Chris and Shirley - May 26-28, 2012

Our Engagement

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July 29, 2011
It was the middle of July. The veggie garden was in full swing and the chickens were settling into their brightly painted new home. Chris asked Shirley if she could take a specific Friday off from work at the end of the month so that they could go on a little trip for her 28th birthday. Where, she wondered? He insisted that it be a surprise. After four years together, Shirley figured that this unique circumstance carried with it a high probability of a proposal. When she probed a bit to figure out how to pack for such a trip, the answers (“maybe something to hike in, maybe something nicer”) seemed to reinforce that idea. Despite all the questions, Chris refused to divulge his plans. So Shirley packed something to hike in, and something nicer, and on that Friday they hit the road, heading south. “You probably know where we’re going by now,” Chris said, somewhere around Watsonville. But Shirley hadn’t really been paying attention and Watsonville didn’t ring any bells for her. It was only after they exited the main highway and passed a telltale sign that things clicked. “Pinnacles!” she exclaimed. Now she remembered that she’d made an offhand comment a while ago about wanting to go to Pinnacles National Monument but had lamented the fact that its distance -- 2-3 hours away -- was just enough to make a day trip inconvenient. “Yep! And now you can help navigate,” Chris replied, handing her his phone with the location pre-loaded. It was high noon and nearly 100 degrees by the time they arrived at the more isolated east entrance of Pinnacles. The sun beat down mercilessly on the dry, exposed landscape. Shirley and Chris found a tiny spot of shade under a tree on the side of a dirt path at the far end of the parking lot for a picnic lunch complete with fancy cheeses, ice-cold watermelon-rosemary lemonade, squash flower and lemon cucumber garnishes on their sandwiches (from their garden), and Shirley’s favorite “everything” flatbread crackers. Once they were stuffed near to bursting with delicious food, they hit the trail and what turned out to be a long, belly-busting series of switchbacks up to the top of a ridge. Fortunately, the area is full of the large, distractingly curious rock formations from which Pinnacles National Monument derives its name. From the ridge top they descended into the valley on the other side, passing by the main entrance of the park before climbing through one of the cave systems (complete with bats! but sleeping in a blocked off part of the cave) to a pretty little hidden pond. Then it was onwards and upwards again — more switchbacks until they reached the top of the same ridge. They’d been hiking for 5 hours and had seen nary another soul for quite a while, so it was as if they had the park to themselves.They sat down on a lone bench to take in the view. It was only a short way down the ridge back to the car so it was there, sweaty, nervous and covered in dust, that Chris got down on one knee asked Shirley to be his partner in life! After accepting his proposal, Shirley and Chris spent the rest of the weekend in Monterey, staying in a cute bed & breakfast, splurging on dinners, and whale watching in the Monterey Bay. One of the best weekends ever, and Pinnacles definitely lived up to all of Shirley’s expectations! View more photos of the couple and some of their favorite places.