During the workweek immediately after my trip with Mom last weekend to Southern Utah, I was in quite a dilemma. I had to think fast because I had sensed that Julie anticipated I would propose to her on top of Half Dome. It was a good thing I didn’t follow through with that idea because she let me know it was too cliche.
So what was I to do?
Eventually, I had decided to fit in a day excursion this coming weekend. We had been training for Half Dome by doing hikes in Yosemite, Zion, and Bryce Canyon. I had also spent Memorial Day weekend with Mom driving around Southern Utah (going as far as Monument Valley) as well. So by now, both Julie and I were pretty physically capable of doing a longer day hike. And so I chose Alder Creek Falls, which was an 8-mile return hike.
I had an ulterior motive to do this waterfall hike since I had never seen it before. I figured we’d have a little peace and solitude to share the special moment together. So that was that.
Determined to go through with this, I told her we were going out for a day hike on Saturday morning. Obviously, I didn’t tell her where.
Saturday morning rolled around and it was 5am. I managed to convince Julie to get out of bed and sleep in the car. And so off we went – to Yosemite National Park – without her knowing.
By the time it was about 9am, she started to wake up. She didn’t have an idea where we were at, but I think the Yosemite signs started to give things away. She had even knowingly said to me, “We’re going to Yosemite, aren’t we.”
My lips were sealed. I smiled, but kept them sealed. Even though she had guessed right.
We were approaching Coarsegold when she awoke. She wasn’t going back to sleep so I guess it pretty much removed all doubt in her mind where we were going.
At about 10:30am, we finally parked the car at a large pullout near a sign for Mosquito Creek. I knew this was a difficult trailhead to find, and we had to backtrack to get to this spot since we went too far to the bridge at Alder Creek and noticed there was no trail there.
And so we started our hike. The first mile was all uphill, but at least it was shady. The day was picture perfect blue but not overbearingly hot. After the first mile was up, we hit a trail junction and went left. At this point, the trail flattened out and it was pretty much a forest hike for the next hour or so.
The hike was smooth going with the occasional downed tree obstacle we had to get around. Other than that, it was peaceful and quiet. The silence was only broken by chirping birds and our small talk.
Minutes after passing by some buried wooden planks (part of an old railroad system), we finally started to hear running water.
It was Alder Creek.
Spurred on further by the noise of rushing water, we rounded a bend in the trail and there it was…
Down in the ravine below, we saw the 100ft Alder Creek Falls with most of its base obstructed from view by trees.
It was now 1:30pm. We had spent a few minutes looking to see if we can get a better view of the falls. Having gone as far as a profile view of the falls, it was clear that the views weren’t going to improve.
So after stealing a few looks at the impressively tall waterfall (though lacking in a clean view), we retreated to a rocky spot looking somewhat directly and down at the falls.
The short scramble was quite steep, but it was a decent spot somewhat away from the trail. We were hoping our “hidden” spot would conceal us from anyone else who would be passing by (though it mattered not because we were the only ones on the trail the whole time).
So there we were taking photos and having lunch, which we bought and brought with us on the way here. There was a furry buzzing bumblebee that wouldn’t leave us alone though. Heck, it even landed on my bare thigh so I had to exercise tremendous restraint not to move.
I was hoping to spend some time alone with Julie, but I never expected to have company like this!
Anyhow, the bumblebee eventually left us alone after we started swatting at it. I was worried we’d piss it off and make it want to sting us. But in the end, we managed to not get stung.
After taking several photos, I started messing with the timer function of the camera. Once I figured out how that worked, we started taking couple shots.
Well, now it was time to do it, I thought.
When I set up the camera for the timer and triggered it again, I went over to Julie, grabbed the ring box out of the pocket, kneeled to her and proposed.
I think I was too nervous at the time so I don’t even remember what I said to her. Heck, I even had the ring box opened the wrong way – facing me and not her! (I only realized this when I looked at the photos after we were done with this hike)
Anyhow, Julie was elated! The answer was obvious, but somehow I had the feeling that she kind of suspected all along what I was up to. I suppose we ended up with a rather indecent proposal – at least in my mind.
I guess I’m not very good at these things so there were a million things after the fact that I thought I could’ve done better to improve the reaction from her. But anyhow, the deed was done, and I’m sure Julie was relieved it happened. Up to this point, it had nearly been a five-year relationship after all.
Now it was 2:30pm. Since I had intended to drive back to Los Angeles the same day, we had better get going. And so we started hiking back.
When we got to the old railroad tracks, Julie’s demeanor changed. All of the sudden, she stopped and grabbed me by the shoulder as she was hiding behind me.
She said in a rather panicked but muted tone, “There’s a bear! There’s a bear! There’s a bear!”
Perhaps stupidly, I said out loud, “What bear?!?”
And the moment I turned around and looked ahead, there it was…
…a California black bear!
Though it was really a cinnamon brown color, it was still considered a black bear.
Anyhow, it was probably about 100ft ahead of us (home to first base, I reckon). Clearly it heard my voice and looked our way.
Both of our hearts were racing a million miles an hour! We never had a close encounter with a bear, and we weren’t sure what to do.
Fortunately for us, the startled bear made things easier by darting away down the trail before disappearing up into the bush. Man was that dude was moving real fast! For some 500lb mammal, it sure can easily outrun us if it wanted to – a chilling thought to think we could’ve been the prey without a shot at escape.
We waited for another minute or so to make sure the coast was clear. Our hearts started to slow down a bit, and another minute later, I think we regained our bearings.
Onward we continued to hike, but we kept looking backwards to see if the bear would follow us.
We made pretty good time getting back to the car after the bear incident. It was a little after 4pm when we returned to the trusty old 1990 Legend. That left us plenty of time to make the 5-hour drive back to Los Angeles.
We would eventually get back to LA by 9:30pm. No further drama occurred the rest of the evening. Julie and I had some good conversations throughout the drive (I don’t quite remember what we talked about exactly) so time flew by and the homeward journey didn’t seem so long.
Now that I look back on this day, it really was one proposal for the ages – at least in my mind. Sure it didn’t have a bunch of people staring at us while we would be making a scene, but it fit our personalities.
The proposal was (for the most part) pretty mellow and in our favorite National Park – let alone in nature. We were also the only ones on the trail that day, which was amazing considering it was Saturday with blue sunny skies in late May! So yeah I’d say the way things turned out couldn’t have turned out much better than it did.
But the anxious moments with the bear really made this proposal stand out. Whether the proposal was decent or not (as it conspired to be indecent from by poor last minute preparation as well as a potentially dangerous situation with a bear), Julie and I still remember this eventful day quite fondly.
So I guess it all worked out. And we wouldn’t have it any other way…
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