Since this is my very first attempt at a blog and I don't quite know what I'm doing, I'm going to talk about something that's easy for me. The greatest thing that's happened in my life so far: my wedding and honeymoon. This also gives me a chance to share some photos from my favorite roll of film I've ever shot: my first black and white roll, Ilford HP5, which Alyssa surprised me with after she heard me mention an interest in branching out from only shooting color.
On June 29, 2016, I married Alyssa, the love of my life. At that point, we had known each other for 2 years and dated for exactly 1 year and 1 day. We met when she visited Seattle from Sacramento to help serve the Ballard neighborhood with the church I was working with at the time. We hit it off immediately but it took us a year to take the leap. Originally, we wanted to be friends and get to know one another better, but it quickly became obvious to us that we were meant for so much more than that. Last Summer, while she worked throughout the Southeastern United States with a Nashville based missions organization, I asked her (over the phone and across 2,500 miles) if we could stop pretending to only be friends. Within a few months, she moved to Seattle to be closer to me and help with my church and a recording studio I was building in Seattle. We made her move into an epic West Coast road trip (I promise there will be another post about that later) and we started our Seattle adventure.
It didn't take long for me to propose and the wedding planning started. With our families spread out between California and Alabama, and our friends dispersed all over the country, we quickly became exhausted of planning travel budgets and figuring out which 100 people we absolutely MUST have in attendance and how we would manage to get our elderly family members up into the mountains and how much money we would need to save every month to afford any of this....until our pastor mentioned something we hadn't thought of yet. What if we could just have a secret wedding and be done with it? Save our money, put it towards a honeymoon or just save up and enjoy married life and be able to pay Seattle rent for a decent place to live instead of continuing to share the 100 sq ft bedroom in a 110 year old house with 6 other dudes and infinite black mold where we began our marriage.
So, we started planning our elopement. We invited our Seattle friends to join us in that 110 year old house for an "engagement party", and we went to the courthouse.....which became an adventure all in itself. In Seattle, in order to schedule a courthouse wedding, you have to schedule an after-hours session with a judge personally and pay them in cash. Since we were setting up our house for the party and wanted to surprise everyone, only the best man, the maid of honor, and my best friend who became our photographer were there to help us set it up, so we left the house late in the middle of rush hour to try to go downtown to get married. After battling traffic and searching for parking, we rushed for an office on the tenth floor of the municipal courthouse 25 minutes after our appointment time. The receptionist looked at Alyssa in her white dress, with her floral crown on top of her freshly dyed blue hair, and said "Oh, a wedding? Great! Which judge will you be using?" When I told her the name of the judge we had contacted, she pointed out the huge Western facing window, a few blocks down James St, at the OTHER Seattle courthouse and said "Oh, he works at that one!"
Of course, with us already showing up late and nervous from all the things that may go wrong and our original judge not answering our calls, we sort of panicked. We begged the lady to set us up with a new judge so we could get married right then and there without trying to make our way to the other courthouse, and she told us she did in fact have one appointment available if we had our paperwork and the cash ready, which we did. She sent us down the hall to meet the judge who would legally make us one, and an adorable lady from Idaho with a broken leg scooted out to meet us.
Once we had filled out all the paperwork (and taken pictures of all that paperwork at the request of our justice) we made our way to the rooftop deck. With a view of the Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, and all of downtown Seattle, we began our ceremony...until she realized she left all of our paperwork and her sheet with the vows in her office. Since she wasn't very mobile, she asked my friend Elijah to take her security badge and go to her office and grab an envelope. This mission ended in disaster as Elijah was taken to the bottom floor and locked in the elevator. With a frantic phone call, the judge was able to guide him through the steps to get back to her office and save our wedding.
So, again, the ceremony began. By this point, we were nervous about whether or not we could even make it back home to Ballard before our engagement party/surprise wedding reception began. As we fumbled through our vows and teared up over and over again at the beauty of our hilarious, disastrous, perfect day, we were finally married. We rushed home to finish setting up for our reception and found a few friends already there waiting for us.
As my best man and spontaneous photographer/second witness abandoned us in search of Taco Bell, we quickly started a fire and pulled together the last minute preparations. As more of our friends showed up, I eventually announced what our party really was.....and no one was even surprised. Most of our friends seemed to know us well enough to see it coming from a mile away, or had looked over enough of the party decorations to know what was going on. My wife's boss had even been so sure we were getting married that she brought champagne and wedding gifts.
A few days later, we made our way North. We opted for a simple road trip getaway that would fit our budget for our honeymoon. We drove to Anacortes and caught a ferry to Sidney, BC through the San Juan Islands.
It's important that you understand something here: ferry rides are one of my favorite things in the entire world.
After landing in Sidney, we drove South toward our first destination; Victoria, BC. I had read so much about the vibrant history and culture of Victoria, one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, and I knew we had to see it for ourselves. The first place we wanted to see was at the Southern tip of the city, Beacon Hill Park.
I don't think either of us expected to love this park anywhere near as much as we did. With sprawling gardens, beautifully manicured flowerbeds, gardens full of roses, waterfalls and ponds traversed by beautiful arched bridges, peacocks wandering at their leisure, horse-drawn carriages, ducks caring for their ducklings, and lush vegetation throughout the park, we were in a photographer's paradise!
After sitting for some time on a park bench in one of the less trafficked parts of Beacon Hill Park, I was able to crawl on the ground and get close enough to one of the peacocks to take the photo below, which remains, to date, my favorite photograph in my portfolio. (Of course, if you like it as much as me, you can always purchase it from the "prints" section of my website!)
After spending a few hours in Beacon Hill Park, we grabbed a seafood lunch and ice cream at the Fisherman's Wharf and made our way to Parliament, marveling at the architecture and cathedrals along the way.
That night, we camped in our car, parallel parked in one of the rich people neighborhoods we stumbled across. We woke up bright and early, brushed our teeth in a nearby Starbucks, and found an amazing coffee shop to pass the time before heading to church. We sat at Habit coffee on Yates Street in Downtown Victoria for a couple hours, talked with the baristas, and simply enjoyed waking up with one another before heading to Lighthouse Church in Burnside.
After church, it was time to fill our bellies one last time before leaving the city. Alyssa was craving Dim-Sum, and we were in luck. Victoria has the second oldest Chinatown district in North America, after San Francisco's.
With our bellies full, we were ready to explore some of the wilderness of Vancouver Island. That was of course why I wanted to come here for in the first place. I had heard of the remoteness and vast expanses of forests here all my life. Wilderness survival shows on television and the Legends of Bigfoot had created so much wonder in my mind that I had to see it for myself. So, we drove West. Taking the scenic route, we stopped at Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery to pick up a bottle of 2015 Harvest Melomel (which we are saving for our first anniversary), explored Muir Creek Beach, and arrived at French Beach Provincial Park just before dusk. We built a fire, made hot dogs and s'mores, and fell asleep in our hammock....until the rain drove us back into the cozy rear of our SUV.
In the morning, we walked down to the beach and took in the most beautiful Independence Day I've ever seen. There was a heavy fog on the empty beach, and we walked up and down it several times before I spotted a Bald Eagle in the evergreens at the Eastern tip of the beach and ran after it, chasing the perfect 4th of July photo.
As you can see, I didn't catch that perfect shot. But if you squint your eyes just right you can totally tell there's an Eagle there.
We continued our journey Westward, toward Port Renfrew, then North, toward Lake Cowichan, through a massive expanse of untouched forests, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and natural beauty I still dream of. We took our time, marveled at the sights just beside the road, and mostly forgot to take photos as we stared in wonder.
After stopping for groceries near Lake Cowichan (and stopping at Honeymoon Bay, of course) we decided to head East, for Nanaimo. After being surrounded by so much natural beauty, we were a bit disappointed to come back to the city, so we quickly hopped on a ferry toward the mainland, with our minds now made up to see Whistler.
Now, I've already mentioned that ferry rides are my favorite thing ever, right? Well, this was my favorite ferry ride ever. The landscape around us was incredible. Huge mountains, the sunset sparkling over the bay, it was perfect.
After landing in Horseshoe Bay, we immediately drove North on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which my friend Joey had recently told me I absolutely had to see. He was absolutely right. I shot my final frame of HP5 on this roadside observation point. That night, we slept in our car near "The Chief", a massive rock outcropping near Squamish, BC which is a destination for rock climbers from all over the world. In the morning, we drove farther north toward Whistler, stopped by Brandywine Falls, talked to some locals to find a free campsite where no one would bother us, and simply relaxed in the forest for a couple days. We ate pb&j's since there was a burn ban and we couldn't make s'mores, and strung our hammock up by the river.
After some quiet recharge time alone in the woods, we finally accepted that we had to return to the city at some point. We drove South, once again blown away by the Sea-to-Sky Highway, and spent a morning in Vancouver. We stopped by 33 Acres, had some crazy good coffee and scones (Alyssa still bugs me to take her back just for another mustard dill scone) checked out a few of the beautiful parks around Vancouver, and made our way slowly South toward Seattle. We had planned to stay a few more days in BC, but we spent all of our Canadian money and decided it would be nice to take a day and explore the North Cascades of Washington before going back to normal life and our jobs.
After crossing the US/Canada border on I-5, we drove straight for Baker Lake. We made our way all around the beautiful mountain oasis, stopping regularly to take photos and of course to jump in the still ice-cold water.
With our appetites for adventure finally fulfilled, Alyssa and I drove back to Seattle, making one final stop in Everett for Heavenly Fried Chicken, and fell asleep together in our full size bed in our tiny bedroom, more in love than ever before, and ready for a day of uninterrupted rest before becoming baristas again and going back to our daily lives.