Ajay and Kate
how we met
Kate and I first met online on New Years Eve 2016. I had recently moved to Chattanooga from Los Angeles and Kate was visiting town from Florida and planning to move in a couple months. We were both looking to make new friends and the very next day went on a hike together to a local waterfall. We continued our friendship long-distance as Kate went back to Florida and picked it up when she moved to town in March. Eventually in April, after spending a lot of time together at the film festival, fraught with many “should I or should I not try to hold her hand during the movie?” instances, we decided that we both felt much more than friendship toward each other.
How They Asked
I decided to propose to Kate where we spent our first road trip — in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I had hoped to propose on our favorite hike from that weekend, The Chimney Tops Trail, but it was devastated in the recent forest fires so I had to come up with a Plan B spot that would be accessible in winter weather conditions. Luckily I came across our photographer, Leah, who was game for hiking in ahead of us and we set our plan in motion.
Kate, who had been studying for midterm exams, let me arrange our much needed weekend getaway without much input (rare since we’re both big planners!). We stayed at a wonderful cabin rental on a private creek and woke early Saturday morning for our hike at Porters Creek Trail. The weather had been threatening snow and rain so it was a welcome surprise when it turned out to be a clear, perfect day in the 50s. Without cell reception or prior knowledge of the trail, I had to count the number of foot bridges we crossed and hoped that Leah had found her way too and was already there.
As we approached the third footbridge, my heart started racing as I spotted Leah hiding behind a tree far ahead. Just after crossing the bridge, there’s a small trail leading down to the water and waterfalls where I planned for us to take a break. Kate was preoccupied building a rock cairn which gave me a couple seconds to catch my wits, but then she was wondering why I wasn’t helping her find the perfect rocks to stack. I grabbed her hands and told her I did have the perfect rock for her to put on top – although I didn’t mean the ring – I actually had rocks engraved for the proposal. Back on our first hike in the Smokies, Kate had found a smooth black stone that she scratched our initials onto, along with a heart. We then made a wish on it and tossed it into the waterfall. I found an etching artist on Etsy to recreate our initials/heart on black stones and I brought them out, along with the ring and proposed.
I can’t believe I actually pulled the surprise off! It was well worth it to have Leah there to capture our tears and squeals. Kate didn’t even notice we had our own paparazzi until I turned her around and told her I wanted her to meet someone!