July 8, 2020
The lush mossy forest and gentle cascading waterfall of Panther Creek Falls in Carson, Washington marked the start to Sophie & Keven’s elopement, but their story isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
When COVID-19 hit, Sophie & Keven’s original elopement date of 4/19/20 was in the middle of our local Oregon’s “Stay-At-Home” orders. They were still able to legally do the paperwork on 4/19 and we bumped their elopement date out a couple months with fingers crossed. In June, Sophie & Keven got the chance to hike into the woods, say their vows in front of Panther Creek Falls, and make their marriage official in a much different way. We adventured all along the Washington and Oregon borders. We grabbed peanut butter milkshakes (THE BEST) at a 1950’s style-diner, then popped some champagne and danced among wild Lupine flowers in the Columbia Gorge. It was windy and wild and carefree. This is their love story.
From Sophie – “We met at The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. Keven had been working there for about two years and I had just gotten hired. I noticed him walking by because he always wore really cool boots and cuffed his pants, exposing bright patterned socks. Immediately I decided to avoid him.
One day, we had to work the same exhibit together. Keven being the friendly guy he is, flashed a smile and introduced himself. He told me he liked my Doc Martens and he showed me his Blundstone boots. Immediately after this exchange, I hid from him and texted my best friend something to the extent of “the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen is talking to me and I’m so nervous I’m hiding.”
I tried my best to avoid him, not wanting to start anything with a coworker especially since I was new. That didn’t go so well though. I couldn’t stay away. Something about that smile and the sound of his voice.”
From Keven – “Okaaay, so let me tell you how it really went down. So, I noticed this new girl that I did not know was hired and I had been working there for about 2 years and had never seen her before. I wasn’t paying much attention to her, except for the fact that she had these really cool Chelsea’s [Doc Martens boots] that I had been wanting…that’s how she became the ‘Chelsea girl’. It was weird that I would see her and her shoes, but never interact with her. Until that one moment, that perfect moment where I was assigned to cover someone’s break, in which she was working that same area. That was the best 15 minutes when I was able to introduce myself and get to know who she was and show off my own Blundstone Chelsea’s (because I was known for that). Then the worst thing happened, after 2 minutes of talking to her she left and hid and didn’t talk to me for the rest of the shift. Little did I know she had the same feelings I had for her.”
“‘Refer to Fridge’ is inscribed on the inside of both of our wedding rings. When we first said I love you, we each made a list of all the reasons why. When we moved in together, we put them on our fridge. Whenever we bicker or pick on ourselves or wonder what in the world we did to deserve each other, we simply remind the other to ‘Refer to Fridge.’ Both lists have survived two moves, three fridges, and are still perfectly intact to remind us what we love about each other.” – S
“We can make the day an adventure, we don’t have to stress about planning, and most importantly, we get to put all of our focus on each other instead of trying to appease other people on our special day. We think eloping is so much more intimate and special.” – S & K
“Because of COVID-19, we couldn’t keep our original elopement day, so we decided to do all of our paperwork and get legally married on April 19, 2020. I bought a simple white sundress, and Kev put on his favorite polo. We walked to the trails about a minute from our home and had a mini “ceremony.” Within about 5 minutes of leaving the house, we were married!
That whole day was actually kind of crazy. That morning we had picked up Keven’s little sister from the airport, and we got our foster puppy that afternoon. It seemed like just a normal busy morning until about 4pm when we legally became “The Zamoras.” – Sophie
Elopement Tip: For many couples that choose to elope, filing the legal paperwork to get married on a different day than their elopement day is actually a lot more common than you may think! This can be especially helpful for couples who want to have a destination elopement in a different state from where they reside, so they can rest assured they’re following their local state marriage laws, and have one less thing to worry about on the day they document their elopement! This is an especially popular choice for couples wishing to self-solemnize – meaning to get married without needing a third party (like an officiant) present. Handle the legal needs beforehand, then you can truly a “Just Us” experience on your elopement day!
From Sophie – “My favorite part of our elopement day was the intimacy and sense of adventure. Keven and I have always loved going on long drives to beautiful places just to look at the view.”
From Keven – “Honestly the best part of it all was the hiking. I think exploring different locations and sliding around in the mud was one of the best parts. I think the unique settings and environment created a great atmosphere that we felt engulfed in the moment and were able to look each other in the eye and know we did something great.”
From Sophie – “Some advice I would give to couples planning their wedding or elopement, would be to have a timeline. Kev & I are both very “spur of the moment” type people, so we really didn’t recognize the importance of this at first, until Marissa made a timeline for us. It eased every little bit of worry and stress we had, just to know we had a timeline. I would also say, it’s okay if not everything goes according to plan, that’s part of the adventure! Rain or shine or wind— it’ll be a beautiful day. The elements just add to the magic. Embrace them!”
From Keven – “I think the best advice I would give is to make a timeline like Soph said, but to remember that not everything goes to plan and that there might be sporadic changes. You have to let the captivating moment take you and enjoy what is coming. Then everything else falls into place. Also if it’s cold make sure to bring some hand warmers and if it’s hot to bring mini fans from the 99 cent store. Also breath mints are a must!”
Photographer: Marissa Solini Photography
Florist: Wildflower Portland
Vow Books: Jenny G Designs
Bridal Hair Stylist: Norma at All Me Salon
Ceremony Location: Panther Creek Falls in Carson, Washington
Bridal Outfit: David’s Bridal
Bride’s Shoes: Dr. Martens Boots
Groom Outfit: Mango
Officiant: Bride’s Cousin (Jason)
Groom’s Shoes: Chelsea Blundstone Boots
Bride & Groom Custom Denim Jackets: Levi’s
Milkshake & French Fry Fix: Eastwind Drive-In
If coming from the Oregon side, the quickest route is over the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks. There is a $2 toll per vehicle each-way. They do take credit cards but it’s quicker for them to process cash payments.
There are no restroom facilities at Panther Creek Falls, there are restroom facilities at the Bridge of the Gods, Trailhead (just before the toll booth on the drive to Bridge of the Gods, or at a viewpoint just on the other side of the Bridge (on the Washington side).
There is no cell phone service, so planning accordingly.
There isn’t an official parking lot, but Google Maps directions will take you to a large gravel pull-out on the side of the road to park at.
To get to the main trailhead, go about 100 steps back down the road you came in from, you’ll see a tree with a small “Panther Creek Falls” sign on your right and a little dirt trail to follow below.
There will soon be a fork in the trail with a sign to indicate two paths, one to take you to the “Viewpoint” (which I consider the Upper Viewing Deck), and the other to take you to the “Bottom of Falls” (which I consider to be the Lower Viewing Deck). They both offer great views, but I personally found the Lower Viewing Deck to have a more satisfying view and proximity to the Falls.
Wear hiking-appropriate shoes, it’s only a 0.6 mile hike out-and-back, but it can be muddy and slippery in some areas, and the trail gets steep at times.
Contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Service ahead of time (As far in advance as you can) to inquire about any permit needs for having a small ceremony there and any rules and regulations they have.
Keep in mind the closer you stand to a waterfall, the louder it is – so any guests may have trouble hearing you if you don’t speak up loud enough.
There are no benches or tables, as well as limited space at the viewing decks so I would recommend only very small groups (likely 6 or less people) and only for ceremony use.
With any elopement happening at a public recreation area or trail, I always recommend couples look to elope on a weekday and/or aim for an early morning time to minimize the amount of other people encountered on the trails.
Be courteous and respectful of other visitors, this is a public trail.
This is important for any trail or recreation area, but especially for Panther Creek Falls trail. DO NOT GO OFF-TRAIL. The Forest Service has been working hard to rehabilitate and restore the nature areas that border the trail and surround the two viewing decks. There are signs stating “This Area closed for Rehabilitation”. You will also see signs at the viewing decks that state that people have died at this very area from going off-trail, so I really can’t emphasize enough, stay on-trail.
“Pack it in, Pack it out” as the popular phrase goes. There are no garbage receptacles at Panther Creek Falls trail so plan ahead and take extra care to make sure you take all your garbage with you.
Respect wildlife that call this place home and leave any areas as you found them.