(Durham, NH, January 16, 2019) It's six o'clock in the morning. Jen Earl and John Clark gather with friends and family on the porch of Joe Dodge Lodge. Mount Washington waits patiently behind them. Provisions are strapped on their backs and around their waists. Bottles of water. Hiking poles. Extra socks.
The couple paces on the weathered boards of the old porch. If it's nerves, their faces don't reveal it. They look relaxed but seem eager to depart. In about three hours, whether the heavy rain continues or not, Jen and John will exchange "I dos" at the summit of New England's highest peak.
John and Jen met at the base of Mount Washington many years back. They've climbed it multiple times and last winter John proposed to Jen at the summit. Afraid of frostbite, John's frozen fiancé was quick to accept the proposal. "I had to take my mitten off, put the ring on and then quickly put my mitten back on," says Jen.
WINDOWS TO THE WILD host Willem Lange met the Jen and John on the morning of their wedding day. He wished them the best as they began their hike up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
Fours years before, John discovered hiking as a way to lose weight. "It became a passion and because it is so good for you, you feel great." Since that time, he conquered all 48 of the 4,000 footers in each season. Along the trail, he found a hiking partner that would become his partner for life.
Jen is from Florida, and since she was a little girl, she knew she wanted to move to the mountains. "I don't know if I ever dreamed I would be getting married on a mountain," says Jen "but, I'm glad I am, and I'm glad I found someone as crazy as me."
Jen and John find themselves out on the trail most weekends. "We both have the passion to experience as many different unique hikes that we can," says Jen. "We love hiking today. And I don't think we will ever stop hiking, but if we do, we'd find another passion because doing stuff together is so much fun," says John.
The rain ended shortly after the hike began. Rivers of water flow down the trails creating, slippery and muddy conditions. Small waterfalls pound the granite rocks. The hikers begin to shed layers of rainwear as temperatures rise. Clouds envelop the mountain and the hiking party. "We're hikers in the White Mountains, we're always up for what nature brings us,"” says Jen.
The couple reaches the headwall fairly quickly. This is Jen's favorite site. When they meet up with another group of hikers on the trail, John is proud to announce, "On the way down, she's going to be my wife." With a hearty 'whoop,' and congratulations are exchanged, and the wedding party pushes on to the top.
Most of the wedding guests opt for an easier ride up the mountain and arrive dry and warm aboard the Mount Washington Cog Railway.
At the top, huge granite boulders and a white veil of fog provides the perfect backdrop for their wedding. As the ceremony begins, family, friends and strangers bundled in blue, magenta and red parkas surround the bride and groom, and finally Jen and John say, "I do."
"I don't think we could see this day any other way," says Jen. "We'd rather be in one of our favorite places." The newlyweds are quick to point out that they'll probably be hiking up Mount Washington the next weekend. "It will always have more meaning for us now," says Jen.
A new episode of WINDOWS TO THE WILD featuring the mountaintop wedding premieres on Wednesday, January 23 at 7:30pm on NHPBS and online at nhpbs.org/windows.
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