How Mr. Nerd Proposed While Hiking Near a Nuclear Power Plant in California
The setting? A beautiful, sunny California day. The stage? Montana de Oro (Mountain of Gold), off the Point Buchon Trail. The cast? Mr. and (then) Miss Nerd. The goal? To hike the trails far enough to see the private nuclear power plant off in the distance about 4 miles away.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, probably the best one we'd had yet on our two week vacation to California. We'd had rain and clouds all week, so the clear skies and warm weather felt like a sign from Mother Nature to venture outdoors. One of our favorite past times is hiking—we've hiked the Superior Trails in Duluth, Minnesota; local trails around Saint Paul, Minnesota; Pacific Highway 1 Trails in California—so it made sense to shove on our hiking shoes, fill our backpack with energy bars and sunscreen, and hit the road!
We drove for fifteen minutes down a long, winding road in Los Osos, California that led past several camping areas and beaches, until finally we reached the very end and parked our rental car. There were a few moments of debate as we adjusted our sunglasses and looked down two paths—one leading up toward the mountains and one leading through a gate toward the ocean. I wanted to see the water and watch the waves crash against the shore; Ben wanted to hike up the mountain and find a lookout point to take photos. We stood in tense silence, wondering which way we would go first.
Our soft bickering was interrupted by a gentleman hiking toward us, a top-of-the-line camera in tow. "Where are you wanting to go?" he asked, coming to a stop beside us. His pocketed explorer shirt, hiking pants, and low-brimmed hat made me feel underdressed and ill-prepared in my yoga shorts and sweater.
We smiled and explained our dilemma—do we go up or over? He quickly pointed us in the direction of the gated area. "You'll check in at the top of the road," he explained, "and the trails there will lead you up the mountain. There are a few lookouts along the way."
With that he was off, and we trekked toward the gate. I secretly cheered inside, feeling mildly victorious; I got to see the ocean first!
As we walked the 1,000 feet to the trail check-in station, where we'd be required to sign a log so they could keep track of who was still in the park by closing (seemingly early at 5 p.m.), both of us felt a sense of awe. We passed trees and flowers, shrubs and other leafy growth, and crossed a bridge over a trickling stream. Mountains towered above our heads to the east, and I swore I could hear the ocean's roar in the distance.
"I wish we could do this forever," I told Ben. "I wish we could never leave this place. I love it here."
Once we checked in at the station, we quickly gathered our wits. The trail ahead of us wound along the cliff's edges as far as the eye could see. I carefully pulled our Nikon out of my bag—and grabbed this shot just for fun, because why not!
We didn't get too far down this amazing path until we spied a small beach cut into rocky, scrubby cliffs. There were steep wooden stairs by a bench leading down toward the sand, and as I love beaches and waves, I grabbed Ben and tugged him down to the shore. Piles of washed-up seaweed and ocean rocks met my gaze; searching beyond the rugged beach, I saw a small cove with smooth-washed walls and packed sand.
I shoved the camera into Mr. Nerd's hands and ran over so he could get these next couple photos.
After goofing around a little, Ben asked me to walk out further so he could take a few artistic shots of me standing basically in the water. As he bent down to balance the camera on a rock and figure out the settings, I ventured down the beach. Soon there wasn't much room between the cliff walls and the waves washing up on the sand.
Mr. Nerd took a while, and I started growing impatient as I posed, saw the incoming wave, ran toward the cliff wall to avoid getting my shoes wet, paced back down to pose again—rinse and repeat. I think I probably did this six times before I started walking back toward him, asking "whyyyyyyyy are you taking SO LONG to get a shot of me? My SHOES!"
He popped up and waved me over. "I want to get a shot of us together. Hit the red button on the top of the camera and hurry over," he said, before rushing off to find the right spot to stand—back where I'd just been. I puzzled over why I was hitting a red button that looked suspiciously like a record button, but I didn't know the camera that well, so I pressed it and ran over to him.
We posed for a few moments to capture the photo, then broke apart. Ben leaned forward and pulled me into a hug.
All I could think about was my shoes...and how they were surely about to get wet ANY MOMENT NOW.
Once he let me go, I turned to retrieve the camera, but Ben grabbed my hand. It was only then I realized that his left hand was deep in his pocket, and that he was pulling something very ring box shaped out of his coat. Sinking down to one knee as I stared at him in shock and surprise, he looked up, slowly opened the box, and said, "Anna, I love you. Will you be my wife?"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Mr. Nerd and I got engaged with no audience doing one of the things we loved most as a couple—hiking. I, of course, said yes. We hugged and kissed, and our shoes got very wet. But we like to think that was the ocean's way of accepting our love and (at that time) upcoming marriage.
After we took a few obligatory "just engaged!" shots on our cellphones, we started back to the trail, where we proceeded to call his family. It also turns out he was filming our engagement on the camera the whole time, so now we have a video to cherish for years and years to come!
We'll always remember this part of the trip as one of the best adventures we've ever had—the very adventure that truly launched our life-long love of travel and companionship. And while we're married now and looking forward to our next trip, Montana de Oro and California will hold a special place in our hearts forever.
If you're in the area and love hiking (like we do), make sure to check it out!