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Erica + JJ

Photos: The Montoya Collective


Erica + JJ

Big Sur Proposal

My husband JJ will tell you that more than receiving any gift or material thing, what he values most is the opportunity to travel, share experiences, and create memories with his friends and family. As an ENT resident physician, I only get a few weeks of vacation per year, and in the past I used that time for stay-cations and home improvement projects. When we started dating, JJ’s passion for travel made me realize how stationary I had been, how few places I had explored. On our first date, I had talked about my travel to-do list, which included a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, so for our first major trip of 2020 (after being confined to the house thanks to COVID-19 travel restrictions), he suggested that we go to California and drive the Pacific Coast Highway. 

We arrived in San Francisco on September 6th, 2020, got dim sum (one of our favorites), and spent the afternoon seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. From there we drove to Carmel where we had reservations at a hotel called Tickle Pink Inn – a place I had always wanted to stay. He planned his proposal for the next day on September 7th, but hadn’t decided exactly where the perfect spot would be. When we woke up the next morning, JJ was eager for me to get ready for the day so we could go hiking in Big Sur, but I assumed it was because the sooner we went hiking the sooner we would get back to get ready for dinner (since I was notorious for running an hour or two behind). 

We drove out to Soberanes Point Trails, a beautiful hiking trail on an ocean cliffside. He set the tone for our hike by asking, “What are your favorite things about me? What do you love most about me?” So while we admired the scenery, we spent our hike sharing stories about our relationship and describing qualities we loved about one another. Several months prior to our trip, JJ bought a high quality camera with a timer function and a tripod, because he wanted to be able to capture photos of us without having to rely on a stranger to be our photographer. It was somewhat suspicious at the time, but he had a point, and knowing how beautiful yet secluded some of the sites on our trip would be I was happy to let him set up this camera everywhere we went without giving it much thought. JJ set up the camera multiple times throughout our hike, secretly attempting to determine the most beautiful (and least windy) place to propose (at one point the camera and tripod blew over due to the strong winds coming off the ocean!). 

We were nearly finished with the hike when we reached an overlook branching off from the trail. It had a beautiful view of the ocean and the terrain of Big Sur with the winding highway leading back to Carmel. We took more photos, then he went to “turn off the camera,” saying he wanted to spend these last moments of our hike enjoying the view together. Instead of turning it off, he changed the setting so that the camera began taking continuous photos every second. When he came back to me he put his arm around me, and decided this was it, the place where he should propose. He turned me to face him, and the words are a blur now, but the camera captured the entire moment when he got down on one knee and proposed! Afterwards, we hiked back to our car where he had a bottle of champagne waiting. We drove further down the highway to an empty overlook where we could pull off the road. We backed the car up to the railing, then sat in the trunk with the door open and sipped our champagne looking out over the ocean. It was the most incredible day and a memory we will cherish forever.