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  • Writer's pictureEric Spitz

Experiencing an Engagement at 12,000 Feet

Before reading any further, check out A Test of Endurance at 8,128 Feet to read the backstory on the proceeding events.

With fatigue and minor elevation sickness consuming me, I mustered the strength to head back to the Airbnb to freshen up before seeing more of what Steamboat Springs had to offer. The main thing that was on my mind was food. With the marathon behind me, I wasn’t looking for anything light. I was craving something greasy in an intimate diner to celebrate conquering another marathon in a new state.

We settled on Johnny B Good’s – a local hot spot that was everything I was looking for in that moment. We all discussed our plans for the evening over a Rodeo Burger, fries, a grilled cheese and the like. I would have added a vanilla milkshake to the equation, but with a deadpan expression, Steve asked if I was a serial killer for preferring vanilla milkshakes over chocolate.

The waitress was incredibly pleasant and friendly, finding us all amusing from our emanating energy. She even gave Joel a coffee mug that read “Stolen from Holy Name Catholic Church” because we kept admiring it. Joel took our waitress’s friendliness as flirting, and in a bold move, left his number behind on the receipt. She never texted him, but honestly, that tactic has never worked for me either.

Our next destination was the Rocky Mountains, and we drove there bearing a secret. Everyone except Bri, that is. A few days prior, Joe confided in Joel, Steve and I, and told us he planned on proposing to Bri in the mountains. We were all incredibly happy for him, and coordinated a cue for us to have our cameras ready to take pictures and a video. While we were mapping all of this out, we left Bri by herself on a bench while she finished her ice cream, alone in an unfamiliar city. The irony was too rich to go unsaid.

The weather along Trail Ridge Road in the Rocky Mountains was a complete 180 from down in Steamboat. I never would have guessed that I would encounter snow a mere two hours from where I was roasting in the morning sun after my race. After we ventured to another lookout, I knew the cue would be coming soon. I was incredibly nervous myself, so I can’t even imagine how Joe was feeling.

The cue was recognized by all, and we were positioned perfectly for photos and videos. Snow and hail were gently falling all around us. As Joe got on one knee and asked Bri for her hand in marriage, the first words out of her mouth were “are you fucking kidding me?” It was a beautiful moment in the sense of how organic and natural the response was. Bri of course said yes.

The remaining drive around the park was full of laughter and joyful stories surrounding the engagement. We celebrated the monumental moment in the most fitting way for a group of twenty-somethings and went mini golfing.

Once back at our Airbnb we made a group decision to check out the amusement park setup across the street to see what it was all about. Everyone except Joel, that is, who decided he needed some rest after feeling some delayed effects of elevation sickness and little to no sleep from the days prior. It was as if we wanted to continue the trend of taking part in adolescent activities free of inhibition. Because who can say no to a mini roller coaster, right?

We were like a happy and socially oblivious family in our matching pink t-shirts.

We wanted to make the Strawberry Park Hot Springs the final event to conclude the night. With Steamboat Springs being known for their natural hot springs, and Strawberry Park being a local staple, we knew we had to see what it was all about. Joel was feeling brave enough to join back up with the rest of the group to check it out.

Navigating to the hot springs was a task within itself, winding along steep inclines and narrow trails our poor rental van had to take like a champ. Once we arrived, the hot springs were very active with people, despite nightfall closely approaching. The types of crowds coming in to experience the hot springs vary drastically from the day compared to night. The park tends to take on a risqué nature full of free-spirited individuals towards the evening.

While trying to find a spot to soak in the springs, we jumped at the chance when we saw a perfect location away from any massive groups. A quick dip in the springs made me realize why that spot in particular wasn’t as crowded. With the area being extremely close to the source of the springs, and not having much time for the river water to bring the temperature down, the water was scalding hot, even by hot spring standards. Having a sunburn and chafed areas on my body from the race that morning made the 100 degree temperature of those waters feel like 200. However, taking in the water in small doses did wonders for my tense muscles.

Hot springs are said to have natural health benefits with their contents of calcium and sodium bicarbonate, which help with blood circulation. After spending some time talking and soaking them in, Joel claims to have felt much better than he was a few hours prior. It could have been a placebo effect, but either way he wasn’t questioning the results.

The rumors of the park were becoming true as the night progressed. As the sky got darker, the people enjoying the hot springs began wearing less swimwear. While we wanted to experience that culture for a bit, being in an unfamiliar area with not much lighting, and thinking about the difficult drive back on the trails in the dark, we decided it was time to head back.

Joe took the helm on taking our trooper rental van back to the Airbnb for the night. The trails were as difficult to navigate in the dark as we expected. With the entire car holding their breath winding around each curve, we could only imagine how Joe was feeling being behind the wheel. At one point he claimed that his ass was so tight he could press a pearl. We all had a good laugh about that one, but understood completely how terrifying it must have been navigating the windy roads.

Exhausted from all of the events from the day, we fell asleep effortlessly that night safe and sound in our Airbnb. Days like this reminded me of why I love traveling so much. The unfamiliar cultures and the thrill of what’s waiting around the next bend is an addictive thing to experience. Being surrounded by great friends only augments the feelings further. I was excited for Bri and Joe’s future as I anticipated what would be waiting around the next bend for them.

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