The Couple That Hikes Together

Posted by on January 3, 2022
Photos by Polly Scotland
Lee and Polly Scotland are pictured with Mont Blanc in the background from this 2013 adventure, a 105-mile hike that circles the snow-covered mountain and crosses the borders of France, Italy and Switzerland. It’s one of 21 trips chronicled in Polly’s new book, “The Adventurer and Her Husband.”

By Dennis Doeden 
The Bemidji Pioneer

Lee Scotland often hikes by himself, way ahead of his wife, Polly. Together, the Bemidji couple has undertaken some of the world’s most challenging treks.

While you might say that Polly tends to dawdle, taking photographs and mental notes, Lee sets out on the road or path ahead, most times getting to a campsite long before Polly.

When she arrives, everything is set up for the evening.

And Lee wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I feel so sorry for those husbands who are stuck at home watching football while my wife takes me out somewhere,” he said.

You can join the intrepid Scotlands vicariously on 21 of their trips in Polly’s recently published book titled “The Adventurer and Her Husband,” which is available on Amazon and in Bemidji at Four Pines Bookstore and Bemidji Woolen Mills. It costs $24.95 with color photographs and $14.95 with black-and-white photos.

It’s a second book for Polly.

The first one, “By Foot, Pedal or Paddle,” was published in 2012 and included adventures from 2000 to 2010. The new book chronicles trips from the last decade.

“The biggest compliment to me would be if people would take these adventures,” she said, “because I wrote them as a learning tool. Do one, teach one, take one.”

The Scotlands met when they were students at the University of Minnesota and have been married for 47 years. Their adventures began when Lee was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Alaska, where weekends off became excursions into the wild.

Both are retired now. Lee was a dentist and Polly was a dental assistant, working on opposite ends of the Scotland Dental building in Bemidji.

While they kept their work separate, on the trails, lakes and mountains, Lee and Polly have traveled both near and far together.

“Lee has amazing survival skills,” Polly said. He has horse sense. Every trip we have taken he has saved me at least once.”


“She does wander off,” Lee added. That’s probably because Polly is taking it all in, perhaps thinking about what to include in her book.

“The only annoying part,” Lee said, “is that at the end of the day I’m dead tired and want to sleep, and she’ll have her light on taking notes and tell me about it. I’ll read it in the book. Tell me later. Just let me sleep.”

If it weren’t for those notes and photos, readers wouldn’t get to feel like they were right there with the Scotlands, or learn about details like these from Polly’s chapter on Corsica, “the toughest trek” in Europe. It’s a trip they took in 2015 with friend Craig Benson from Bemidji and his daughter, Katie.

“The forested terrain gives way to an open field of chirping cicadas.

I look back at the hills of Calenzana before they disappear into the sea as the four of us move up the granite mountain at different paces. A darkhaired woman wearing a lime green shirt and blue boots gives a friendly bonjour when she passes me. The two of us play leapfrog until we come to a vista. She indicates with gestures that she wants me to take her photo at an overlook with a white cruise ship moored in the azure harbor below.”

Polly says that kind of detail comes from taking photos, journaling and lots of post-trip research.

“I either learn it while I’m there or from the materials that you can get in the area,” she said. “Or if you come up with a word that you don’t know, you can research it a little more on the internet to get a better understanding of it. Once I get home, I let it mellow in my brain for two or three days.

Then I just start writing and I don’t correct things as I go. I get the draft down, then go back over it.”

The book begins and ends with chapters from a single vacation that began in Nepal and ended in Vietnam and Cambodia during the fall of 2018.

Chapter 1 takes readers on a treacherous 14-day hike on the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayan Mountains.

Chapter 21 chronicles a cruise along the Mekong River that includes a heart-wrenching stop at the War Remnants Museum and numerous reminders of the Vietnam conflict.

“It still has an impact on me,” Polly said. “I can’t stop thinking about it. When I re-read that part it sometimes brings me to tears. I saved it for the end because it’s separate from everything else, but it impacted me so much that I wanted it in the book.”

Dennis Doeden is the former publisher of the Pioneer. Readers can reach him at (218) 333-9771 or ddoeden@bemidjipioneer.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.