How We Met
Alex and I met briefly right before I graduated high school through a mutual friend. How we met isn’t the romantic part, it’s how we grew together.
how they asked
Alex always seems to focus on the big moments more than the small ones, so when I came home from my company retreat on Friday night I was surprised to see the intense packing and planning preparation that Alex and the dogs were doing. With so much excitement for our time together, I had no doubt he was going to propose. The big question was how… If you know Alex, there would be no doubt that it would be a grand gesture. Six years together and he still finds grandiose ways to show his love and share his attention. It was Saturday morning at 7 AM he was up and eagerly urging me to do the same. He was packing the car and doing double takes around the house, something I’ve never seen him to before. We headed out briskly as Hunter our lab urged us to the car. At this point the destination was unknown to me, but I suspected Tennessee as Alex went to school there, so he was familiar with state and the hidden beauties. We had been hiking a few times out there, and made a habit out of visiting.
After six years together and Alex’s love of driving, I had become quite familiar with road trips. I spent the morning poorly guessing the plan for the weekend. Before I knew it the three-hour drive had come to an end at an unfamiliar place: an abandoned logging location. There was old equipment that looked like it hadn’t been touched and an unopened gate “welcoming” us to the trail head, but those are the kind of places Alex always seemed to find. He was good at finding hidden gems and tough hikes with slightly scary low traffic patterns. He said it was a short hike with a bit of inclination and a surprise at the end. I briefly considered the fact that he was going to propose here, but I knew Alex would draw it out. After all, we had a three day weekend ahead of us. We went around the gate to be greeted by a sign stating that we should proceed with caution due to the feral hogs in the area, but Hunter was already off on the trail and instantly covered in mud. Alex always liked to be comfortable on the edge, so I think this made him like the trail a little more.
It was spring so the forest was coming to life and revealing it’s coloring, most of which were green and purple at the time. Alex obviously spent time planting all of the budding flowers for me prior to our time together because there wasn’t a bare spot in the woods. He humbly confirmed that he spent a good part of the day flower bombing the forest to prepare it for my arrival. After a quick incline up the mountain, we found ourselves approaching a series of waterfalls with water so blue it felt like we were somewhere else. Hunter greeted the water with excitement, while we unpacked lunch, enjoyed the sights, and rested for a bit. After getting back on the trail we were back to the car in what felt like no time as Alex always had a story to tell. Once we arrived back at the car Alex got very serious very quickly as he informed me that we had left something very important at home: the tent. Did I mention we were on a weekend hiking trip with packs and all?
See as I viewed Alex an inexperienced planner, I wasn’t too surprised. Alex confidently reassured he had a backup plan for his plan failing, which is slightly alarming for a planner to plan for their plan to fail in my opinion, but it was Alex so he did. We drove through rural Tennessee where every house in sight had a trampoline and an above ground pool, even if they were close neighbors who could share. There were few stores, no gas stations, and lots and lots of horses. It wasn’t likely there was a proper hotel with a fresh room waiting or a formidable Airbnb anywhere near us, but Alex continued to drive with unwavering confidence so I knew he had a plan. We soon pulled up to a house that greeted us with yet another unwelcoming sign stating, “if you can read this you’re within range.” After a painfully long driveway where I was in fear of where Alex could have booked a room, we pulled up to a whimsical house with a guest house that was my favorite shade of green. The guest house was tiny with cute string lights and artwork out front, it was perfect. My fears resided and my trust in Alex as a planner grew a bit. We quickly unpacked the car, settled in, and made dinner plans while enjoying a view from the porch.
Now Sunday morning, the day Alex would propose. I was sure of it! Alex gently woke me up teasing me with fresh breakfast of my favorite fruits. We started the day both eager to enjoy it. With our bags packed, while Hunter eagerly waited for us in the car. After short 45 minute drive we arrived, Hunter bolted out of the car the first chance there was. Alex hadn’t old me much about the trail other than the fact that it was a 10-mile hike. We put on our day packs and headed out. The morning was grim and it looked like rain, but nonetheless, we ventured on enjoying our time together. Within a few feet, I recognized the view, it was the first trail we’d ever hiked on together six years ago. It was our first adventure together. The trail left both of us exhausted at the end, but it was our most memorable trip together topping everything from Costa Rica to Burning Man. The six years we’ve been together this was always the trip we reflected on, in fact, we had our favorite picture of us on this trail on our mantle. I was in awe because Alex and I have had a lot of fun together, been to a lot of places, planned a lot of trips but he chose this spot.
We were so young our first time here and newly in love. Alex held his hand out for every rock I climbed, I ran to the edge of every cliff and climbed with no fear of falling, it felt like we were so invincible then. We talked about family, friends, and the future. He told me crazy stories about growing up in Florida so vividly I still remember the stories he shared. We were so free and oblivious to the full weight of what it meant to be us. It was very different now. Now we were both climbing rocks fearlessly and offering support to each other only when we needed it. It was more balanced in terms of him and me. The pure symbolism of the shift from the hand to support showed the nature of our change and growth together as a couple. It was perfect.
I had forgotten just how beautiful this trail was. Everything felt right. I knew he was going to ask, but there was no need to even think about my answer. I knew from day one that Alex and I would be together for as long as possible. Through every discussion, fight, or tough decision I always knew in the back of mind even if it ends now it won’t be over. We have something, something I would have been willing to bet my life on. I had never been ready for marriage before, but I knew when I was last year. Alex had been asking me throughout the past few years if I would marry him and my answer was always no. I never saw the point of marriage, nor was I religious. I told Alex I would be with him for as long as he’d have me, but I didn’t want to be married. So you can imagine Alex’s surprise when I told him I was ready. It kind of sprung up on me, but I felt it calling me like this was something we needed to do. We needed to join souls and commit ourselves further. I felt like we would never be whole without it. If felt like the page to next chapter was turning and I wanted to be in pace with it.
So we continued hiking up the mountain, Hunter leading us like the superior navigator he was. I paused in inclines waiting for Alex and making sure he wasn’t dead remembering our last trip up the steep Incline was rough for him. We hiked on and after about 4 miles of incline, we came across a stream. I was hesitant to cross as the water was way above boot level and freezing. Alex and I stripped our feet and painfully walked across the cold cold river. I remembered it being much more enjoyable crossing the stream the first time around noting that was during one of the hottest times of the year in 2012. Once our shoes were back on Hunter continued to lead. I noticed the purple flowers sprinkled across our route. Then we came across the second river, which was far more vast than the first… Alex was already taking off his shoes but I was looking for another route to cross as the water was moving fast and painfully deep. At last, I gave up and crossed with Alex. In immense pain over the bone curdling cold that spiked all the way up to my knees I needed more than a minute to get my blood flowing. After a short recovery we were on our way and clear of the rivers from my memory at least. Then just as we approached the familiar sight of the end of the trail I saw the final river to cross…one more and then we would be there. There being a unique cave on the side of the mountain overlooking the falls where Alex and I had carved our initials on a pine tree we were sure to live forever six years ago. We crossed quickly in the hope that we wouldn’t feel the cold. We obviously did, but we recovered quickly.
Alex let me lead and Hunter followed as I climbed up to the cave. I immediately noticed the familiar metal welds of Alex on two steel posts. Passing the pine that we had previously carved our initials on, I approached a “Historic Marker” that read: On September 3rd, 2012, A young couple went on their first adventure together here. On April 22nd, 2018, they returned and Alexander Heide chose this same spot to propose to Kendra Reece. As I took it in, Alex got down on one knee and Hunter followed sitting right by his side.
I was amazed at the commitment, thought, and unconditional love behind this grand gesture that was such an Alex thing to do. Alex had hiked 10 miles, climbed 1496 feet, and crossed three freezing rivers to permanently install a sign in a granite cave in Tennesse! My response was obviously yes.
The big question had been asked, so we set up the hammock enjoyed the view and refueled for the hike down. Alex was ecstatic (and probably relieved). We’ve known we were going to be together for a long time, but the idea of committing to each other even more had us even more excited for the future to come. By nightfall we were “home” in the cute space he’d rented. He was cooking an extensive meal for us to share: a cheese plate of our favored selections, a salad, crab cakes and vegetables, and a medley of desserts to choose from with our nicest wine of course. The day had been full of excitement and as it slowed we just took it in: the idea of us forever. The evening was just as perfect as the day had been. The weekend away was coming to a close, and Alex had scheduled a spa day for the two of us to follow.