Kayaking and Backpacking Elopement

Captured & submitted by Adventure and Vow

Kayla has been one of my best friend since early on during my freshman year of high school. Her and her now husband, Ben, live in Atlanta and they came out to see Bill and I in Arizona shortly before they got engaged. During part of their visit, we went to Horseshoe Bend, a must see on their Arizona bucket list, and as we were looking down at the Colorado below I said to Kahla “you see those Trails down there? People can camp down there. I feel like that would be such an epic place to get married!” Immediately after these two got engaged, she called me and said, we’re booking you, and we want to get married at the bottom of Horseshoe Bend!

I was so excited for them and could not wait for their day to come. We had met with Kahla, Ben, Kahla’s sister and her husband in Sedona to camp together overnight before heading north. On the way up towards Page, we stopped at KickStand Coffee in Flagstaff to pickup some breakfast burritos for the first morning of the kayak adventure. It was fun looking back on their trip last year remembering our picnics on the mountain, exploring rivers and canyoneering in Page. For the second night, we all camped closer to Page in this beautifully secluded spot surrounded by red rock walls. That night, the Milky Way was big and beautiful in the sky, and at this point two of Ben’s brothers and his sister-in-law also joined for the adventure. We took the time to capture some stunning star shots, breaking off into couples as well as with the whole group. The next morning was the beginning of the kayaking, so we broke camp and headed out early to make it to the dam for the backhaul service. We hurried to park our vehicles in the overnight lot and then run all of our gear over to the shuttle to be off!

Talking to the person who drove us to the dam, we pondered on utilizing one of the more private campsite but upon arrival, but decided that we would aim to camp at the bottom of Horseshoe Bend as we were the first shuttle of the morning, and so we should have a good chance to get a decent camp spot at the main location. We spent the day kayaking, relaxing, floating the river, exploring the little mini waterfalls along the way and having a great time. We stopped to see petroglyphs on the canyon walls from 6,000 years ago. We got to camp early enough for a great spot tucked away from the rest of the campers. Keeping the with the “good light” for the ceremony, we had some time for wiggle room, so Kayla and I walked along the shoreline of the area to decide where the ceremony would be held. It had to be somewhere that you could see the Colorado River and the thousand foot canyon walls above us. We picked the perfect spot and as the sun started to drop lower in the sky, the ceremony would begin.

Bill was there to officiate and had waited with Ben and their family members as Ben waited on his future wife. Kahla made the journey along the shore for a first look down the aisle after her sister helped her get ready. During the ceremony, Kahla and Ben had left their wedding rings in their vehicle in the hurry to make the shuttle, but in the adventurous spirits that they shared, Ben found a piece of metal to shape and serve as his ring, and Kahla used her engagement ring. As tradition has it, the ceremony was sealed with a kiss and we took some family photos. After the congratulations and soaking in the moment, I took these two to explore the banks of the river as well as the higher up rock shelves. The sun was giving us a show all along the way. It honestly looked like a movie set for most of the time. It was so pretty. Exploring areas that were new to all of us and enjoying the view that we worked hard to get to, taking in just how epic and crazy it had all been so far. We ended the portraits with a little dip kiss in the river as they had been walking along and floating the river all day. It just felt like the best way to end the evening.

Back at camp we rejoined the family and we signed the marriage license with one of Ben’s brothers as a witness and Kahla’s sister as the other witness. Some of us had freeze dried meals for dinner while hanging out in the sand listening to Kahla and Ben read letters their family and friends had sent. Like all true adventures, there would have been no way to expect that the group camping next to us would be a party of 40 folks who every year host a party at that camp site. They were a wild free-spirited bunch and wound up being such a blast to camp next to. Throughout the night we enjoyed watching them with all of their glow stick dancing, it was for sure an additional charm to the evening. They even brought us some firewood as a wedding present to Kahla and Ben so that we could have our own fire for the evening. We went to bed pretty early that night, so that we could start with an early morning back in the kayaks. We woke up taking in the beautiful sunrise before we got to floating.

This day, we had even more miles to cover, so we were planning to kayak faster. There were a few kayak races nonetheless, and we even saw three wild horses along the way. We stopped for a quick break from the water and got to hiking and stretching our legs through a slot canyon detour. We got back to the sandy beach, continued the journey down river, and made it back to the ferry just in time to start the rest of the evening. We took a short drive over to the top of Horseshoe Bend to take in how far down we were from the top as well as to appreciate the location from a different perspective. It was so interesting because as we were camping at the bottom, a couple whose wedding we were a part of about a week ago were at the top taking pictures of our campsite! They had no idea we were down there and they themselves were talking about how cool it would be to camp there! I saw on her social media story that they were at the top of the bend, so I reached out and asked if she had any pictures of the camp sites down below and she did! It was so cool to have that memento to take along with us. It is an image that will never forget. What a wild coincidence. The Overlook was stunning and it was so awesome to see how vastly different the river looks from up high and how far we actually kayaked.

From the vista, we all took our separate ways. Some family going back to Sedona towards Phoenix to fly back out and some family going back to Vegas. Kahla, Ben, Bill and myself continued on to another stunning desert vista where the newly weds were going to share their private vows. We drove until sunset and then some, admiring the free range cattle along the way. We camped two miles from the overlook that night, as our two-wheel drive low clearance vehicles wouldn’t have faired well for the final push. We awoke well before the sun broke the horizon to start our hike in, and when we had gotten there, there was no one else around for the stunning sunrise at our stunning overview. They sat together sharing vows as well as exchanging their wedding bands. We took in the morning, sharing snacks while Ben and Kahla FaceTimed other important family members that were not able to make the trip to show them the views and let them know they were married. We spent the day hanging out in the desert enjoying the pure isolation, drinking white claws and talking about our future goals in life and in our relationships. We headed back in towards town so that our next camp spot would be closer for the next days activities.

Originally, we had a boat rental booked to explore Lake Powell however, the weather had a different plan for us that day. A big storm was rolling in and while we were still able to rent the boat, the rental office had highly advised us that it would not be safe. Yielding to them as the greater expert on the subject, we moved our boat rental to a future date. So, in the spirit of adventure, we changed plans and headed back down to Sedona to spend the day hiking for their last day here. We made our way into a cave and had gotten caught in a thunderstorm on the way in as well as the way out, but it was such a blast.

I love so much that when these two came to see us, the trip made such a big impact on them and that they fell in love with the desert. It was so cool. They got to bring along some family to experience some of the same places from their previous trip and on such a big adventure. I feel like their elopement is a great example of how you can involve family on an epic adventure in such diverse beautiful places. Even if you don’t want to do the crazy, big hike or the hard adventures or even the scary vistas with big heights. Their day was fun and enjoyable for everybody. There was plenty of quality time spent together in the wilderness and it was all so beautiful and involved so many different activities. It was truly a big event that none of us will ever forget and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For years they’ll be able to come back to the Overlook and be able to say we were all the way down there and that’s where we got married. I’m so thankful for this experience and to be able to show people that you don’t have to have the big wedding. You don’t have to have bridesmaids and groomsmen. You don’t have to have all the family pressure and you can do whatever speaks best to you and still share the day. It was so magical and I’m so thankful that I got to capture one of my best friends special day. The desert is full of so many different adventures to be had. So easily online we get caught up in those big overlook images in the super popular places. All of those places everyone knows well, but there’s a whole world out there. There are endless adventures that can incorporate endless beautiful places. Places where you can find not another soul, providing the intimacy for your moment. Don’t put yourself in a box for what you expect your elopement day to be. Go with the flows and embrace the changes. If you forget your rings and spill coffee on your pants, smile and keep going! What really matters is that you’re marrying the person that you’ve always wanted to be with, that you’ve dreamed about sharing a life with and you’re getting to make memories that one day you can revisit with kids, friends, family, or just each other and reflect on the adventure that started the next chapter in your lives together.


Ceremony Location: Horseshoe Bend//Dress Designer: Lahava//Jewelry: Ai To You//Shoes:Kate Spade Keds//Hair Stylist: Park Avenue Blow Dry and Beauty Bar//Photographer: Adventure and Vow//

Submitted via Two Bright Lights

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