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Leslie & Jinson

Although Leslie and Jinson had a more traditional Chinese wedding reception with their families, they wanted to keep their wedding day just the two of them. They were drawn to the intimacy of an elopement and love adventuring together so a high alpine lake elopement seemed like the perfect fit. Leslie and Jinson met in high school, even going to prom together, and were friends for ten years before they started dating five years ago. It was clear from their beautifully emotional ceremony that these two are a perfect fit for each other as well.

With outdoor elopements, the uncontrollable weather often presents a challenge. All week long, the weather was looking iffy for Leslie and Jinson’s elopement. A few days out, I even suggested changing their timeline for the morning since the weather looked a lot better early on than in the evening. Not ones to be intimidated, Leslie and Jinson decided they were up for adventure and decided to chance a hike up that day.

As we started up the 5.5 mile hike towards Gem Lake from Fourth of July Trailhead in Indian Peaks Wilderness outside of Estes Park, we were worried about getting rained on as heavy dark clouds sat in the sky. The forecast must have scared everyone else away from this popular hiking trail because we were totally alone for most of the hike, seeing only a few people hiking down as we went up. It was incredibly secluded and private as Leslie, Jinson and I arrived where they were going to say their vows.

Leslie and Jinson’s risk paid off and, as we arrived, the clouds were just kissing the mountain tops surrounding the lake. We were treated to amazing and dramatic weather as the clouds danced around the peaks, with the light playing tricks on the mountain. It was a striking pink sunset, with the moody clouds over the lake as they committed their lives to each other on the shores of the high alpine lake, Gem Lake. I was privileged to be their only witness and sign their marriage license. Doing this for couples absolutely never gets old.

We did have to hike through a few snow drifts and along snow fields to reach the top. But along the way, the wildflowers were in full bloom! Colorado didn’t receive a ton of snow this past winter and the wildflowers made their arrival early. We were treated to huge bunches of columbines, indian paintbrush and alpine bells. I’ve never seen them this early so high.

I normally share about sunrise hikes but sunset elopement hikes are fun as well! You get to really see the trail as you hike up and when you arrive at the top, you’re treated to a dramatic reveal. On the trip down, you can see only where the light of your headlamp hits and you have to rely on the GPS map to stay on the trail. For Leslie and Jinson’s elopement, we hiked down from Gem Lake in the dark. We could see our breath with our headlamps on and the fog made it a little bit spooky. We could see only a few stars poking out of the clouds as they rolled around us. At times, we were above the clouds, then below them, then inside them. The weather made the entire day ethereal and unreal feeling.

I felt a real connection with Leslie and Jinson. On the entire hike up and back, we never ran out of things to talk about. They came to Colorado for a whole week to adventure together and I hope their high alpine lake elopement was the perfect cap to that week.

 The view of the Rocky Mountains as we started hiking up towards Gem Lake. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Carrying her bouquet and their wedding day attire, Leslie and Jinson hike the Rocky Mountains towards Gem Lake for their adventure elopement. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Spring snow runoff flows down the side of the Rocky Mountains during a hiking elopement. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson help each other over the rocky terrain on the trail to Gem Lake outside Estes Park Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 As they climb the trail towards Gem Lake for their hiking elopement, Leslie and Jinson carry their wedding attire and her bouquet on their backs. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson's wedding rings pictured among Colorado wildflowers on the trail to Gem Lake outside of Estes Park Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson stop as they hike up the Gem Lake Trail for their hiking adventure elopement ceremony to survey the Rocky Mountains. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Spring snow runoff makes for an epic waterfall as it flows down from Gem Lake outside Estes Park in Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson continue to hike up the trail towards high alpine lake Gem Lake in Colorado's Rocky Mountain for their elopement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Carrying all the necessities for a high alpine lake elopement on their backs, Leslie and Jinson hike the Rocky Mountains towards Gem Lake. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Cloud inversion rolls over the Rocky Mountains at Gem Lake outside Estes Park, Colorado for a high mountain alpine lake elopement. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson help each other get dressed and ready for their high alpine lake elopement ceremony at the shores of Gem Lake. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson exchange vows on the shores of Gem Lake as clouds roll around the mountains behind them. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson shared heartfelt vows and a few laughs during their hiking elopement ceremony outside Estes Park, Colorado.Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Clouds and snow dot the mountain cliffs behind Leslie and Jinson as they say their vows at Gem Lake during their elopement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Groom Jinson reads his vows to his bride Leslie at their hiking elopement ceremony at the base of a high alpine lake in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson exchange vows on the shore of high alpine lake Gem Lake in the Rocky Mountains. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Tears and laughs were part of Leslie and Jinson's emotional self solemnizing ceremony at the top of Gem Lake. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson exchanged rings in their self solemnizing ceremony in the Rocky Mountains outside Estes Park, Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Jinson wipes a tear off the face of his bride as they exchange vows on the shores of high alpine lake Gem Lake outside Estes Park Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson share their first kiss following their self solemnizing elopement ceremony outside Gem Lake near Estes Park, Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Shortly after their hiking elopement ceremony, Leslie and Jinson walk along the shores of Gem Lake, a high alpine lake outside Estes Park, Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson celebrate their elopement on top of Gem Lake, outside Estes Park, Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Snow dots the cliffs and clouds dance around Leslie and Jinson after their high alpine lake elopement ceremony at Gem Lake. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Newlywed couple Leslie and Jinson embrace after their adventure elopement ceremony at Gem Lake. They hiked up the trail carrying all their wedding attire in backpacks. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Spring snow is still visible behind Leslie and Jinson as they embrace after their high alpine lake elopement at Gem Lake in Estes Park Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Newlywed couple Jinson and Leslie embrace on the shores of Gem Lake, a high alpine lake outside Estes Park Colorado, after their private hiking elopement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Jinson and Leslie hiked with all the details for their wedding day on their backs, including their attire, bouquet and boutonniere, for an adventurous elopement outside Estes Park, Colorado. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson embrace on the shores of Gem Lake after their high alpine lake backpacking elopement ceremony during early spring. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 Leslie and Jinson don head lamps to hike back down from Gem Lake following their high alpine lake elopement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 With their head lamps, the moon and the stars as their only sources of light, Leslie and Jinson hike down through the clouds from their Gem Lake high alpine lake elopement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
 The clouds parted and rolled through the sky as we hiked back down from Gem Lake, a high alpine lake outside Estes Park, Colorado, following Leslie and Jinson's hiking elopement ceremony. Photo by Maddie Mae Photo, Adventure Instead.
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HEY THERE!

We're Maddie Mae, Amber, & Tori. We are adventurous elopement photographers & guides based in Colorado that travel worldwide to help fearless couples like you create your unforgettable, wildly different wedding experience—that is completely yours.

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If you would like help dreaming up your intimate wedding day, a customized elopement location idea list just for you, planning tools, vendor recommendations, and a creative, laid-back, documentary approach to your adventurous wedding photography—we would love to help you make your adventure elopement dreams come true.

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