I had been carrying around this ring for weeks! Hiding it in our house. Shuffling it around in my backpack. I was ready to get this proposal over with!
There’s never an obvious time to get engaged. It was summer and we had our eyes on some adventure. I wanted this to go down in a special place. Not special like ‘French Laundry’ special, but special like one-of-a-kind nature special. Fedex wasn’t fast enough to deliver before our last-minute jaunt to summit Half-Dome, so I had to look for another moment.
Alaska! Nature galore! We had planned a trip with my brother Jared, Grandfather Julius. A cruise to be exact. All I had to do was bring a ring with me and propose on the cruise. No big deal, right?
I think I underestimated things. A restaurant proposal in San Francisco was looking simple! Not only did I have to smuggle this ring past Sue, but also prevent it from getting stolen on a floating city of 3,000 people. I managed to get it through airport security in SFO, through cruise security in Seattle all without her noticing. YES! Luckily I had briefed Jared and Grandpa on my big idea, but of course I had no specifics. Anxiously, I sat with this ring in my pocket until Sue hopped in the bathroom. That was my chance to secure in the adjoining room’s safe. But would she look in there?
Now that the ring was safe, I had to figure out a plan. Monday night or Friday night? Or in between? Day or night? Alone or with people? At dinner or during a hike? Too many options! Should I just be cheesy and have the waiter insert it into the Cheesecake? What if they served that to Grandpa or a different table all together by accident? Or what about champagne… but maybe she’d not notice and then swallow it? Was it even the right sized ring? I thought I left work behind on the continent. As we journeyed up the Alaskan coast, I quickly realized this was a big project.
Organic. I read about this mountain in Juneau. There were two ways up: tram and trail. Jared had brought his SLR camera with a big zoom lense. He and Grandpa could tram to the top. Sue and I could hike. Grandson and Grandfather would hide behind a tree or rock, signal to me that they see us, and I’d execute the proposal. They’d get to watch the whole thing and capture it all on camera.
We warmed up the prior day in Skagway with a killer hike in the clouds!
We arrived in Juneau on the third day of the cruise. I was so anxious to get this ring on a finger! But the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was 50 degrees, pouring rain and we docked at the farthest port from the town.
I woke us all up early that morning. There was no way I was going to sleep with a ring in a box in a safe on a cruise ship. I had my laptop searching for wifi, my iPhone searching for cell signal – all in the hope of figuring out an alternative plan. The mountain was so fogged in, the tram was closed and hiking would have been too dangerous.
So the 4 of us walked off the ship all bundled up. The only difference was that I was carrying a diamond solitaire ring in my chest pocked underneath and fleece and rain jacket. I still didn’t have a plan though.
We hired a taxi and asked for some sights to check out. The scruffy cabbie suggested the Mendenhall Glacier – we could still beat the crowds and hopefully worse weather. Deal. Maybe even get a short hike in.
Ring in pocket? Check. Location? Check. Execution? Still not a clue.
So we got to the glacier entrance, took a few family photos, and parked Grandpa inside the warm visitor center. As Sue was saying bye to him, I whispered to Jared “it’s going down here, look for my cue”, and then said to the group, “let’s kill some time and hike to the waterfall. It’s less than a mile away, and flat. Then we’ll come back and get Grandpa.”
So the three of us took off in our rain gear. I kept my eyes open for spots that were somewhat secluded. Jared would hang back 10 to 15 feet with his camera when given the cue. But I didn’t see any worthwhile locations. And there were other people on the trail – this was supposed to be our uninterrupted moment.
But somehow, Sue must have been reading my mind. We reached the waterfall. It was as loud as a freight train and behind it was the Mendenhall Glacier, in its glowing blue glory. We were cold and wet. But Sue was her normal cheerful self. “this would be a great place to take engagement photos” she said with a bigger than normal dose of sarcasm.
“ha ha, sweetie” I replied. This is an inside joke we have. My ridicule of post-modern overly artistic engagement photos has led to her sarcastic remarks whenever we’re in a difficult or non-romantic situation. Like in front of a dumpster and said with an aggressive smirk, “wouldn’t this be a great place to take engagement photos?”
I knew there was an opportunity, but I froze. I wanted to react but didn’t know how since there were still people everywhere. But about 15 feet behind us, I noticed a perch. Man made, but with a railing and a better view of the waterfall. “Hey, let’s check that out up there.” I winked at Jared. He took off his lens cap.
Sue was just looking around and making faces like she usually does on our hikes. We were approaching the spot. I said half-seriously, “wait, this would be a good place to take engagement photos.” I don’t think she even registered that statement. But at the same time I’ve never said that before. Ever. I unzipped my rain jacket. Then I unzipped my fleece. Out of the inside breast pocket I pulled out a jewelry box and caught her attention.
“It’s a ring!”
“OMG. OMG. You cannot be serious.”
“Yes of course I’m serious.” I lunged into the proposal position. Left knee in the Alaskan mud. Jewelry box in my right hand, water bottle in my left. She realized this wasn’t a joke and started crying and laughing at the same time.It was still freezing and raining and muddy but that didn’t matter. She said “yes!”
We spent the rest of the day riding around Juneau, looking for bear and salmon and thinking about how to spread the word. We found a coffee shop in downtown and posted on Facebook. In less than 30 minutes, over 100 people liked or commented! Both our phones were vibrating like crazy. We were 1,000+ miles from our friends and family but it felt like they were right there with us.
After letting it all soak in, we headed back to the ship where Grandpa gave us a toast, over a cup of decaf!
We let it all soak in over the next few days before heading back to work. We spent the rest of the time hiking, biking and eating!
Now on to the fun part: wedding planning!