Fun in the Forests

A Rocky Mountain Weekend

Rocky Mountain Proposal

The mountains and forests provide many opportunities for recreation...and marriage proposals.


The view of the summer 2012 wildfire in Estes Park, Colorado, from Prospect Mountain.

By Julia Bourque
Conservation Writer

That morning, I checked my Facebook messages. My brother sent one to our entire family: “The eagle will land today at Lumpy Ridge. Party at Ed’s around 7 tonight.”

He was referring to his proposal and was planning to surprise his girlfriend with a rock climbing “photo shoot” in Estes Park, CO, where he taught for three years and her mother lives.

This was sure to be the highlight of Joel and Emily’s annual summer trip home from Hong Kong, where they both teach. I spent weeks debating whether I could leave Chicago to visit them, but deadlines at work and moving apartments kept me from booking the flight.

But, after reading his message, I thought, how fun would it be to surprise them at Ed’s?! Ed’s Cantina is one of our favorite places to imbibe while visiting. So, I asked my boss if I could leave early, called my mom to make sure there was room for me in the cabin and booked the flight and rental car.

I caught the tail end of the party, which by that time had moved to a friend’s garage, and surprised the pants off my brother and his new fiancé. It was great! I think I was just as excited to be surprising them and be in beautiful Estes Park as they were to see me.

But, the surprises didn’t stop there. My mom and I spent our first day hiking the “Twin Owls” area of the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. Though it was a hot day in Estes—95 degrees or so—we had some bonding time and enjoyed our stunning surroundings: evergreen forests, grassy fields and mountains all around us.

The next day, we left our cabin for hiking trip number two, and as we approached the end of the road, I looked back. To my surprise, I saw clouds of smoke. A fire had started feet from our cabin. Instead of hiking, we took the Estes Park tram up the side of Prospect Mountain to about 9,000 feet and looked over the trees and down at the flames.

We spent the next few hours watching rescue choppers suck water from Lake Estes to smother the flames. Though it was impressive to see them at work, we prayed it would soon be over.

Our day of hiking was interrupted, but our spirits were not dampened. The fire was extinguished within a couple hours, and we spent the rest of that day looking at wedding reception sites in the mountains with Joel and Emily. And, I spent the final day rock climbing with my brother.

For a last-minute trip, it was sure one for the books: a mountaintop proposal, hiking 10 miles with my 56-year-old mother, a fire that evacuated us from our cabin and seeing some of the most breathtaking views of Colorado from the side of a mountain and the seat of wedding venue.

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