our engagement

We’ve officially been married for over a year now. So surreal. And, as John would love to point out, I still haven’t written about our wedding–at all! I didn’t even really write about our engagement nearly two years ago. Somehow the biggest, most significant events of our lives haven’t been put to blog or jounal or wedding album…maybe we’ll have one of those in time for our 2nd anniversary!

In a few weeks, we’ll be making the trek back to Jackson Hole with my family for vacation. As we prepare for this trip, I am reminded of the time John and I spent in those beautiful mountains contemplating our new life together. How time flies!

During the summer of 2010, we were tenatively planning a trip to Colorado to visit John’s sponser from his Air Force Academy days. Ok, John was planning. He knew that the stunning natural beauty of the western states would provide ample opportunity to pop the question in an unbeatable setting. Somehow, he managed to purchase a ring without my knowledge and planned a trip home that May to surprise me…..er, to ask my parents permission for my hand in marriage. John set up a covert meeting over dinner with my parents who happily (and apparently a little tearfully) gave John their permission and blessing.

After dinner, John was on his way to my house to surprise me (I had no idea he was in town at all!) when he passed me on the road! I was surprised for sure, just not in the way he had planned. Though he was disappointed at his failed attempt, John was confident that I still had no idea of the true nature of his trip home. I didn’t. Somehow, I was completely oblivious.

That summer was full of precious time together. Given that our entire relationship was long-distance, it was amazing to have an entire week together in Ocean City, NJ with John’s family and then a weekend in Door County, WI with mine. Then in late July, I flew to LA and we drove for 1,100 miles in the middle of the night straight to Colorado Springs. There we stayed with Col. Dan Yoshii, a retired Air Force officer who had provided a home-away-from-home for John during his time at the academy and graciously offered rooms to us.


On August 2nd, we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park to do some of the best hiking that can be had in America. The day started sunny and warm – good weather for hiking.


As we approached 11,500 ft., we ascended into a freezing cloud, which rapidly dampened (literally!) John’s plans for a mountaintop proposal by the aptly-named Frozen Lake. We decided to press on to the lake despite the cold rain. John was secretly hoping it would clear up by the time they got there, but it was not to be so. He’d been picturing abundant sunshine over a sweeping vista, yet somehow forgot that Colorado’s weather cannot be depended on for anything! The fog prevented seeing anything beyond 15-20 feet, and it turns out that my fingers were so swollen from the cold and rain and altitude that the ring probably wouldn’t have gone on anyway!

Freezing, drenched, exhausted and hungry, we stumbled back down the 8 miles we’d come to the car, where we blasted the heat full force for at least half an hour before pitching our tents for the night.


Not to be deterred so easily, John chose a different area for hiking the next day and started praying hard for good weather. Good weather came and we opted for a lower-elevation, easier-paced hike through a lusher part of the park, teeming with wildflowers, rivers and waterfalls. John’s search began for the perfect spot. I couldn’t figure out why John had to scramble up every cliff face and path, marked or not, when we had a rapidly approaching lunch date. Honestly, I was starting to feel a bit frustrated! At last, John’s patience was rewarded when we arrived at Ouzel Falls- a thundering torrent that sent up a cool mist to form flickering rainbows in the morning sunlight. John suggested that we take a picture together in front of the falls and proceeded to set up the tripod with the camera, which was secretly set to record a video instead. I couldn’t figure out why John wasn’t hurrying to get in the frame for the picture- or even looking at the camera, for that matter. And then he dropped to a knee and said the words we’d never spoken to each other before: “Kirsten Ann Richards, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

I always thought I’d cry at this point- possibly the biggest, most emotional, wonderful surprise of my life. Instead, all I could say was, “Are you serious?”

Looking back, I think “Was there any possibility he wasn’t serious, on one knee with a ring? Probably not!” Still, I asked the question again, trying to wrap my mind around what was actually happening. I think the actual exchange went something like this:

Kirsten: “Are you serious?”

John: “Yes…”
Kirsten: “Are you serious?!?!”
John: “Completely serious!”
*….I drag John up, we embrace, laugh, etc…..*
John: “…aren’t you going to say yes?”
Kirsten: “YES!!!”


It was a far cheerier descent to the trail head than the day before and we later called family and friends to share the news from a city park in Boulder where we met John’s brother Michael for lunch. The next day we drove to Jackson Hole, WY to spend the rest of the trip with my great aunt and uncle. Finally we had to say goodbye to the mountains and drove back to LA by way of the Grand Canyon (in one long, 18+ hour stint!), wedding-planning along the way.



Best. Trip. Ever.

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