Happiness only real when shared.
- Christopher McCandless
Since I’ve been engaged for a year TODAY, I guess it is time to finally tell (drum roll, please) the Engagement Story.
As you may remember from The Necessary Pre Proposal Story, Trevor and I climbed our first fourteener on Sunday, August 3rd, 2008. So, it came as quite a surprise when Trevor announced that he wanted to go on a hike to the Ice Lakes a mere two days later.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the Ice Lakes hike. See my profile picture? That was taken on the Ice Lakes hike back in the summer of 2004. Trevor and I have gone on it every single summer that we’ve been able to vacation in Colorado. The summer of 2007, we even did it twice.
Again. I HEART Ice Lakes.
It was just that my blisters hadn’t healed from the hike two days earlier, and I was still exhausted. Plus, my mom and Trevor’s friend, Tracy, had just arrived from Texas over the weekend. The Ice Lakes hike isn’t necessarily hard, but loooooong. For someone who has only been in the altitude for a day or two, it can be pretty…well, breathtaking (in the literal sense, of course).
Case in point (and a brief – but necessary – detour into the past):
When Trevor and I started dating in June of 2002, he was a smoker. At first, I didn’t really care. I figured our relationship wouldn’t survive the summer (I was about to start graduate school in Washington, DC), and – plus – who was I to make him quit? But after a year of dating it became obvious that the smoking really had to go. Either that or I did. I know it sounds harsh, but the longer I dated Trevor, the more I came to realize that smoking was a deal breaker for me. For one, I’m allergic to smoke, and nothing says “sexy” like itchy, red eyes and post nasal drip. Secondly, I had fallen in love with the guy, and I wanted him to be healthy. I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer as a teenager, and the more I grew to love Trevor, the less I was able to dismiss his smoking as “no big deal”. So, I gave Trevor an ultimatum: me or the cigarettes.
Trevor (surprise!) chose me, and started the process of trying to wean himself off cigarettes. This, of course, is a lot easier said than done, but I tried to be supportive (buying him the Nicorette gum, cheering him on when he went a day without a smoke, etc.). But about halfway through the summer, it was clear to me that he had fallen off the wagon. Even worse, though?...when I realized he had started lying to me about it. Trevor would see a mutual friend or one of my siblings, smoke and then beg them not to tell me about it. Not that I needed anyone to alert me to the obvious. For anyone who has ever dated a smoker, you can smell it on their skin and taste it on their breath – even if they’ve showered and brushed their teeth. I knew what was going on. I was disappointed that he was still smoking, but that was nothing compared to the hurt caused by his lying to me about it.
But instead of yelling at him, I asked Trevor to go with me to Colorado for a week in the summer of 2003. I’ve always loved to hike, and tricked Trevor into going along with me to the Ice Lakes. I say “tricked” because I knew the hike would – completely and utterly – kick his a$$. First off, the trailhead is north of Silverton, which makes the starting elevation well above 9,300 feet. Secondly, the hike to the lower basin alone is about 2 miles (not that far) but the elevation gain is an additional 1200 feet. I didn’t plan on stopping at the lower basin on this particular hike, either. My final destination was the upper basin – another mile and rather steep 750 feet of elevation gain farther up the mountain.
Trevor started out strong, like I knew he would. He had to stop frequently to catch his breath, but made it to the lower basin okay. But the mile to the upper basin was a completely different story. Trevor couldn’t go more than a couple of steps before stopping to catch his breath, and his progress was painfully slow. I rubbed it in (on purpose – I was making a point, after all) by literally running up the trail, stopping and waiting for him to catch up. But before he could actually reach me (I was worried he’d make me go back down if he did), I’d sprint ahead again. To say Trevor wasn’t happy would have been a gross understatement.
In the end, I made it to the top, but Trevor did not. He made it about halfway between the upper and lower basins before calling it quits. I made it all the way to the upper basin, but only stayed long enough to take a couple of photos of the view.
The trip down actually got pretty scary – at least for me. It was getting dark, and Trevor (despite going down hill) was moving very slowly. His legs were visibly shaky, and night was coming on fast. More than once, I considered what would happen if we were forced to stop and sleep on the side of the mountain. Or if Trevor's legs simply gave out and he fell and hurt himself.
Luckily, we made it down to the car before total darkness took over, and started our journey back to the Durango cabin. There were no words to describe my relief at seeing our blue rental car parked at the trailhead that evening.
The next day I was fine, but it took Trevor DAYS to recover. The Ice Lakes hike was a real wakeup call for him, and he made a promise to himself – not me – to get himself healthy. The result: Trevor never smoked another cigarette again.
For this reason, the Ice Lakes hike is more than just a pretty destination for us. It is the place where Trevor overcame his addiction to cigarettes, and I realized just how much I cared for him.
The following summer, Trevor and I returned to the Ice Lakes. The previous year, when he was still smoking, it had taken him 3 hours to reach the lower basin. But in 2004 he made if up there in under an hour. Forty five minutes later, Trevor was standing in the upper basin enjoying the view that had eluded him the previous year. It was a moving experience for both of us, and the first time I remember thinking that I could spend the rest of my life with him. I know that sounds super-sappy, but we had just accomplished something difficult together. It had been a long, two year journey, but we had made it! And the view from the upper basin was absolutely amazing. Trevor, who had never been a hiker before, finally understood why I liked it so much.
But, like usual, I digress.
On the morning of August 5th, 2008, the last thing I wanted to do was climb another mountain. Especially, a mountain that required I wear hiking boots or tennis shoes instead of Birkenstocks (again with the giant blisters!). So, during breakfast, I tried to persuade the group to go on another hike to Spud Lake (read: nice, short and PAINLESS). A beautiful little one mile hike that could easily be done in flip flops.
See? Spud Lake is beautiful, too!
But Trevor kept insisting that we go on the Ice Lakes hike instead, and for whatever reason, my mother – who had only been in the altitude for two days and knew first hand what the Ice Lakes hike was like – kept AGREEING with him!
Before I knew it, Scott, Tracy, mom, Trevor and I were in the car on our way to Silverton and the Ice Lakes trailhead.
I was less than amused.
Once there, I finally committed to putting on my hiking boots and groaned. Despite Band-Aids, moleskin and thin, wool socks, my blisters we screaming in agony. This pain only increased with every single step I took, and before long I was lagging way behind the group.
Trevor, in an apparent attempt to seem supportive, slowed down and tried to coax me along. This did nothing to lighten my mood. Instead, now that I was out of earshot of the rest of the group, I let Trevor have it and proceeded to b*tch my way up the mountain. It was, after all, HIS fault that I was on this stupid hike in the first place. I had wanted to wait until Thursday or Friday to come, but no, no. HE HAD to go on TUESDAY. Two friggin’ days after climbing a fourteener!
Me: “You have giant blisters, too! Aren’t they killing you?”
Trevor: “No. Mine feel fine.”
Me: “[With much bitterness] Well, then I wish pain upon you!”
So, yeah. I was regular picnic that morning.
My mood only continued to deteriorate when – more than two thirds of the way to the lower basin - the skies started to darken and all around us could be heard the distant rumblings of thunder. I actually remember hoping I’d be struck by lightening. This had nothing to do with wanting to die, mind you. I just couldn’t imagine walking all the way back to the car. The pain in my feet was almost unbearable, and I figured if I got struck, Trevor would have to carry me back down to the car (which, quite frankly, would serve him right since he’d forced the d@mned hike on me in the first place).
By the time we reached the lower basin, the blisters on my heels had started to bleed – YES: BLEED – into my shoes. I wasn’t sloshing around in them or anything quite so dramatic, but I could feel the warm dampness of my socks and was not amused. And the thunder, once distant, was now considerably closer. All around us were flashes of lightening – all the more alarming now that we were well above the tree line.
Up ahead I could see my mom, Tracy and Scott stop at the big rock at the base of the trail leading up to the upper basin. They had stopped to put on their raincoats, and grab a light snack. I assumed that this was as far as we were going to hike, considering the weather. But, by the time I reached the rock, my mom had started hiking up to the second basin with Scott and Tracy following closely behind.
Me: “WTF?! Where are they going? Are they crazy? We need to get below the tree line before the storm hits!”
Trevor: “Hold on. I have a walkie-talkie in my pack. Sit down on the rock and I’ll radio your mother.”
Me: “Okay. Hurry, though. They are already pretty high up.”
Trevor took off his backpack, and started to rummage through it. I took off mine as well, and pulled out an energy bar, opened it and took a small bite.
Trevor: “Can I have some?”
I nodded and handed the bar to Trevor. With disgust, I watched him shove about two thirds of it into his mouth, and hand the small, uneaten portion back to me.
Me: [Oozing with sarcasm] “Ghee, thanks.”
Trevor, completely unfazed, returned his attention to his pack, and proceeded to dig around in it – still presumably looking for the walkie-talkie.
I finished my energy bar and fed Gypsy Kitty and Haskell a couple of dog treats. All the while my mother, Tracy and Scott kept getting farther and farther away.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Trevor remove a plastic baggie from his backpack with something red in the bottom. I assumed it was the beef jerky he had purchased in Durango a few days before. I found myself more than a little irritated that he was choosing to eat instead of focusing on the oh-so important task of calling my mother and our friends back down the mountain before the storm arrived.
Me: “Seriously, Trevor. They are getting farther and father away. Where is the walkie-talkie?”
Trevor: [Handing me the beef jerky…] “Here.”
Me: [Pushing his hand and jerky away…] “Hold on, Trevor. We need to stop them before they get up any higher. Plus, with my blisters, I’m not sure I can catch up.”
Trevor: “[Deals], look at me.”
And that’s when I noticed that he wasn’t holding beef jerky out at all. It was a reddish-brown box with a diamond ring inside.
It started to rain.
Trevor tried to get down on one knee, but, with the rain and rocky ground, all he really managed to do was squat on the big rock with all of our gear on it.
He took a list out of his pocket, and read me five vows he had written on a piece of scrap paper. At the end, he asked me to marry him. We were both crying.
I said, “Yes.”
We kissed. He put the ring on my finger.
Then, I punched him in the shoulder and called him an a$$hole for dragging me all the way up the mountain with bleeding blisters.
I looked at my finger with the shiny, new ring on it.
Trevor: “Want to take it off and put it back in the box until we get back down the mountain?”
Me: “No, I think I’d like to wear it for awhile.”
Trevor: “Well, just so you know, it is yours now. Which means you’re responsible for insuring it.”
Trevor: a TRUE romantic, no?!
It was about this time that we both remembered my mother, Tracy and Scott. They had disappeared somewhere above us on the trail. Trevor – finally producing the walkie-talkie – started trying to call Grammy Pammy.
We tried again.
Nothing but static on the radio.
Finally, we gave up and started to climb up after them. But we didn’t get very far before the skies really opened up and water started to pour down in torrents. Luckily, there was a small cave just up ahead, and Trevor and I both ducked in there for some shelter.
Trevor told me that he had been planning this proposal for months. He had asked both of my parents two months earlier, and the ring, which he had had made for me, contained my great grandmother’s engagement ring diamond. Since I’m such a history dork, this made the whole thing that much more special. I guess I never really realized just how well Trevor knows me until that moment.
Trevor had intended to propose at Island Lake, which is in a third basin above the second. Of course, his plans were tweaked when the weather turned bad, and my attitude from the get go that morning had left a lot wanting.
I asked to see the vows he had written. In all the excitement, I couldn’t really remember what he had said. I just couldn’t believe Trevor was proposing. It was all quite unexpected, after all.
Trevor rummaged around his pack and produced a piece of scrap paper with the numbers 1-10 on it. Beside 1-5 were the vows he had read to me on the rock not long before.
Trevor: “I meant to write ten vows, but I got to five and couldn’t think of anything else.”
I was so touched that he thought of five vows that I didn’t make (too much) fun of him.
About fifteen minutes went by before my mom, Tracy and Scott finally came around the corner on their way back down the mountain. Apparently, my mother was so excited about Trevor proposing that she forgot to turn on her walkie talkie. Wanting to give Trevor space, she had mercilessly marched poor Tracy and Scott up the side of a mountain in a watery deluge. By the time Grammy Pammy relented and started back down the mountain, the trio was soaked to the bone and shivering.
Tracy, in the altitude for less than 48 hours at this point, was complaining about her wet socks. And as they approached the cave, it occurred to me that none of them – with the exception of my mother – knew what had just transpired between Trevor and me at lunch rock in the lower basin.
Me: “Hey, Tracy. Want to hear a funny story?”
Tracy: “Can it wait?”
Me: “It’s pretty funny…”
Tracy: “Why don’t you wait to tell me back at the car. My socks are all wet.”
Mom: “No! Tell us now! I want to know!”
Tracy: “But my socks…!”
Me: “I promise to be quick.”
Tracy: “[Rolling her eyes and sighing…] Okay, just be fast.”
Me: “Okay. Well, Trevor dragged me up the mountain in a thunderstorm with bleeding blisters and proposed to me.”
Mom: “What did you say?! What did you say?!”
Me: “I said, ‘Yes!’”
Much squealing ensued, mostly from my mother and Tracy.
On the way back down the mountain, everyone was joking around about the proposal and we were all planning to go out to dinner that night to celebrate the engagement.
Mom: “I only told a few people that Trevor was planning to propose.”
Me: “Like who?”
Mom: “Well, your aunt and uncles, of course. And my Tortuga Sisters and Bridge Group. Oh, and…[the list continued on for at least ten minutes]”
Me: “Is that all?”
Mom: “And I just had to tell Larry…”
Trevor: “Who is Larry?”
Mom: “My flight instructor, of course!”
Me: “Is there anyone you didn’t tell?!”
Mom: “Well, who is Larry going to tell? And it’s not like anyone told you anyway, which is what counts!”
But the real surprise came after we got back down the mountain and I called my dad to tell him the news. My father has never been known to keep a secret, but he didn’t tell anyone that Trevor was going to propose. Not a soul. Amazing.
After I told dad the news, though, my cell phone lost its signal and we were disconnected. I tried to call back immediately, but it took awhile to find a signal on the winding mountain roads between Durango and Silverton. Meanwhile, my dad went down the hallway, and told my brother the news. Of course, William wanted to know whether or not I had said “yes” – something dad and I hadn’t officially covered before getting disconnected. So, my brother had to call me and ask. I was able to confirm that Trevor and I were, indeed, engaged before my cell phone lost the signal for a second time.
Closer to Durango, I called my sister. I had always joked with her that I got married, I planned to put her in a bubble gum pink dress with matching hat, ruffles and gloves. So, when she answered the phone, I said, “You know that pink dress I want to buy for you when I get married?”
Me: “Well, I better start looking.”
Amy: “What? Why? Wait a second! You’re engaged?! OMG!”
Amy then proceeded to tell the ENTIRE world that Trevor and I were engaged in less than twelve hours. That’s Facebook for you.
Because I am neurotic and never rush into things, the wedding date and the engagement date are over a year apart. This sounded like forever when I first got engaged, but now – twelve months later – the date is nearly here.
And I've been a less than enthusiastic bride. Case in point: I refused to even LOOK at dresses until March 30th (and even then it was by accident). Luckily, the second dress I tried on was the one I bought. I hate shopping, and would have gladly worn a hand-me-down if it meant I didn’t have to try on a gazillion white gowns.
Oh, and Gypsy Kitty and Haskell? Yeah, totally in the wedding. Alley Cat isn’t, though, because – according to Trevor – two dogs are fine, but three is either, A) A Circus, or B) A Dog Park. Alas, poor Alley! Just to clarify (lest anyone think that she is the red headed step
Combine all the wedding drama with the new house purchase, and you can imagine my mental state. I’ve committed to a lot in one year, which is really saying something considering my irrational fear of commitment. I’m looking forward to the two week honeymoon, and recovering from all the excitement!
Maybe once we get back, we will have an opportunity to finally finish settling into our new digs. Because with everything else going on, there just isn’t enough time or energy to devote to unpacking right now. And all the wedding presents that keep arriving aren’t helping either. Not that I am complaining. I’m loving all the free stuff! It is just that all the unpacked boxes piled high in the guest bedroom are a constant reminder of things yet to be done.
Just incase you didn't believe me about the blisters!
~ The End ~