A trail of cards

One of Jake’s cards

From time to time on trail, I have found a little green envelope on my backpack.

Inside there is a card with a message from Jake.

“Let’s go hiking!” says one.

Jake has been giving me these cards since we celebrated our two-year anniversary on trail.

As our mileage has increased, the cards’ messages reflect that intensity.

“Let’s do 34.2!” says another card.

They always make me smile. I have saved them in a ziplock bag.

As we hiked into Tuolumne Meadows in late September, that bag was buried deep in my backpack, safe from the rain and freezing temperatures of the high Sierra Nevada mountains.

Walking into Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne was a significant milestone for us. We both hiked the John Muir Trail in the summer of 2015. That was before we met. We bonded over tales from that hike. It has always felt like an important part of our story.

As we hiked out of Tuolumne Meadows, Jake teased me that another card was coming by showing me the corner of a green envelope in his pocket. Throughout the morning and midday, we hiked the miles up to Donohue Pass.

After the pass, the trail turned from switchbacks through vertical, almost hanging gardens to a winding path through a lush convergence of creeks and streams. I remember that meadow from the JMT. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. But like all the best places it’s not easy to get to.

The last of flowers of the season

We still had another pass to climb before camp.

As we came over its rise, we saw an expansive lake dotted with islands. The still water reflected the pink light of sunset behind Banner Peak, which was still dotted with snow from the winter. I had stopped at Thousand Island Lake on the JMT in 2015. Jake had camped there that year. He was looking forward to camping there this time.

Thousand Island Lake

We hiked a few hundred feet off the PCT to find a tentsite. Jake found an amazing spot on a spit of land by the water. The sun was just setting as he staked out the tent. I fired up our stove and started boiling water to heat up a packet of Punjabi potatoes — one of a few dinner items left at Tuolumne Meadows Store.

The sunset

The water hadn’t yet boiled when Jake walked a couple of steps toward the lake and said, “Come over here. Look at the sunset.”

“It’s OK,” I said, focused on dinner. “I can see it from here.”

“No really,” he said. “It’s better over here.”

I figured I should probably check out whatever was over there.

I got to my aching feet and walked the few steps over to him. He had the green envelope in hand.

“The card!” I said.

I opened it.

And then he got down on one knee.

I was stunned: The sunset, the lake, the ring.

I looked at Jake and our whole relationship flashed before my eyes — meeting in Mexico City, our first hike, that time my apartment flooded and Jake came over to help, and so many other memories.

The feeling overwhelmed me and I started crying and hugged Jake.

“You have a drip on the end of your nose,” he said, laughing.

And there we were laughing and crying, snot-covered and engaged.

Author: jenonthetrail

Jen is from Washington state between Seattle and the Canadian border. She grew up hiking in the North Cascades with her family. She went on her first backpacking trip at about 12 years old with her dad and brother. Jen is returning after seven years in Mexico City to the US to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s looking forward to mountain meadows and Cheez-it crackers.

10 thoughts on “A trail of cards”

  1. Oh, Jen……..this brought tears to my eyes and a smile in my heart. Congratulations! Your mom had already shared this wonderful news with me but I kept quiet to let you do the announcing publicly. So excited for you! Godspeed in your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

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