McAfee Knob Proposal
We awoke before dawn. Nate was adamant about watching the sunrise on McAfee Knob, and because this was one place on the AT that we both looked forward to since we decided to do our thru-hike, I couldn’t blame him. Camping on the knob is not allowed, so we slept at a shelter three quarters of a mile past the knob. By 5:30 A.M., we had our headlamps strapped on and we were heading south.
It was still dark when we arrived, which is what we wanted. But it was also still overcast, which is not what we were hoping for. Still, Nate took the camera and tripod to the other rock outcropping and set it up just right so that my silhouette was in the middle of the picture. He stood next to it while a gust of wind blew by, completing my request of ensuring that the wind wasn’t going to knock our camera into the oblivion. Then he returned to me. Keeping our fingers crossed, we sat side by side and waited for the sun to wake the world up.
The sun was taking its time. And the clouds weren’t clearing a path. Nate brought our Jetboil out onto the knob and started boiling water for coffee and hot chocolate. I sorted out a few packages of Poptarts. The camera continued to record us as we ate our breakfast. Every few minutes we would be teased by a ray of hopeful sunshine, but never enough sun to try to pose for the classic McAfee Knob picture: feet dangling over the edge of the rock, smile spread from ear to ear and arms up in a victorious cheer, framing in the spectacular view.
We gave up. Our breakfast was gone and we needed to start hiking to make our trek into Daleville worth a stay in a hotel. I handed Nate his toothbrush and stood on the knob, brushing my teeth. Nate went to collect the camera.
“We only have a couple minutes of video left on our memory card!” Nate called over to me.
“Then just turn it off,” I yelled back, knowing we had obtained over an hour of footage already.
Nate set the camera back down and finished brushing his teeth. I walked over to the grass to get rid of my toothpaste spit.
All of a sudden, Nate became frantic. “The sun is coming! Get out here!!” he encouraged me.
I fumbled with my toothbrush.
“Stop brushing your teeth and get out here!” He was desperate for a McAfee Knob picture.
“Should I wear my pack?” I asked him.
“I don’t know, what do you think?”
He said no, then he said yes and I struggled to sling my pack onto my back before stumbling out to the knob.
“Is that where you were standing? Where were you standing? You need to move over here,” Nate sputtered, placing his hands on my shoulders and directing me two steps backwards. “Here it comes!”
We both turned our heads to see the sun peek through the clouds. It was beautiful.
Then he asked me.
“I’ve got a question for you,” Nate said, softly.
Automatically, my thoughts went to coming up with a goofy answer to what I was going to do with a pile of junk. For nearly all of our hike thus far, I had been asking Nate what he was going to do with all of his junk (inspired by The Black Eyed Peas’ 2005 hit, “My Humps”). He would come up with silly answers: Store it in the attic, Donate it to the Salvation Army, Sell it at a garage sale. Almost a month ago, he turned the tables and began asking me what I was going to do with all of my junk. I, too, tried to surprise him: Give it to my sister, Throw it away, Pack it in boxes and stack them in the basement. My mind was racing to create an answer before taking too long. Finally, I had one and it was good. But I don’t remember it.
I spun myself around to face Nate and impress him with what I came up with. But he wasn’t there! I looked down. He was on one knee.
“Will you marry me?”
The question was not what I was expecting! Unable to speak, with tears rolling down my face, I somehow indicated that I would. We get to spend forever together!
“I don’t have a ring. Well, I have a ring, but I don’t have it with me,” Nate explained as he stood up.
Nate told me how he had planned to propose to me while we were on our thru-hike from the moment we realized we could make this dream a reality. He told everybody: his mother, his buddies, his pastor. But I thought it would never happen. He had arranged for his mother to send him the ring in a maildrop once he decided it was time. He also thought he would be able to determine my ring size while on the trail. Needless to say, neither of those things happened. I didn’t need a ring. I have him.
We hugged. We kissed. We cried. We practically skipped off of the knob. I wanted to tell my mother. I wanted to tell my sister. I wanted to tell the world! But we would wait until we could tell people over the telephone, while they watched the video we had taken.
Wiping a tear of joy from my cheek, Nate warned me that now he was going to make it even harder for me to compose myself. He had a story about the ring.
Nate discovered that we would be getting to McAfee’s Knob just days before we made it. He knew he would not be able to have his mother mail him the ring. He was in a tizzy, wondering how he would propose without a ring. That’s when he started collecting acorn lids, flowers and spring grass. He stashed them in his hip pocket and never let me know what he was doing. At night, just after I fell asleep next to him, he would stay up and try to whittle a ring from the acorn lids, with plans to decorate it with the tiny flowers and bright green grass. In the morning, when he told me he was heading to the privy, he would again try to create a ring. But it never worked.
The morning he found the men’s wedding ring in the mud at a shelter, he took it as a sign. Out of respect for my parents, Nate always wanted to ask them for permission before asking me for my hand. But he didn’t want to do it via text and I was always around him anytime he could ask my mother. The days before McAfee’s Knob were growing slim. Unable to talk to my mother without me knowing, Nate decided he would talk to my father, who passed away two years ago. He looked into the sky and silently asked my dad if he could marry his youngest daughter. The next day, he found the ring.
After hearing the story of the ring at the shelter, I regretted the fact that I had told him to leave it there. Not wasting a minute, I texted Eddy and Lucky, who were both days behind us, and asked them to grab the ring from the shelter.
The excitement of our engagement carried us into the town of Daleville. On the way, we discussed wedding plans and rehearsal ideas. Nate may have waited to propose if he knew the wedding would be the topic on the tip of my tongue for the rest of our thru-hike!
We got to town and joined Stretch in a hotel room. We went out to eat with Stretch, Merry & Pippin and Merry’s father. We didn’t tell anyone what had occurred that morning. I had sent my mother the video and wanted to use FaceTime to watch her watch it. Before then, nobody needed to know.
That night, we called my mom. We talked her through the process of opening the video from her email.
“I’m watching for the sun,” she narrated to us. “Why are you on your knee? Are you proposing? Are you proposing to my daughter? What did you say?” My mother was ecstatic. We were ecstatic.
Now the real journey begins.
Watch the McAfee Knob Proposal video
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