Megan and Bryce

How We Met

Bryce and I first met while working as wilderness guides for a wilderness therapy program based in the Grand Staircase Escalante region of Utah. It was a beautiful and clear night on April 2, 2016 when I was dropped off at the base of a small mountain to begin my field training. I had just arrived in Utah a few days before from Sedona, Arizona, and I had been looking forward to this training for weeks ever since my pull to the wilderness had began to grow strong. The previous day we had learned how to make primitive packs out of willow and tamarisk branches, and now as I hiked up this mesa in the dark using my headlamp to navigate and the awkward wooden frame dug deeper into my back, I realized that I would have to make some much needed adjustments. When we reached the top and arrived at camp, I dropped my prim-pack under a juniper and was led over to the group I was to spend the next couple days with. It was a boys group with all male staff (guides), and because it was late everyone was already tucked into their sleeping bags, their sleep line forming a circle. I said hello and introduced myself, and everyone went around the circle introducing themselves as well.

However, it was dark and we couldn’t see each other’s faces except for the occasional illumination of a headlamp beam. I was now the only female guide in a boys group and couldn’t sleep next to the students, so I had to sleep on the other side of a male guide. That guide was Bryce. He was very sweet and moved his sleeping bag and pad over so I would have more flat ground to sleep on, as we were on the edge of a slope. I’ll never forget how bright the stars were that night as we lied side by side atop that mesa, two strangers whose individual paths in life led us to the wilderness, to share that moment, laughing over I forget what, before the day’s exhaustion overtook us and sleep followed. (Although nothing happened of course, I always joke about how we “slept together” the first night we met) The next morning we woke up with the sun. Now that I could see him in the light of the morning, I remember thinking how handsome he was and reminding myself that although he has good looks and a great laugh, I had to refrain from flirting because we worked together. After everyone cooked their breakfast over the campfire, we cleaned up camp, laced up our boots, and prepped our day packs for an epic hike through a beautiful canyon called Lick Wash not far from where we were.

Before we hit the trail however, the group had a surprise for me. They led me to what is called a Hollowed Ground, in which sticks and branches are placed on the ground to form a large circle. The entrance to the Hollowed Ground is a gap in the circle that always faces East for the rising sun, and is lined with sage to help cleanse each persons energy as they enter. I followed the boys into the Hollowed Ground in a clockwise manner, as is custom. When everyone had a place in the circle we sat down. The senior guide then presented me with a path tracker, a leather-bound journal that both students and staff receive. I felt incredibly honored as everyone left me to sit alone and meditate in the Hollowed Ground, as is custom to do for the person in which the ceremony is held for. I sat there alone with my thoughts in this beautiful isolated place, this piece of pristine untouched land of pink cliffs frosted with snow, mountains surrounding, and colorful gear strewn around me, and a thought crossed my mind: “I have found my tribe.” Immersed in gratitude, I gathered myself and walked clockwise around the circle to the entrance that also served as an exit.

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When I made it back to camp I thanked everyone, including Bryce, for my meaningful gift as we rigged up for our hike. Bryce and I walked together for a good deal of the hike through Lick Wash, sharing stories as we got to know one another and enjoying the scenery of red rock and high narrow sandstone walls. It became apparent pretty fast just how much we had in common, and I remember he used the term “kindred spirits”. I couldn’t have agreed more. Before I left the group the next day we exchanged numbers in our path trackers. When he finished his shift (each shift was two weeks long) and was out of the field he sent me a text saying he hoped I would work the B-shift (there was an A-shift and a B-shift), so we would be able to see more of each other. I made a point to make that happen. Two months later while I was working in a girls group with a senior guide named Josh, Bryce was placed in our group as a third staff. When I saw him walking up the steep slope with his pack on his back towards our camp I was pleased as punch. This meant we had a whole week and a half in the wilderness together, and I knew that even with these dramatic teen girls to supervise it would be a blast of a shift. Well, the girls picked up on our vibes pretty quickly and for the remainder of our shift they kept trying to play Cupid, laying down subtle hints that we should be together.

Though occasionally we would flirt like school children, we kept denying our attraction to keep things in the work environment professional. Again, nothing happened between us while we worked together, but the more I got to know Bryce, the stronger my feelings towards him grew. On the last day of the shift the girls wanted to sign our path trackers before we left. After I passed mine around and said my goodbyes, I climbed into the transport truck after Bryce. As we drove down the bumpy dirt road out of the field towards headquarters, I took out my path tracker and flipped through the pages the girls had written. One of them had put on the last page enclosed in a heart, “Bryce and Meg Forever”. I glanced at him sitting in front of me watching the scenery fly by and thought to myself, “wouldn’t that be nice.” Not long after that shift I decided to pack up my home base in Silverton, Colorado and move to Cedar City, Utah. I’m always up for a fresh start when one is needed, plus I figured I’d be much closer to work. Bryce had just moved back to St. George, Utah from L.A. a few months before, and now that we lived closer to one another we began spending much more time together. Eventually we began dating, and after a few blissful months we moved in together in St. George.

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How He Asked

A few more blissful months later Bryce suggested we take a trip to Kanab, Utah, a small town that we both love and not far from where we first met that April night. We packed up his truck with our camping gear and hit the road. That night we camped right on Kanab Creek, at a beautiful and secluded spot I used to always camp at by myself, usually right before and right after a shift. We fell asleep that night counting shooting stars to the sounds of the creek. The next morning, April 8, 2017, we went to our favorite local coffee shop, where they not only have good strong coffee, but great books and outdoor gear as well. Afterwards, as the coffee warmed our bodies, he steered the truck east of town toward a dirt road that was all too familiar… he was taking us out into the high country where we first met. It was like a drive down memory lane, and I was so grateful to have this amazing man by my side over a year later.

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He pulled off the road and put his truck in park at the base of a small mountain. I recognized it as the same mountain I had struggled up as a rookie with my prim-pack the year before. I was in awe that he had found it. We slung our packs on our backs, grabbed the rest of our gear, and hiked up. Yes, it was the very same campsite where I first saw his face. After we set up our tent as shelter from the rains that were headed our way, he suggested a walk. He took my hand and I followed him as he led me to the exact same Hollowed Ground that was there the year before.

Megan and Bryce's Engagement in Grand Staircase Escalante

Although we practiced LNT (Leave No Trace) while working in wilderness, and even went as far as to crush and sift our coals from our campfires, we would always leave the Hollowed Grounds intact. Even so, I was amazed that it was still there, and that he had found it. He led me through the entrance facing East, with traces of sage still on the ground. We stood there, in the center of the circle, hand in hand looking out to all the mountains which surrounded us as the rain turned to snow. He began, “Well, here we are, we have come full circle…” he went on, “and I know without a doubt that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

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At this, I turned to face him to find him down on one knee presenting a box that held the most beautiful ring! I gasped and covered my mouth with both hands in surprise and delight as tears of joy began to well in my eyes. He then asked, “Will you marry me baby?” I was overcome with joy as I exclaimed, “Yes!” He placed the ring on my finger, and I threw my arms around him, kissing him, knowing without a doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him as well.  We married on August 26, 2017 on a river in Pine Valley, Utah in a Hollowed Ground that Bryce made for us.

Josh, the senior guide we worked with the year before and who became a dear friend of ours, was our officiator. After the ceremony we had a camp out with dear friends and family from near and far sharing stories and laughs around the campfire, eventually falling asleep under the stars to the sounds of the river. It was a simple wedding in nature, teeming with adventure, because nature feels like home and adventure is what fuels us, from this day (and if we’re lucky) to our last.

Special Thanks

Renee Shifflet
Photographer