How Paddy proposed: Involving a 28km hike, the most beautiful views we’d ever seen, a possible cougar, and the potential for my fiancé to slip off a cliff edge as he got down on one knee!
Wow, it’s only recently sunk in: Paddy and I are engaged!! Our proposal story is quite an adventurous and entertaining one – and certainly very memorable for us – so I thought I’d share it here for anyone who’s interested!
We’d driven from Vancouver to Golden the day before, which is about an eight hour drive, and we stayed there overnight. Neither of us got a good night’s sleep that evening because we’d arrived late and struggled to wind down, then set our alarms for an early rise. I’d planned a 28km hike to Lake O’Hara the next day, which I was so excited for, so we got up while it was still dark out, stocked up on some granola bars and water, and picked up some breakfast before heading to the Lake O’Hara parking lot.
Believe it or not, visiting Lake O’Hara is typically quite ‘exclusive’ feeling. You have to register to get shuttle bus tickets, to be driven the 11km each way from the parking lot to Lake O’Hara. Then from there you can choose which hike you’d like to do, with the most famous being to the Opabin Prospect, which offers an incredible view of Lake O’Hara and Mary Lake – two bright blue lakes – surrounded by mountains and wilderness. They only release around 3,000 shuttle bus seat tickets each year, through a lottery-like system, and they sell out like hot cakes! There’s usually a big waiting list – it reminded me of trying to get Glastonbury tickets 😉 – and people travel from all over the world to see the views. If you can’t get shuttle bus tickets, or if you enjoy more of a challenge, then you can walk (or run!) the 22km instead.
Due to Covid-19 social distancing regulations, and border closures leading to a lack of overseas tourists, the Lake O’Hara shuttle buses didn’t run this season. So that meant the area would be less busy 👀 and I convinced Paddy that walking in and out would be fine. Luckily he was easily swayed, as he was trying to rack up some extra miles while taking part in Mission 5000 (charity runs) with his family, to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease research!
The access trail was so much more beautiful than I expected. I thought it would feel like a chore, having to walk 11km before starting the main hike, but we were lucky to have good weather and we just chatted away. Impressive mountains and endless trees surrounded the trail, and we watched the sun rise in front of us as we walked. It felt so remote – just us in the wilderness.
First we reached the base of Lake O’Hara, which was absolutely mesmerizing. I feel like my words can’t do it justice! Lake O’Hara, located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, is known as the ‘crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies’, and I couldn’t agree more! The early morning light, mixed with the last of the lingering wildfire smoke that had blown across from the US, made everything look really magical and surreal. (And don’t worry – it didn’t smell smoky). Usual blue skies and grey mountains were, at first, replaced by a glow of white and orange skies, which gave the effect of pastel pink mountains. It was so quiet, the air was so fresh, and the lake was surrounded by mountains on all sides, reflected on the water’s surface. Across the whole lake, we could only see one bird swimming around and diving under the water.
Paddy asked if he should set up the tripod here to get some photos of the both of us, but I said that the views from the top should be even better. (Although, it was stunning down here!) It was nothing out of the ordinary for us to bring a tripod – we’d hiked to a beautiful spot, so we wanted to get some photos. But little did I know, that Paddy was wondering whether he should propose here at the base, or wait until we reached the viewpoint! I had no idea I’d be finishing this hike as an engaged lady!
After soaking that all in, we continued up the West Opabin trail. The views along here were amazing as well – I kept saying to Paddy, “This doesn’t look real, does it!” We saw lots of pikas (tiny, cute mammals that live among the rocks and look like hamsters, with fluffy ginger heads!), who were running around carrying flowers in their hands (seriously!) and making loud squeaks. The trail looks down on Mary Lake, so I kept glancing back to take in the views.
Even though we were now high up, and it was mid-September, the top of the mountain was so green, and covered in flowers. And despite being in the middle of ‘nowhere’, with zero signal, the beautiful scenery and the squeaks coming from the pikas made it not feel scary at all. (Which is quite funny to look back on, after another hiker soon informed us of something…coming up in the story!) 🙊
We got to the Opabin Prospect, which is the most famous lookout point there, and oh myyyy, the views were incredible!! From here, you look down at the entire Lake O’Hara Valley and surrounding Rocky Mountains, including Lake O’Hara, Mary Lake, and Cathedral Mountain. It was the best view we’d ever seen. Without the shuttle buses running, and with our early start, the whole area was so much quieter than usual. There was only one group of people at the plateau when we arrived, who left pretty quickly, and we felt so lucky to get the best viewpoints to ourselves for good lengths of time.
I started taking photos as soon as we got there – I just couldn’t get over how beautiful it was! I set up our tripod to get some shots of the both of us, and just then a couple of friendly guys arrived, and lit up a big joint! (Weed is legal in Canada). I carried on setting up the camera, but Paddy didn’t seem too keen to take many photos at this point. I thought he might have been a bit embarrassed in front of the guys that were now there, as he suggested we hike a bit more then come back, but I was like – this is the best viewpoint, and it might get busier later on in the day! So he suggested we eat something first, and then take photos. I thought, oh he’s probably just hangry and needs some energy. 😂
As we got our snacks out, a solo hiker arrived with her dog, and asked us if we’d heard “the cougar”! 😱 Cougars are mountain lions, growing up to 2.4m in length and weighing up to 200lbs, and they’re the thing I’m most scared of in the wilderness here – they’re dangerous, strong, fast predators who stalk you, but it’s really rare to encounter them. We said we hadn’t, and she told us that about an hour before she reached us at the plateau, she heard at least one cougar making a loud mating call – it sounds like a shriek – so she blasted her music and tried to get to the top as quickly as possible. As we hadn’t heard it, she thought it could have been travelling in the opposite direction. I felt glad we were all ok, and she said she’d chill with us and eat her lunch here for a bit – safety in numbers!
(What I didn’t realize at this point, was that Paddy was now stressing that he might have to propose in front of an audience, and he hoped the three of them would leave soon!! He was thinking that it especially wasn’t very romantic to propose with the aroma of marijuana and a couple of stoners there. 😜)
After we finished eating, and with the guys now gone but the solo hiker and her dog still there, Paddy suggested we set up the tripod from a different angle than before. He said he thought this angle got more of the lakes in, which was correct, but what I later found out is that he was also trying to angle the camera to ensure our feet could be in the shot, so he’d be in frame while down on one knee!!
After he was happy with the positioning, he said, “I just need to take my cap off” and ran over to his backpack. I saw him slip something black into his pocket, but I presumed it was his phone. I did wonder why he was picking that up to take the last few photos, and I was going to say “remember you’ll see a rectangle outline in your shorts in the photos with that!” but thought he’d been patient enough with my photo taking, so I didn’t say anything. (Luckily I didn’t, or else I would have ruined the surprise!)
At the time, I was trying to work out how to put my camera on rapid-fire timer, so I didn’t need to keep running back and forth between shots, but I couldn’t get to the right setting. So we decided to just keep it on the one shot only, 10-second timer. The solo hiker left at that moment, and we said goodbye. It was now just the two of us up there.
I stood in front of the camera, and Paddy asked me to take a step to my left. Then another, and another. I thought, I don’t think you need that much space to stand next to me, but ok! (Turns out he was giving himself enough room for his foot to not be hanging off the cliff while popping the question!!)
He pressed the shutter and ran over to me, like we’d done so many times before. But then, with the 10 seconds counting down, he dropped to one knee and took a ring box out his pocket. 💍
Looking into my eyes, he asked, “Will you marry me?”. I was totally shocked, and thought he was winding me up! So I said, “Are you joking? Is this real?”, to which he replied, “Yes – I want to spend my life with you”. I must have covered my face with my hands and taken a step forward, because that’s what the photo captured, but it’s all a bit of a blur when I think back to it! I said, “Yes!” And Paddy stood up. By this point I was smiling, and crying happy tears, and just felt like I was in a dream!
I put the ring on and we hugged and kissed. I just couldn’t believe it!! I looked down at the ring, and saw it was my absolute dream ring – a circular diamond with six prongs, on a diamond platinum band. I thought it looked so incredible, I now didn’t quite believe it was real! It was all so perfect and magical, I just couldn’t believe it had happened to me, or us, or in that way, and in that location, and at that time!
(Such a cute thing, is that Paddy later told me he had been practicing opening the ring box the right way round without looking, in secret at home!)
Luckily I’d taken in the views and taken lots of photos on the way up, because I could not stop staring at my ring on the hike back down!! (In fact, I’m still glancing at it lots now, one month on – when does this phase end hehehe?). I was so distracted by the ring while hiking down, and felt so overwhelmed with emotion, that I didn’t even notice climbing down the most ‘scary’, steepest part of the hike; I just got down really quickly without panicking!
We didn’t pass any other hikers on our journey back down. It was just us, our smiles, and lots of excited discussions!
We spent the next 14km of the hike talking all things engagement and wedding! I couldn’t stop talking about the ring, and asking Paddy if and when he’d asked for my Dad’s blessing, and when and where he’d got the ring from, and expressing that just I couldn’t believe this was real!
Paddy was so proud and excited to be engaged, it actually took me by surprise! He couldn’t stop messaging people to tell them all about it (as soon as we got signal again), and saying that he couldn’t wait to wear a wedding ring and to start planning everything – he was absolutely beaming!
I was still overwhelmed and in shock, but in the best way! I cried so many happy tears that my under-eyes became puffy! We discussed when and where we think we’ll get married, and who we’d ask to be in our wedding party, and our potential guest list, et cetera. It felt really surreal! 🥰
I kept repeating in my head: Omg we’re engaged! We’re engaged! We’re engaged! And although that felt reallyyy exciting, it wouldn’t quite sink in!
After the hike, we drove to Banff and checked into our hostel. Yes – hostel! When I booked this trip, we were still supposed to be going to England for two weeks soon after, but I really craved getting out into the Rocky Mountains before the roads became too snowy. We couldn’t easily afford this 6-day trip followed by the 14-day UK trip, so to make both work, I had booked cheap accommodation. We stayed in private rooms with en suites and the hostels were all in good locations but still, it felt funny to have just got engaged, and then to check into a hostel! No chance of asking for an upgrade to the honeymoon suite there. 😂
My family were meeting us in Banff the next day, so we thought it would be more special to tell them the happy news in person rather than over text. (My family all adore Paddy and I knew they’d be overjoyed!) We’d been without wi-fi for most of the day, and it felt quite romantic just keeping the news between us two for a little while. With the time difference, our friends and family in England would have been asleep by then anyway.
So we showered, changed, and went out for an amazing dinner and celebratory drinks at The Vermillion Room at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. We chatted about wedding ideas for the whole meal, sipped cocktails (and complimentary champagne after our server found out we’d just got engaged!) and ate until we were full. I love Fairmont Hotels, and always enjoy eating at their Banff location.
Once we had wifi again, Paddy couldn’t help but text his best friends, family and even colleagues as soon as he could, but he asked that no one post anything online yet. He was just too excited to keep it in! His best friend and his step-brother happened to see his message (despite it being the middle of the night in England), and their responses were so excited and supportive. It was really lovely to receive their replies during our meal out. 🥰
That night, we both had some jumpy dreams that Paddy or myself had slipped off the cliff edge during the proposal, as we really were high up on that ledge! We also kept thinking, what if we had dropped the ring! We’d never find it amongst that vast, rocky wilderness, with all its crevices.
I waited to tell my family our news in person the following day, as I didn’t want my mum to find out through social media, and then I immediately told my besties. I had written out the texts to send them in the ‘notes’ section of my phone the night before – different messages for each girl, with their name at the top – so I could quickly copy and paste them into WhatsApp messages as soon as my Mum and Dad had been told!
Oh – and my mum’s reaction was very funny! She had been anticipating our engagement ever since Paddy asked for my dad’s blessing, and I kept noticing her glancing towards my left hand when we met up with them! I had my ring covered with my cardigan sleeve to start with, as I thought it would be nice to order some drinks in before we told my family we’d got engaged. While waiting for the drinks, I popped to the washroom, and didn’t realize my mum had come in after me. While washing my hands, she came out of one of the cubicles and yet again glanced at my hand. I quickly pulled my sleeve back down, not knowing if she’d spotted the ring or not, and ran out the bathroom, saying “meet you back at the table!”. My mum started smiling and then chased me shouting, “has something exciting happened? Do you have something to tell me? Come back – I need to be the first to know!!” 😂 Then once back at the table, we told everyone, and she cried happy tears! (Now you know where I get it from!) ❤️
Following our engagement at Lake O’Hara, and our day to relax in Banff (our feet and legs were sore from the hike!), we continued our road trip to Jasper, driving along the Icefields Parkway, looking out for wildlife, stopping to take photos, and just enjoying the beautiful scenery! We got up early each day to really make the most of it. In order, we visited Bow Lake, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls, Valley of the Five Lakes Loop, Pyramid Lake, Jasper town, Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake and Spirit Island, Moose Lake Loop, Pyramid Island, and Mount Robson. That whole area is breathtaking, and just driving or walking around is a dream! We didn’t spot any bears, even though there were warning signs for grizzlies, but we did see moose, bull elk, a pine marten, bald eagles, and lots of friendly red squirrels!
The trip felt like an “engagement moon”, and I’d recommend all future fiancé-to-be’s to take a trip together during / after the proposal! It really does make everything feel extra special, and adds to that just engaged, excited bubble feeling! (I didn’t know this was a thing until I got engaged, but all my engaged friends already knew how I’d feel during this stage and would say, enjoy that bubble!)
I’ll write a separate post all about Banff and Jasper soon, as I looove it there!
On our drive from Jasper back to Vancouver, I shared the news to social media for the first time, and we were filled with a second wave of excitement as wider friends and followers found out! We were overwhelmed, in the best way, with everyone’s well wishes! (Thank you!!) ❤️❤️
The back story…
I had hoped we would get engaged this year, as the timing just felt so right, but Paddy hadn’t given anything away that day, or in the lead-up, so I didn’t suspect anything, or know he’d been planning this for a while. The fact that I had planned this trip really threw me off scent – I think if Paddy had booked a surprise night away somewhere himself, I would have expected something, and maybe even got my nails done first. 🙊
Proposing at the Opabin Prospect felt like the most magical moment, but I since found out that it hadn’t been his original plan! At the start of the year, he was thinking of proposing while skiing, around April time, as we love spring skiing together. But all the ski hills closed early due to Coronavirus, so that idea went out the window. He then thought that proposing on our seven year anniversary, on October 12th during a photoshoot we had planned in London, would be really special. But that trip got cancelled a while before due to Covid too. So then (!) he thought of proposing during a photoshoot in Vancouver that we had pencilled in, a few days before our road trip (which would have been a surprise to both me and our photographer!) but that got rescheduled due to the US wildfire smoke. He’d even picked up the ring from the jewellers early, ready for that photoshoot. So in the end, he carried the ring with him in his backpack on our trip, not knowing exactly when he’d pop the question. But I don’t think it could have turned out more perfect!! 🙌
He had asked for my Dad’s blessing in June, when we were over visiting my family for my brother Will’s high school graduation. He had wanted to speak with my whole family – Mum, Dad and two brothers – as only asking my father seemed a little old fashioned, but he worried that four people knowing would be trickier to keep it a secret, and it proved difficult enough to sneak a moment in without me there!
He then started to work with Cavalier, an ethical, bespoke, fine jewellers based in Gastown, Vancouver, to design my ring. He’d been going there without me knowing, and I didn’t suspect a thing! He custom designed the ring from scratch, and the fact that he chose every element – which diamond, the type of setting, how many prongs, and so on, makes the ring feel extra special to me! And, he got it spot-on!! The engagement ring he designed is my absolute dream ring – every single detail is perfect to me. I find it so beautiful, that I catch myself glancing at it on and off all day long! 💍
I may write a separate post on my engagement ring, because I’ve received a lot of messages asking about it, but if it’s of interest to anyone else, here are some details: It’s a diamond and platinum ring, with the following: pavé diamond band, solitaire round-cut centre diamond, tiffany setting, and six prongs.
Now it’s time to start wedding planning! ❤️
Elsewhere on the blog: How to spend a romantic weekend in Naramata, aka “wine country”.