Withanee and Shawn

Image 1 of Withanee and Shawn

How We Met

Shawn and I met three years ago online. We both were (and currently still are) wildland firefighters for the US Forest Service. He asked me out many times via text, but I was very reluctant because my older brother was his boss on the hotshot crew he was on and we knew many of the same people. I knew if it didn’t work out, it would be awkward for everyone. He finally convinced me though, and we had our first date at a hole-in-the-wall bar with pretty darn good tacos in South Lake Tahoe, Ca. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy our conversation flowed and just how much I enjoyed the sound of his laughter. We had a good time and promised to go out again soon.

Fate is a funny thing. The next day, we just happened to get a very active fire in our local area and we both ended up responding to it. It was my first season as a firefighter and I was still a juxtaposition in that I was very girlie. On our first date, I wore copious amounts of makeup and long clip in hair extensions. When at work, however, that obviously wasn’t an option. Shawn saw me for the second time ever covered in sweat and ash, trying desperately to pull brush away from the flames as the guy in front of me cut it with a chainsaw. I had no idea he was coming up behind me and I was pretty mortified when I looked up and realized he was seeing me in the ugliest possible moment, sans makeup and looking very much like a boy. He just gave me his signature grin, said something funny and kept hiking in. That was the start to our amazing relationship, and we still laugh at the coincidence of it all!

how they asked

Forty-three years ago when he was thirty years old, my dad walked from the highest point in the contiguous US – Mt. Whitney, 14,508 ft- to the lowest point, somewhere around Badwater in Death Valley, Ca, which is 282 ft below sea level. He was the first one on record ever to do so and when I turned the big thirty this year, I vowed to make the same voyage he did and recreate his 120+ mile adventure. He even wrote a book about it titled “Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, So Much: The Sandwalkers Mt. Whitney to Death Valley”. I coerced my brother and my boyfriend (now fiance!) into making this crazy journey with me, which would take somewhere around a week to complete and would technically officially begin at the top of Mt. Whitney.

Again, fate was good to us. The only day we were able to get passes up the mountain landed on our three year anniversary. Being fire season, it was really hard for Shawn to schedule the time off to come with me and I had my doubts whether or not he would actually make it. A few weeks prior to the trip though, he called me excitedly to tell me the good news that he would be making the trek by my side.

In order to make such a monstrous hike in one day, we had to begin climbing eleven miles up the mountain at 3 a.m. and let me tell you, it was not an easy hike. We reached the top around eight hours later…where we took photos and high fived each other in congratulations. It never occurred to me that Shawn was strangely absent (14,500 feet really makes you oxygen deprived and somewhat loopy), sitting over on a rock digging into his pack for what he said was a “tissue to blow his nose”. He and I then posed for a photo (which was actually a video that my brother was taking) when he turned to me and wished me a happy anniversary. He tells me now that he was stalling, trying to get his courage up before dropping to one knee. I was so shocked, oxygen deprived, exhausted and overwhelmed that I couldn’t even form the words “yes” and simply nodded like a bobble-head on a bumpy road before completely breaking down sobbing. My brother tells me there wasn’t a dry eye on Mt. Whitney that day. Hand in hand, we started back down the mountain and even in my altitude laden brain I realized the significance that I was now stepping into not one, but two giant adventures with my best friend and man of my dreams by my side.

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