This most beautiful Valentine’s Day starts out with all the makings of a perfect day, and as it turns out, the day could not have unfolded in a more perfect way.
It’s a bright and warm Sabbath morning. After church, Danny says to Yan, “Just stay in the same outfit and bring another change of clothes—maybe a purple dress.” Wearing coordinated outfits while posing in front of a tripod-mounted camera has become sort of a new pastime. Danny goes home and gathers the ingredients for lunch along with the backpacking stove. By this time, it’s just about lunch time. He picks Yan up. Still dressed up from church, they head up to Forest Falls.
The parking lot at Forest Falls is full, but a family offers up their spot as they leave. Danny pulls right in. They both hike to the falls area and find a nice rock to have lunch—close to where Danny first asked Yan to be his girlfriend. Yan gets some water, and soon, the water is boiling. Lunch is egg drop soup and stir-fried quinoa with sesame oil.
After lunch, Danny scrambles down along the waterfall to find a comfortable rock seat that is next to a flat area. There’s a father and son team with their cameras pointed at this area, and Danny motions to ask them if they are in their way. The son motions back, “It’s OK.” Danny and Yan throw down a blanket and sit on those boulders, exchanging Valentine’s Day gifts. Danny opens his gift first. Yan had handmade a beautiful red-and-green bowtie and pocket square. Danny puts it on, over his red-and-blue bowtie. The size is perfect. Next, Yan opens hers: a purpleheart felt-lined box with a heart-shaped drawer that Danny had made. Then, Danny sets up the tripod and takes a few shots.
Right at that moment, two hikers wander by, wanting to get through. The woman turns to Danny and says, “Can you take a picture of us? We have a bunch of each other but not of us together.”
“Sure.” Danny takes a few shots with her camera. She looks at them and approves.
“Would you like us to take some for you?” she asks.
Without hesitation, Danny hands over his camera. The woman takes a few shots and comments on how the pictures would be better with a wider aperture, a different type of lens. “I have that type of lens. Just a minute,” says Danny, as he reaches into his camera bag and pulls out the prime lens.
“This is much better,” she says.
The man then puts down his backpack, unzips it, and pulls out professional camera gear. He chooses a lens and mounts it on his camera. Danny sits back down with Yan as the two start shooting pictures. Then, Danny walks back there and checks out the preview images. They look good. The waterfall drowns out most of the conversation. Knowing this, and standing about fifteen feet from Yan, Danny tells the hikers, “Actually, I’m just about to propose.” This news brings palpable excitement.
From his camera bag, Danny gets the ring and proposes, balancing on a few rocks next to a mountain stream in front of a waterfall. Surprise!
Yan says, “Yes!”
All this time, the two hikers are shooting away—him with his camera, and her with Danny’s. The pictures turn out great. Yan asks Danny, “Did you arrange for them to be here to take our picture?”
“No, they’re strangers.”
Yan is shocked in disbelief until she sees Danny exchange addresses and information with John and Jessika. She runs a business out of Hesperia specializing in baby photographs, and this is their first time visiting Forest Falls. They are so excited as well, happy to share in the moment. Afterwards, Yan and Danny boil stream water and have hot chocolate. A few moments later, a woman walks up to them. “Did you two just get engaged?” she asks.
“Yes, we did.”
“Word traveled on the trail, and we heard. We’re up here at a marriage retreat.” Like another angel on this trail, she says, “May God bless both of you.”
The sun will be setting soon, and after the hike back to the car, they head to Yucaipa Regional Park. Because it is a few minutes from closing time, the attendant lets them in without collecting the admission fee. Yan changes into a purple dress, and Danny puts on a matching bowtie. Here, they take a few more pictures.
Heading down the hill, they find another place to change—back into the red outfits for Valentine’s dinner. Danny makes a few phone calls, but all the restaurants are booked. Citrone is willing to take them as walk-ins if there are cancellations. Danny drives to Redlands and pulls into Citrone’s parking lot. “Hello, this is Danny. Do you have space for two tonight?”
“How far away are you?”
“I’m right here in your parking lot.”
“OK, that’s good. I happen to have two spots left.”
Yan and Danny walk in and are seated at the last remaining table. The atmosphere is vibrant, and the diamond throws off fire sparkles from the candlelight. Dr. Kirsch and his wife stroll by and see us. “You two look so good tonight,” she says. “We’ve been married for 58 years, and we got engaged on Valentine’s Day!”
“And we just got engaged today!” Danny adds.
With that, the Kirsches cheer and say their congratulations.
Over the Citrone salad, grilled shiitake mushrooms, seared John Dory and asparagus dinner, and cheesecake and chocolate mousse, swathed with Valentine’s Day joy, and basking in candlelight glow, Yan and Danny recount how the day unfolded so perfectly: “We are so blessed!”