(Photo Above by: Amanda Summerlin)
.....but why elope? The idea of eloping, for us, was inspired by two things. The first is that we are wedding photographers ourselves so we felt the need to do something a bit different than what we typically do on a weekend. But really our biggest inspiration came from our drive to live adventurously. We got engaged while hiking Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina and wanted our wedding to continue the theme of grand adventures. Of course, there's a much deeper reason for why living adventurously and going on adventures is so deeply important to us, but I'll save you the spiel for now and get to the fun story. :D The Plan: An eight day road trip elopement extravaganza from San Fransisco to Big Sur to Yosemite!
Day 1: Atlanta to San Fransisco After nearly a year of planning, the day was finally here. Our amazing friends drove us to the airport at 3am and by 6am we where in the sky headed to San Fransisco. Our first stop once we landed was to pick up our Escape Campervan for our roadtrip. This thing is seriously awesome! It's the size of a cargo van with a full kitchen. The back seats go from a cozy dining area to a super comfy queen size bed in no time. It had everything we were going to need in Yosemite. After lunch at a Dim-Sum restaurant in Chinatown (as my mother recommended we do), we were off to see the Golden Gate Bridge at Battery Spencer! It was totally mobbed when we first arrived and parking was basically no-existent. We were on a bit of time crunch to get to Big Sur before nightfall, so we decide to give up on Battery Spencer. As we passed the last parking area right by the overlook, a parking space magically opened up right in front of us. It was really a miracle! We hopped out and spent the next 45 minutes admiring the view and trying to hold on to our hats. The wind was insane!
After a pit stop for groceries in Palo Alto, we were finally headed to Big Sur. We ended up not arriving until after 10pm and driving that winding cliffside road with heavy fog at night was a bit nerve-racking, but we made it. We had rented a cabin at Ripplewood Resort which was on of the few hotels still open in the area after all the natural disasters that Big Sur had gone through recently.
The check-in office (which was also super cute general store/cafe) was already closed when we arrived. We learned later that everything in the area closes by about at 8 or 9pm. So, we stood outside the office with no cell service trying to figure out what to do. Another car pulled up and they seemed to be in the same predicament. Just then someone (I assumed to be the owner) flipped on a light in the office pointed to the folded pieces of paper taped to the front door. We opened it up and it had our name on it along with directions to our cabin and a message saying that our cabin was unlocked and the lights are on waiting for us. We followed the directions and found our cabin just as the note had said, unlocked with the lights on. We hadn't payed for the cabin yet and I guess they just trusted us to come back to the office in the morning to pay. Which is exactly what we did. Honestly, the way they work off the honor system, closing so early and leaving a note for guests was all just so cute and added to the quaintness factor that was already off the charts.
We took a few moments to look around and unpack a little be for collapsing into bed. After traveling over 2,000 miles and being up for 23 hours straight, we were beyond exhausted.
Day 2: Ceremony Location Scouting We awoke the next morning and fully realized how amazingly beautiful this places was! Our cabin was in valley next to a small river surrounded by redwoods. The cabin itself was adorably tiny, but had everything we needed including a wood burning fireplace. After we had a good look around, we went to the general store/office to settle up for the cabin. On our way out, we stopped for lunch at the Big Sur Roadhouse, across the street. Pro Tip: If you plan on coming to Big Sur, be prepared to pay a bit more for things. One hamburger costs as much as $30 and a half a tank of gas costs $50, so... The only thing on our to-do-list for today was to find a ceremony location.
We spent the day driving up and down Highway One taking in all the sites Big Sur had to offer, which was a lot! By the end of the day, we traveled dozens of miles, touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time, saw the iconic Bixby Bridge and found the perfect spot for our ceremony the next day.
Day 3: Wedding Day! The day was finally here! All the planning, all the imagining, all the excitement, it all came together today. Erik and I just sat around our little cabin trying to take it all in, referring to each other as fiance one last time and reminiscing about all the big moments in our relationship that brought us here. To be honest, it was really peaceful. It was so perfect to be on an adventure in such a beautiful place with the person you love. No distractions, just us soaking in the moment together in peace. And then before we knew, it it was time. Erik got ready and then he left so he wouldn't see me in my dress just yet. He headed to the spot we had picked out for the first look as I continued to get ready. It was a bit colder, a bit more windy and a thick layer of fog had rolled in since yesterday. It all added to the fairytale landscape. With Erik facing the ocean and his back toward me, I walked down the hillside to him. Now, I have to say I'm a realist. I have a big imagination and I like to dream big, but I also try to keep my expectations grounded. Even though this had been the moment we had imagined over and over again, I still couldn't believe this moment was really happening! After our first look, and we stepped to the other side of the cliff and read our vows to each other. This is the part that really got me and Erik both. Writing our own vows was very important to us and was honestly pretty tough. It's a daunting task to find the words that truly express the fullness of your love for your soulmate. I'm really not trying to be dramatic, but that is exactly what it feels like. As we each read our vows, our voices cracked as we each tried to hold back the tears. It was a loosing battle. Once we had exchanged rings, the smiles poured out uncontrollably and that was it! We were married! You can see our wedding pictures from the seriously amazing Amanda Summerlin... SERIOUSLY AMAZING! (Wedding Day Photos Below by: Amanda Summerlin)
(Wedding Day Photos Above by: Amanda Summerlin)
Day 4 - 8: Big Sur to Yosemite! The next morning we said goodbye to Big Sur and hit the road for Yosemite for our honeymoon. Yosemite has some of the most spectacular views I've ever seen. The waterfalls cascading a thousand feet down to the valley floor below with Half Dome looking over everything is awe-inspiring to say the least. The first thing you see when entering the valley is Tunnel View where most of the iconic landmarks of Yosemite are visible. We passed through to Yosemite Valley and saw Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. Once you climb back up on the ridge overlooking the valley, you can follow Glacier Point Road to Glacier Point where we saw a bear..... yup, a bear! (see picture below). Unfortunately, the groves of giant Sequoia trees were closed for restoration (get better soon, trees!)
The picture above is a long exposure of Half Dome Erik took at night. It was a little bit too cloudy and hazy that evening, but if you look closely, you can see the light from a climber on the left side of Half Dome. The climber was spending the night with suspension cables before finishing the climb the next morning. We stayed the first night in a parking lot overlook area with the perfect view of Half Dome. We even cooked pancakes on the gas grill that came with our van. Truly, the height of luxury! We awoke the next day to the most beautiful sunrise.
It rained off and on throughout day 2, but we didn't let that stop us from hiking to the top of Sentinel Done and Taft Point. During the thunderstorms, lightning struck one of the mountains and started a forest firer near El Capitan. You can see the smoke in a few of the pictures below.
While Taft Point and Sentinel Dome were great hikes, they were also relatively short ones (only about 2 miles each). Erik and I were itching to do something a bit more challenging. We ended up hiking from the Taft Point trailhead all the way to Dewey Point and back - which was a 12.7 mile hike. We were pretty stoked about breaking our own personal record of 8 miles in one hike. Next time we're in Yosemite, we want to give the Clouds Rest (14 miles) hike a shot, but a 12.7 mile hike will due for now.
After our hike, we took a much needed nap and prepped to head to San Fransisco, for one more day of being a tourist. We saw the Painted Ladies (Full House anyone?) and drove up Twin Peaks to get a good city view. Unfortunately, the fog was super thick and all we saw was a wall of white. Not to mention it super windy and cold....so we didn't stay up there long. We ended the evening with a nice dinner at Starbelly Restaurant and that was it, the trip was over. The next morning was just a travel day back to Atlanta and our trip had come to an end. The whole experience was all so exciting and magical! Erik and I can't wait to go on more adventures and we have already decided that trips like this (minus the wedding part) shouldn't be a rarity in our life. We plan on celebrating our wedding anniversary by going on at lease one big trip every year.
Now to the giveaway! In the spirit elopements, we are giving away an elopement photo + video package to one ADVENTUROUS COUPLE tying the knot in a National Park or anywhere wild! If you and your lover are planning an adventurous elopement in an epic location and have plans to hike mountains, chase waterfalls, read your vows on the edge of a massive cliff, barefoot through a river, or maybe even dance in the rain; we would LOVE to join you!! Your wild and fearless love is exactly what ignites our passion and storytelling. "WHAT IF WE WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE FAR AWAY?" Let's do it!!! All you have to do is pay travel. If that sounds awesome to you, drop us a message. We can't wait to hear about your plans! Email: Lunaleephotography@gmail.com