Denisa also made friends with one of the dogs on the trail. The dog swam over to our rock, and presented Denisa with a stick to throw. So she definitely obliged.
It's a 1.5 mile hike to Rainbow Falls, and seeing this 125 feet cascading falls would normally be the highlight of the day. In the waterfall book we borrowed, it got a 10 on the beauty rating. But there would be a delightful surprise later that would top even this view.
We hiked to the bottom of the falls, and you can see Denisa, perched on a rock on the bottom right of the picture. It was a beautiful place to be!
We got back on the trail that headed straight up, and found a little side trail that went to the top of the falls. It's quite a view 125 feet straight down!
The ranger had told us that even though it wasn't on the state park map, another quarter-mile down the trail would bring us to Turtleback Falls in the Nantahala National Forest. We didn't know to bring our swim suits, but there was an exciting slide down the turtle's back to a ten-foot drop into the pool of water below.
A slide down the rock meant a tough climb back up for another slide.
Since we weren't dressed for the water slide into the water, Mark was taking random pictures of people enjoying the falls. At the time, we didn't even notice the young couple in the bottom right hand corner of the picture below.
We walked another quarter-mile to the final stop. Drift Waterfall is actually on private land, just outside the boundaries of the national forest. So it was a "look-but-don't-touch" waterfall.
We ate a picnic lunch with our feet dangling in the cool waters of the river. It had been a great hike and great day, but it was going to get even better.
On the hike back, we decided it would make a neat picture if Mark stopped at the top of Rainbow Falls, while Denisa hiked all the way back to the top observation deck. You can barely see Mark in his orange shirt, standing on the rocks at the top of the falls. At the time, Denisa didn't even notice there were two people standing on the wooden deck of the mid-way observation deck.
Here's a zoomed-in picture, and it just happens to be that same young couple we saw at Turtleback Falls earlier.
Denisa headed down to that middle observation deck to see if it would be a better angle to take a picture of Mark at the top of the falls. When she arrived, that young couple asked if she would mind taking a picture of them. Denisa snapped several pictures, and was handing back their phone when he asked, "Would you mind taking a few more?"
That's when he reached into his pocket for a ring box, and got down on one knee to propose! Denisa kept snapping pictures, almost squealing out loud! What a delightful surprise!
This is the second proposal we have witnessed in the last year, but the first one where Denisa got to be the photographer. He had been waiting patiently to propose, wanting someone to take pictures of their special moment.
Meanwhile, Mark is still standing on the top of the waterfall, wondering why it is taking Denisa so long to take his picture. Denisa was still smiling as she hiked to the very bottom of the falls to take this picture.
We'll zoom in on Mark, because he is hard to see in the other pictures and he has been waiting so patiently.
Denisa couldn't wait to tell Mark her delightful surprise. Our young couple's names are Michelle and Javi. They were still standing on the deck, completely unaware there was a waterfall behind them.
As Denisa adds some flower pictures from today, she should explain why we had the actual proposal pictures. Denisa gave them her phone number, explaining that we might have some pictures of them on our camera that might be fun to have from their proposal day. We've been texting and emailing, and sending them several pictures. We thought it was especially fun to send them pictures of them waiting on that deck, knowing that Michelle had no idea she was about to be asked for a lifetime commitment.
We asked if we could include their story on our blog, and they heartily consented. They even gave us the pictures from their phone that Denisa had taken of the actual proposal.
We never know the delightful surprises that we will encounter on any given day, but this was a special one! We feel like we have wandered into a special wonder today!