On a dreamy day in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park, my love surprised me with a beautiful proposal after a day hike to Lake Haiyaha!
Adventuring in 2020
2020 has been a weird year for all of us, and it’s been a challenge to seek adventure. In addition to Covid, I also had some pretty significant health issues that set me back and required me to stay at home, abstain from exercise, and let my body recover.
We started out the year with excitement, ready to dive in to all our travel plans for 2020. And because of my health and Covid, we ended up canceling multiple trips — including several hiking trips to National Parks and a big surprise trip to San Francisco my boyfriend had planned for us.
In September, after months of sheltering in place and seeking moments of beauty at home, we made the difficult decision to cautiously take a socially distanced camping trip to Colorado with a few family members.
Little did I know, my boyfriend had planned to propose to me in Muir Woods on our canceled San Francisco trip back in March and he had since been waiting for the perfect replacement proposal opportunity…which ended up being this trip!
Visiting RMNP in Unprecedented Times
Due to physical limitations because of my health issues, government regulations during Covid, and the raging Colorado wildfires, we knew this trip to Rocky Mountain National Park would be quite different than the norm and we’d have a few things to work around.
But that’s what true adventure is made of — going with the flow, embracing spontaneity, and making the most of your situation!
Adventure is what you make it. My old self would have been disappointed in all the restrictions, and I would have been frustrated with my health issues limiting our activity and not being able to backpack.
But I went into it with an open mind and gratitude that we were able to finally explore a beautiful National Park this year, despite all the upheaval and unexpected chaos.
We researched which parts of the park were unaffected by the wildfires. Since entrance is limited in number due to Covid, we made sure to secure our reservation times to enter the park. And we decided ahead of time to take it easy, listen to my body’s cues, and keep the hiking plan open depending on how I felt.
We ended up deciding to explore the Bear Lake area on the eastern side of the park via the Beaver Meadows entrance in Estes.
Hiking to Nymph, Dream, & Emerald Lakes
We began our first day in the park with a simple 2-mile hike to Emerald Lake, stopping at Nymph Lake and Dream Lake on the way.
We started from the Bear Lake Trailhead, and since we got there pretty early and entrance is limited right now, we were able to find parking right at the trailhead. Yay!
We got on the trail right away and decided to skip Bear Lake and do it at the end of the day, if we had time.
About half a mile in, we came to our first lake — Nymph Lake. It was really pretty, with lots of floating lily pads, and it had a nice little walking path around almost the entire body of water.
The mountain scenes off in the distance were nice, but it was difficult to see them early in the morning because of the smoke from the fires.
Just before we hit Dream Lake, we crossed through this beautiful meadow area surrounded by trees with a stream running through it!
We were excited to see so much green against the mountain backdrop, despite the wildfires. And the smoke gradually started dissipating as it got later into the morning.
About another half mile past Nymph Lake, we reached Dream Lake — which is appropriately named. It was extremely dreamy, and this photo honestly doesn’t do it justice.
We also loved that Dream Lake surprisingly wasn’t very crowded, which was a little bit unexpected since it was only one mile in from the trailhead.
After enjoying a little bit of time at Dream Lake, we continued on the trail to Emerald Lake.
One of our favorite parts of this trail was another meadow we passed through with a cute little walking bridge. (I guess we love meadows!)
And look at that blue sky peeking through! The smoke really started to burn off as the sun rose.
We arrived to Emerald Lake and sat down to enjoy a snack with this beautiful view. It was really pretty, but a little bit too crowded for our tastes.
We saw a really cool Marmot and there were chipmunks everywhere trying to steal our food.
We had to be on constant lookout to not have snacks literally snatched right out of our packs or laps!
After about half an hour, we assessed how I was feeling and decided to try to press on to Black Lake — our ultimate goal in this area of the park and another 6 miles in.
Stumbling Across Lake Haiyaha
Somehow we made a wrong turn and ended up at Lake Haiyaha, after about 2 miles in and scrambling over some boulders.
It was at this point that I got pretty worn out and realized I probably wouldn’t have the energy to make it another 4 miles to Black Lake and back with the amount of daylight we had left.
We stopped to discuss our options. On the trail, I’m kind of known to be the one who is obsessed with the map. I’m constantly checking it and keeping track of where we are. So naturally, I wanted to stop and pull out the map to see where to go next.
We bantered back and forth about if we should just head back to the parking lot and call it an early day, or possibly find another lake to hike to that wasn’t as far in.
I suggested we go back to this fork in the trail about a half mile up and then decide from there. Jordan adamantly put his foot down and said we needed to decide right then and there what we were doing.
I was a little bit confused because of how stubborn and insistent he was being. I pushed back a little bit and he finally exclaimed, “No! I need to know if we’re going to be at another lake today!”
I mean this kid loves water and I know that, but it felt like he was being a little intense about it. It was annoying at the time, but hilarious looking back on it..because little did I know he was wanting to find a dreamy, romantic lake to propose at!
Our Secret Engagement Spot at Lake Haiyaha
We finally decided to just relax at Lake Haiyaha and enjoy the view with some peace & quiet for a while.
I followed Jordan over some more boulders and we were able to get to a really secluded spot without anybody else around.
Queue the next hilarious scene. In the distance, there was a kid going up and down this big boulder. He was being pretty loud, shouting back to his parents, “Look at me all the way up here!” His parents were telling him to be careful, watch his footing, come back down. But he just kept climbing up and down on the boulder.
Me? I was laughing hysterically at it and thought it was cute to see the kid adventuring. And normally Jordan would be the same way, but in this instance he was not. In fact, he was getting highly annoyed with the kid and how much noise he was making.
Later on, Jordan told me he just kept thinking, “Is this kid ever going to shut up so I can propose? He’s ruining everything…” Ha!
So we sat and talked about life for a while. Then Jordan said, “I want to see how cold this water is.” He walked down the slope of the boulder we were sitting on and knelt down to touch the water. Then he turned around and was kneeling down on one knee to propose…
Except I couldn’t tell that. Because of the steep slope of the boulder, it just looked like he was crouched in this strange position. I asked him what on earth he was doing, and then I saw him holding up this object in between his thumb and finger. (He didn’t have a box, because he had just carried it in his pocket while we were hiking.)
I suddenly realized it was a RING! I was SO surprised and all the weirdness from the day suddenly started making sense all at once. He had been nervous all day and seemed a bit off, but I had just kind of looked past it and let him be. And now the whole Lake obstinance made sense! 😉
After I said YES, we enjoyed some time relaxing at that spot, had a snack, took some photos, talked about our relationship, our engagement, and the future. It was such a nice afternoon and we had the spot all to ourselves with such an amazing view! It was PERFECT.
After that, we decided to head back down and call it an early day for the first day. Plus, we were so excited to call family and friends to tell them our news!
We stopped in at Bear Lake on the way out, grabbed some fun souvies at the park headquarters, and then headed back to my aunt’s place for the evening — where we were greeted with a fun surprise engagement banner, music, and Thai takeout food for celebration!
It was the dreamiest, most perfect engagement I could ever ask for — getting engaged inside a National Park! I am so excited to be marrying Jordan, my love!
Have you ever visited any of these Rocky Mountain National Park lakes? I’d love to hear!
May your life be an adventure, today and always…