Sarah + Jess

8.22.21 – North Washington Cascades

The Location

Both locations were in the North Cascades Range and the ancestral homelands of the Nooksack and Coast Salish peoples.

Day 1: Mt. Baker National Forest, 6 miles and 1,600 feet of elevation gain

Day 2: Mt Baker Wilderness, 3.5 miles and 1,300 feet of elevation gain. The wedding was at 6,500 feet of elevation (people love knowing the elevation)!

What the original plan was vs. what actually happened?


Jess: Sarah won a highly competitive backcountry permit for one of our favorite spots in the North Cascades National Park, but the Park Service couldn’t fulfill the permits due to fires in the area. They quite literally won the local lottery. With that said, we found out Tuesday before our Sunday wedding date that we had no place to sleep. 

We had been calling our permit the golden ticket, and the level of squee-ing in the house after finding out we could get married at our dream spot brought so much happiness. We were looking to return to the place where we solidified our love for each other, for the outdoors, and the Cascades two years earlier. But plans change as quickly as the weather does sometimes.


Find somewhere, anywhere, that we could backcountry camp at the last minute. Many campsites are booked at least six months out. With some luck, we could find a quiet backcountry location. With good potential for storms that same weekend, we started looking into last-minute cancellations at fire lookouts or other camps that would be out of the storms throughout the state. We just played each day by ear.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

Sarah: Undead bats* is pretty high up there. I don’t know if I could really pick my favorite… the surprise of finding out that we were going to be able to sleep in a lookout. Building a bunch of new relationships and friendships and being able to experience our day with everyone. And obviously the ceremony.

I loved how private our day was. The four of us, but it often felt like just the two of us. Particularly during the ceremony. That and getting to share the adventure side with Megan and Kate. That’s just our life.

Jess: That moment we knew we had the lookout for ourselves that night, absolutely. There was so much uncertainty up until that moment. We passed a pair of hikers on their way down who mentioned we had the place for ourselves. It felt like only a moment later that Sho give me the heads up to hightail it up the hill. Up the hill. We’re never chasing anyone down the hill.  

There’s something about trying to outrun a mountain guide to the peak that just sticks with you. We were loaded down with all of our backpacking gear, plus wedding gear. My heart was pounding trying to out run him. But he passed me like I was standing still only minutes before reaching the top. That said, the moody weather worked in our favor. He took off for the next peak and new views. The lookout was ours for the evening. Sho brings this luck with us wherever we go. I swear.

*Kate: Ok. Undead bats. We had a running three-day running debate about whether vampires could go to space and how they would do it. Would they go as a bat? As a person? Would they need a helmet or some mode of propulsion? Space suit? We all pretty unanimously decided that if a bat went to space inside a space suit helmet with a video game-style air propulsion console, they could get around pretty well. Please, let me know your thoughts on this important matter. lol

What was your favorite part of the ceremony?

Jess: The freaking birds. The energy in the lookout as we were getting ready back-to-back.  

Sarah: Flocking birds, man. Our first look.

Number one is just getting to do our ceremony the way that we imagined it. I mean minus the original spot but getting to be on top of the mountain and how there isn’t anything else that would be right for us. Getting to do that is really special. It was the ceremony that we wanted to have. Everything just came to fruition.

What will you never forget?

Jess: We didn’t know if we were going to pull it off with all of the last-minute shifts in flights, camp reservations, and weather. That said, we absolutely got our dream wedding. And then some, who sleeps in a fire lookout on their wedding day?!

This trip really solidified for me that everything is a lesson in adaptability. And that the people that we surround ourselves with are what gives life its rich quality. I’m so fortunate to have found my person. To have someone that can simultaneously challenge me and ground me. Together, we are storytellers. We fell in love exploring the wilderness together and enjoy returning home with rich stories and exciting photos. With this trip, it’s been a priceless experience being able to share those moments with two amazing people. Our little crew never stopped laughing and socializing.

Sarah: We were set for perfect weather. We got perfect North Cascades weather: Rain, sleet, snow, and birds. Blue skies, sunshine, and fog. And that wind. We got it all. The epitome of the Cascades. The whole experience from planning to day-of is something I’ll never forget. So many ups and downs but never any doubts. I knew we would make it work and we did. Getting to be on top of the mountain with the person I love, marrying her, and having it be such a private and amazing moment was everything. We had such a blast connecting and getting to know each other. We were always some combination of non-stop chatting, exhausted and passed out, or driving. That is just mine and Jes’ life and we love every second of it so being able to bring a few people along on one of our adventures was really cool. And having Megan, Jes’ bestie since HS as our officiant, and Kate, my bestie from high school as our photographer felt right….Also, did I mention the birds, like a whole giant flock of them right in the middle of the ceremony? I like to think of it as nature’s way of saying it approves of our marriage.

About Kate

Kate Cohen (she/her) is an International LGBTQIA+ wedding photographer based in Northern California who is focused on storytelling, candid captures, and iconic portraits of couples all over the globe.

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