"What's been the best day of your life?" is a question I randomly asked Erik a few weeks ago. To be honest, neither of us could pin-point any particular day. There were several contenders, but nothing that stood alone as an obvious answer. That all changed for the both of us last week... Saturday May 21st, 2016:
This amazing weekend actually started on Thursday night. Erik and I got all dressed up and headed to Midtown Atlanta for dinner at RA Sushi and then to Cafe Intermezzo for cake to celebrate Erik's birthday. The next day, we got up and headed to Columbia, SC to drop off my mom's miniature poodle, Scarlett, who we had been borrowing (oh yeah, we really want a dog!). I had a nice chat with my mom and younger siblings, but little did I know that they knew what was going to happen this weekend! As I look back now, I'm especially surprised that my youngest brother John didn't let it slip. We said our goodbyes and hit the road again. Our plan was to arrive in Blowing Rock, NC in time for dinner at an upscale restaurant for our 2-year Anniversary (the same restaurant that Erik had taken me to almost 2 years prior). The stop at my mom's house, road construction and the rainy weather put us way behind schedule, so we ended up just eating Chinese food in our hotel room. After dinner, we each had a fortune cookie. Erik's said something about patience and mine said, "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question". Of course at the time, I thought this fortune was stupid and had no idea what it meant. The next morning we awoke to beautiful and sunny 65 degree weather and headed straight for Grandfather Mountain.
Now, this is where I have to stop the story - Erik and I were on this vacation to celebrate his birthday and our 2-year Anniversary. We had been talking about getting engaged for a little more than a year now. So yes, I was hoping that the significance of this day, with all of its beautiful surroundings, would be the day he proposed. .... but in the weeks, days and minutes leading up to hike he showed no signs that it was going to happen. Maybe I shouldn't have underestimated his sneakiness because I was a 110% confident that if he was going to propose, I would be able to tell... oh, was I wrong! Okay, where was I? Ah yes, so we arrived at Grandfather Mountain. Since there were no signs from Erik, I quickly came to peace with the fact that it wasn't happening today and was then completely distracted by the jaw-dropping beauty of the mountain! The hike to the top of the mountain was incredible and fun! There were huge boulders to climb, wood ladders bolted to the sides of cliffs and small caves along the way (of which I kept trying to convince Erik that we should live in). As we got closer and closer to the top, the wind really picked up and the climb got more and more treacherous. At the same time, this is when we really got to see how high up we were and the beauty of the panoramic mountain landscape surrounding us. Keep reading below!
Of course, being almost 6,000 feet above sea level comes with some pretty extreme weather changes. It started to sleet, so Erik and I took shelter against some boulders on a cliffside that Erik kept saying reminded him of the secret stairs to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings. We sat down and had a much-needed snack and took in the view. Every several minutes, the clouds rolled in and covered everything in sight making it seem like nothing that wasn't right in front of you even existed. Two minutes later, the clouds were gone and the view was back again. We were having so much fun at the very top and didn't want to leave, but it was almost 3pm and the park had a strict rule that you had to be back to your car from the trails by 5pm (or they would send a search party out to find you). Being a stickler for the rules, I was determined to get down the mountain safely, but wasn't going to miss that deadline.
I think this is a good spot for Erik to jump in and give his side of the story. ERIK: Okay, so guys here's what was really going on. While Christlyn was super confident that she would know at the moment when I eventually propose to her... I too believed that she would know. Yeah, that's right, I didn't think I could pull it off. In fact, I even told Christlyn that she shouldn't expect to be surprised. After all, I'm one of those people who looks guilty even when I'm not, so being deceptive is especially difficult for me. As the days and minutes drew closer, it became increasingly difficult to act "normal" around her. I couldn't express the emotions swimming inside of me or seem nervous at all. It wasn't even as easy as that, not only did I have to keep my emotions under control, I also had to project just the right level of collective coolness to which she's become accustomed. ;) Okay, let's start at the fortune cookie which read, "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question". Yeah, I almost lost it when Christlyn read and subsequently mocked the fortune for being silly and ambiguous. I played it cool and stuffed the paper fortune in my bag for safe keeping.
The day at Grandfather Mountain was filled with me trying to hide the ring box from Christlyn. It started off in a pair of socks which was hidden in my backpack. Naturally, as soon as I hid them in the socks, Christlyn mentioned that she wished she had warmer socks. Just to be safe, I later moved the ring box into my gloves that I hid in my jacket pocket. And wouldn't you know it, Christlyn then mentioned that her hands were cold! There was even a moment when coming back down the mountain that it was getting really hot, so we decided to stop and take off our jackets. Oops! I couldn't take my jacket off because the ring box was still in the jacket pocket, so I made up a lousy excuse for why I wasn't too hot and didn't need to take off my jacket. I was actually sweating pretty hard, but crisis averted!
As photographers, Christlyn and I place a huge priority on having pictures of important moments. Naturally, I hired a professional photographer for the proposal moment. Cristina at Red Fly Studio was all kinds of amazing and game for hiking up the mountain to capture the moment. Because I didn't really know my way around the mountain and couldn't schedule a specific spot at which to propose (in order to avoid suspicion), it was an interesting game of back n' forth communicating with Cristina where to be and when to be there. Despite the challenges, she was so kind and accommodating the whole time!
I guestimated a hiking trail where I would later propose and sent a text to Cristina just as cell service started to dwindle. Just after that, I realized that the trail I had just chosen wouldn't work because it wasn't accessible from where we were on the mountain. But wait, how do I tell our photographer the change of plans? No cell service. The next thing I know, I'm frantically trying to get a message to the photographer. Failure meant that my proposal would be missing pictures. So, I ran into the gift shop restroom in hopes of getting a miracle phone call out. There was a funny moment when I was standing up in the only bathroom stall with the door wide open on my cell phone. Yeah, a few people stared. Oh, and I still didn't get any service, so it was all for nothing! Funny thing was, I eventually did get cell service... but on top of the mountain of all places. Hey, I'll take it. And now, my photographer, Cristina, knew where we were gonna be and the trap was set!
On the way down the mountain, we both passed by Cristina who was pretending to take pictures of her husband at an overlook. It dawned on me just after passing by them that was the last overlook on the trail before hitting the parking lot. It had to be here! My next test was convincing Christlyn to turn around and go back to the view where the trap had been set despite the time crunch. I told her that I wanted to get one last picture because I felt we didn't have enough. She resisted because the park's trails were closing in the next hour. After a little convincing, she reluctantly followed me back toward the overlook. I passed right in front of Cristina who was pretending to take a picture of her husband. Christlyn scolded me for being rude and ruining their picture. Of course, I knew the picture was nothing but a decoy, so it didn't even cross my mind to avoid walking in front of her camera. Plus, I had a lot on my mind. I still had to get the ring out of the box which was in my glove which was in my jacket pocket.
I asked Christlyn to pose for a picture at the overlook with her back towards me. I was just praying that she wouldn't turn around to see me fumbling through my pockets before I was ready. All of the challenges leading up to that moment had finally been overcome. I got down on one knee and did exactly what I had told Christlyn I would probably do at this moment. I couldn't speak. My emotions had been almost completely suppressed the entire trip because I didn't want Christlyn to suspect anything. But finally, I was able to open up the flood gates of emotions that had been swelling inside of me the entire time. There was a lot that I wanted to say at that moment, but the best I could manage was a trembly-voiced, "Baby (Christlyn turns around with a shocked look) .... will you marry me?".
But you know what, I'll let Christlyn jump back in and tell you all about it. CHRISTLYN: So yes, I was slightly annoyed that Erik wanted to stop and take another pictures and risk getting us in trouble, but he was very insistent. We walked back to the overlook and Erik directed me where to stand. I pulled out my polaroid camera while I waited for him to get the his camera ready. The whole day had already been so utterly incredible causing my earlier thoughts and hopes of a proposal to completely vanish from my mind. The next thing I knew, I was standing on a rock about to snap a picture when I heard Erik's trembling voice. I immediately spun around and saw his eye filled with tears and then I realized he was down on one knee, holding a ring.
(grabbing my legs to make them stop shaking)
To me, the world suddenly started spinning a million miles per hour. Even though he was only a few feet away from me, I couldn't get to him fast enough. I was so shocked that I guess my body didn't know how to handle it, so my knees started spasming like crazy and I thought they were just going to give out. There was a lot of crying (tears of joy), but after I said "Yes" we just held each other for a moment and everything started to make sense. The lady we passed on the trail with the badass camera was our photographer, Erik's odd insistence to take this picture... everything!
Cristina with Red Fly Studio was so awesome! After we had some time to collect ourselves, she took us around to take a few more pictures. It was a lot of fun even though after a day of hiking up a mountain in the rain, sleet and wind, I probably didn't look my best. But I honestly didn't care because we were ENGAGED!!!
Just as we were wrapping up the impromptu engagement pictures and about to head down the mountain, I asked Cristina if she would take a picture of us on my polaroid camera. That's when I realized that I had dropped it when Erik proposed! Erik and I raced back to the overlook and there it was, safe n' sound, laying in the grass. As Erik and I headed back down the mountain (this time for real), he told me that his family and my family knew this was happening today and that we're all having a little get together tomorrow at his mom's house to celebrate.
Yay, family pictures!!!
I still can't believe all the things Erik went through to make this happen, it's truly incredible! I never expected such a perfect proposal and it still feels like an amazing dream! ...Oh and by the way, we made it back to our car at 4:59pm. Yep, this day was just that perfect! :)