was talking about was the fact that the weather was so nice and I wasn’t out hiking because I was keeping her company in the hospital. It gets easier.

  21. I am so sorry. I can read in your voice the tremendous sadness you are feeling. I’m here constantly and feel a tremendous amount of gratitude for all the information and resources you provide. Thank you for sharing your news. I pray, so I will.

  22. Sad news indeed fella. Holding you both in my heart & mind during this challenging time.

  23. so sorry to hear.

  24. So sorry to hear this, Philip. Sending you and your wife good thoughts…

  25. Prayers for you both. We’ve only met once, at a Smart Apps for Hiking course you co-taught (where I was a slow learner on the compass.) I’ve devoured many of your trail report posts as excellent G2 for pre-hike preparations. The mountains heal all weary souls. May they be that and more for you in the coming days.

  26. Please thank your wife for how she has affected your blog. I was not aware that the occasional stuffed animal was due to her influence. I was aware of her being an implicit motivation for the recurring gentle reminders to think about family and friends who are back home and who care about how those of us on the trail are doing.

    Now it is possible that I am projecting onto your wife from my own experience with my late wife, but when you get into details of staying safe on the trail I am aware of how needing to respond with actual words makes me more likely to think clearly about “What would you do if …?” In my case, back when I first began to take long day hikes, the question was about breaking a leg. But over the last couple of decades I have thought through a lot of eventualities as a result of my family’s worries.

  27. Phil,
    I’m very sorry to hear this news. My condolences and best thoughts for you and your wife.

  28. I am truly sorry to hear of your wife and the rough waters ahead. Know you built a great community with Section Hiker. It may be a bit presumptuous of me, but anything you need we will be here for you and your family.

  29. Philip, I feel your pain as I am going through the tragic loss of my husband after 57 years of marriage. I may go back on the AT to help deal with the grief as I walk in the woods

  30. Thinking of you both during this difficult time.

  31. Philip, I have never met you, but value your advice, experience and humor that you share with us. I hope that you are ok.
    I carried my neice’s stuffed mouse on a section, and it was a fun way to connect with her. It’s cool that you did that thousands of times to share with your wife.

  32. Hi Phil, we have never met but I have followed your blog for years. I am sorry for your pain, I know it well. My wife of 30 years is battling a terminal disease. Cherish every minute you have with her and her memories will be with you forever.

  33. Gustav Khambatta

    I found your site during the pandemic when I decided to do the 48. I’ve done a number of your suggested routes and some as starting points to create my own. have taken some of your sage advice and procured goods through your reviews. I figured one day I’d bump into you on the trail and indeed one day I did. enjoyed chatting with you. I know this will be a tough climb for you but also one I know you will be able to make. hope to see on the trail again some day.

    • I’m very sorry to hear this. I hope you can find comfort in the community you have built here. You and your wife will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  34. My wife is still with us but her days are numbered. She’s been in assisted living-memory care for the past 18 months. Has had hospice care for the past 12 months. Now in a wheel chair full-time. We have shared 45 years of our lives together. In summary, you are not alone, but I realize every situation is different.

    Love the way you shared your experiences with your wife. Great idea! – Lloyd

  35. I’ve made a lot of trips to your blog since 2019, and especially during the pandemic. Your hard-won wisdom helped me re-equip myself decades since I last bought backpacking gear. I got back out on the trail, sometimes with my son or my wife, to bucket-list destinations in several states. Now I know your wife was contributing to all of us too, as you forged ahead and got chuckles out of the stuffed animal shots you sent back, and returned to write about it. Having tried and failed and tried again at love I know it’s not easy. Despite the challenges of staying connected, that you have so much love for her speaks well of you and of her. Thank you for sharing a little of Meryl’s story with us, Philip. And thank you for sharing Philip with us, Meryl!

  36. Deborah Sepinwall

    I am so sorry for you, Philip. My husband and I have relied on your advice and we reference your page often. You have also kindly replied to my husband when he has emailed you with questions directly. We are thinking of you and hope for the best outcome.

  37. Russell Greaves

    Thank you for all you do here.

    This blog helps me close off each weekend and ready myself for the coming week. You have helped me, without ever meeting me or knowing anything of me, through a time when my life has been on hold through caring for my mother, now passed away. Thank you.

    You have helped me prepare for returning to the Scottish highlands, and though I have some experience, I am better prepared because of the knowledge you have so generously shared here; not just of Scotland, but of countryside and backpacking craft and lore.

    Philip, thank you for being open with us here on the forum about your situation. We can only express our sympathy and support through these comments but I hope you can draw strength and comfort from the collective empathy we are giving back to you.

    Pain and suffering are something we all go through, so although we are mostly strangers, we collectively want to help you through this. You’ve so generously helped us all by sharing your expertise and inspiring us to venture safely out into the wilds, we’d like to give something back by letting you know that your situation is painful for us too, not just for you.

  38. Sorry to hear the battle you both are facing. While I don’t know you or your wife, I’ve always assumed she is a strong woman supporting your love of hiking while she does her thing at home. I hope everything turns out well for both of you.

  39. Jane Anderson Vercelli

    Dear Philip, As a widow for the past four years, I have found that reaching out to share my feelings of loss and discouragement has been the best possible way to bridge the gap between then and now, between here and there, and between having been one-of-a-pair and now being one-of-one. My perspective is that nothing helps like walking and nothing helps like playing fiddle. I don’t play well but I am fortunate to play with the Quiet Corner Fiddlers in northeast Connecticut. It’s a great group of people who love to play but who are also welcoming to newcomers. We play a wide range of tunes from many places, including the British Isles and the Nordic countries. We meet Monday evenings in Pomfret. You are welcome to join us.

  40. G Michael Brown

    I’ve always considered you one of those great friends I’ve never met! In my time at REI, I frequently directed backpackers of all levels to your site.
    Take some comfort in the gratitude of us all. Holding you and your wife close to my heart.
    Mike “ThreeSpeed”

  41. Sorry to hear about this challenging time. I appreciate your site, your honesty, humour, expertise and your writing a lot. I hope you and your wife can have wellness and peace.

    • I had the good fortune to meet you briefly on Mount Adams and you were so kind to me and my family. I’m so sorry to hear this news. I am holding space for you and your wife during this time and I hope you receive some comfort from this community that admires you so deeply.

  42. Philip- So very sorry to hear about this. Words are inadequate but know you both are in my thoughts and prayers. You indeed have grown a strong community. I for one was drawn in by your condor and authenticity. It’s rare to find such genuine, objective advice and I have certainly benefited from your sage advice. Grateful you trust us to share this. Take what time you need or do what you need to do – pretty sure we’re not going anywhere.

  43. Like everyone else I am sorry for what you are experiencing. You and your family remain in our thoughts.

  44. Awful as it is, thank you for sharing. Words fail. Best to you and yours.

  45. Phillip, We’ve never met, but I feel like I know you. I read all of articles. I’m about the same age as you, and my wife of 40 years is my life. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

  46. Phil,
    Life takes many twists and turns – like a trail. You never know what is just around the corner. I’m a positive person, I don’t know what she is suffering from, but she could still recover. I’ve had many losses in my life and it doesn’t get any easier. After being divorced over 35 years I never thought I could feel sadness when my ex-husband passed away from Covid last year but I did and I still do. We are all pulling for you and your wife. Let us know how things progress if you can. Do you have family members nearby who can help?

  47. Hug her goodbye every time you leave her.

  48. Thoughts and prayers to you,Philip.

  49. Am thinking of you and the wonderful gift you give all of us. Hopefully, we out here in the airwaves thinking and caring about about you and your wife will offer some solace. MaizyD.

  50. I’m just one of the countless numbers of people who look forward to your blog postings, and appreciate the excellent advice and counsel you and this whole community provide. Wishing you and your wife calm in the storm, and peace and comfort in what sounds like an extremely challenging time.

  51. Phil,
    I too have a love of hiking, as wife does not.
    What she shares is the appreciation for the “Me” that returns form on outing and the the experiences I share when i return. She can share my stories, and photos, without all the bugs. Relating my adventures to her allows me to relive (and mentally edit and upgrade the trip). Loofing my vitrual hiking buddy would be awful, as most can appreciate.
    My thoughts and miles are with you

  52. Just another voice here, crying in the wilderness.

  53. I’m sorry to hear this news of your wife Philip. Thinking of you both during this difficult time and hoping she overcomes the diagnosis.

  54. Im so sorry for what is happening to you and your Wife. Im glad to see you have a wonderful support network to help you both through this challanging time. You will both be in my thoughts.

  55. I feel for you brother.

  56. Philip,

    So very sorry for you, wishing you peace and comfort.

  57. As you and your words on this blog have been a haven for us, along with the wilds we all love, so maybe we can all offer you some safe haven during this challenging time. And the woods will always be there to welcome you in and hold you in their loving embrace, no matter how you show up, Philip!

  58. Prayers be with you.

  59. So sorry to hear this. Wishing you both all the best

  60. Dear Philip, I have read your entries and reviews for years and have surely shared trail with you in New Hampshire. I share your love of the mountains (and apparently, of taking photos of animals/small dinosaurs in scenic spots) but as I recently moved from New England, I haven’t been accessing your website as often but just happened to look this evening and was so saddened to read this update. I am thinking of your wife and of you and sending all of my love and am hoping that your friends and family members can lift both of you up.

  61. Philip,
    Praying for a miracle for your bride. Sending strength and love to you both.

  62. Dear Philip,

    Your sharing of wisdom and experience has made this reader a friend on her end. Your personal sadness of impending loss, with its cocommitant grief, is shared in full spirit. I hope you find some solace through the caring of all your “virtual” friends, as well as through those “real” ones, you surely can embrace.

    My very beat,


  63. Philip
    I will remember you in my prayers. Thank you for giving so much. It’s (one) your gift you know. We need each other and now we are here for you.

  64. I’ve been following your posts for many, many years now and look to your posts for guidance on conditions, equipment and tips. I especially love reading your trip reports. As a New Yorker who loves the outdoors, it’s relatively difficult to get up to the Whites And the times I do get up there, I’m in constant awe and strive to share it with as many of my loved ones as possible. This is my first reply in all these years.

    Philip, I shed more than a tear when I read your post. I’m sending you and your wife positive vibes and hope that you both are able to overcome this obstacle together. Please take all the time you need. If there’s any way we can support you through this time, let us know.

  65. Philip, I’m so sorry to hear this. Sending warm wishes to you and your wife, and with appreciation for all you bring to the hiking community… — Eliot

  66. Philip, thank you for sharing this with the community. It must be an extremely trying time for you. My thoughts are with you and your wife. Kind regards, Tom

  67. Philip, thinking of you and your wife, and sending best wishes in this difficult time. May you find solace in the great outdoors.

  68. Loretta L Lavoie

    Dear Philip, Like many, you and I have never met but I have always enjoyed reading your articles. They have kept me connected with my love of hiking even though it is something I can no longer do. For that I thank you so much.. I am so sorry to hear the sad news and I do hope you know that a multitude of thoughts and prayers are with both of you and all your family and friends.

  69. Really sorry to hear this. Hoping for the best for you both.

  70. Phillip,
    it’s been a few years since I’ve been active on the site. Life (kids, career, a move away from the Mountains) has changed my hiking perspective a bit. The trails are generally flatter and shorter these days.

    I dropped in to check out the site and came across this article. One of the reasons I was a regular during your early days was because of your openness and transparency. I’m so sorry you and your wife are facing these difficult times, though I’m glad the community still brings you comfort.

    You and your wife will be in our thoughts.

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