Our Engagement Story

This past week marked one year since Pete and I got engaged. Feeling a little nostalgic, I went back to old posts from the early days of AwP only to discover that I’d completely failed to share the story of how Pete proposed. My bad!

So in honor of one year with a ring on it (and 143 days to go until “I Do”) I thought I’d share our engagement story with you.

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This time last year, Pete and I had just packed up our Portland apartment and were embarking on the Great Farewell America Tour of 2017. We’d planned a cross-country road trip, making the rounds seeing family and friends before moving to NZ.

Chicago bound for the first leg of the tour, we chose a decidedly indirect route from Portland. Our itinerary took us through Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada,  Texas, New Mexico, and Missouri. If you know anything about U.S. geography, you know that we essentially went in a horseshoe instead of a straight line.

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People often forget how big the United States is. Despite moving semi-regularly throughout my childhood and traveling pretty extensivly, I’d never made it to the Southwest part of the country and had become obsessed with visiting Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. It didn’t take much convincing to get Pete to agree to a road trip through this wild landscape, synonymous with old Western movies and the American cowboy.

I had a sneaking suspicion that Pete would propose somewhere along the way considering I’d been less then subtle in the months leading up to our move to New Zealand. Pete knew I wanted to be engaged before moving halfway across the world and with a month to go before his flight to AKD, he was cutting it close.

There was one hike we’d gone on a few weeks prior where I thought for sure he was about to pop the question. When it didn’t happen (turns out the ring was on it’s way but hadn’t arrived yet), I figured their’d be a few opportunities on our week- long drive through some of America’s most scenic landscapes.

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On day three of our trip,  we woke up with one destination in mind. Zion National Park.

Two different hikes came highly recommended by friends who’d recently visited the park. Angels Landing Trail would take us up steep cliff-sides for a birds eye view of the canyon below. The Narrows was a river hike through a gorge that gets up to 500 ft (150m) deep. It’s a hike without a natural ending point and properly kitted out, you could following the winding river’s path for days.

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Given my general lack of coordination and the hot temperatures predicted for the day, we decided the Narrows was our best bet. With the route set, we stopped at the local outfitter for a set of waterproof shoes , walking sticks, and a dry bag carrying our lunch and Pete’s camera.

Day 3, Aug 24, Water Shoes for hiking the narrows

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When you first get into the river, the water comes up to around your ankle but you quickly find yourself knee deep (especially for us fun-sized peeps under 5’2″). Before you know it, the rushing water is up to your chest and you’re suddenly very grateful for the walking stick that’s keeping you from being carried away by the current.

After an hour or so we stopped for lunch on a tiny dune. I think Pete was a bit surprised by how popular this hike was. Perhaps realizing that crowds might ruin the moment (and knowing my general phobia of public scenes),  he suggested we go on just a bit further. It didn’t seem like a strange request seeing how beautiful the walk was, and like I mentioned, there wasn’t really an obvious place to turn around.

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After two and a half ours of walking, we came upon a natural inlet in the rocks a few feet above the river. Pete suggested we stop for a photo and who was I to argue, especially since he’d rented the dry bag for the sole purpose of bringing along his camera.

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He gave me a boost onto the ledge and then scrambled up behind me. It was nice to have a short break out of the chilly water and to stop to take in our epic surroundings. Going to grab the camera, Pete suddenly got very quiet and then suddenly he was on his knee in front of me.

The moment was perfect.

We’d finally managed to escape the crowds and find a secluded spot in a place I’d spent years dreaming about visiting. Before me was the man I loved, asking me if I wanted to spend the rest of our lives going on adventures together.

With the biggest smile on my face (and maybe a few tears), I said yes.

To sweeten the moment, a single hiker noticed us and gave us a perfectly timed “wahoo” in congratulatory excitement and then carried on walking down river.

We were on such a high we couldn’t stop grinning like idiots. We were engaged!

Zion Cave

Engaged or not, we still had to walk the two and a half hours back.

Petrified of loosing the ring in the water, I reluctantly put it back in the box and back into the camera bag (Pete’s sneaky hiding spot) to be carried in the dry bag down the river.

I don’t think I’ve ever walked faster; the minute we were back on dry land, the ring was back on my finger.  Returning to our car, we called the family to share the exciting news.

Upon hearing the news, my dad’s exact words were, “About fucking time.”

He and my mom weren’t all that surprised, as Pete has very chivalrously asked for their blessing before popping the question. Everyone was so excited for us and couldn’t wait to celebrate once we arrived in Chicago.

Not knowing that this was going to be the night we got engaged, I’d booked us a room at a casino just over the Nevada border. We spent our first night as Fiancé and Fiancée surrounded by slot machines and all you can eat buffets. Neither of us being very big gamblers, we ended up in the arcade playing silly games and having the best time.

It was all so surreal.

Day 3, Aug 24 celebrating our engagement at the casino in Mesquite, NV

Day 3, Aug 24, we don't gamble but we arcade

Day 3, Aug 24, counting the tickets

A planner at heart, once we were back on the road I  started brainstorming wedding ideas and researching venues near Christchurch. I’ll never forget Pete’s look of confusion, as if I were jumping the gun a bit. I think in all his excitement to propose, he’d forgotten that once you get engaged you then have to plan the actual wedding…


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