Look, maybe it’s not a smart business move to hop in the car with two total strangers for an eight-hour round-trip drive to capture their hiking engagement photos. But did I do it? Yep. And was it worth it? You bet your sweet ass it was.
Meg and Daniel booked a wedding package with me that included an engagement session, and I was so excited to get to know these two before their big day. Little did I know I’d spend the entire day with them taking in the scenery, grubbing on greasy fast food, hunkering down in the rain, and frolicking on a mountaintop. We covered nearly 400 miles together!
Enjoy Meg and Daniel’s hiking engagement photo session and stunning images from Max Patch.
Road Trip Engagement Photos
When Meg first mentioned Max Patch as a possible engagement photo location, I was all for it! One small problem, though… it’s in North Carolina. Four hours away. Not your typical drive for an engagement session, by any means.
Now, I’m not usually the type to opt for an eight-hour round-trip car ride with two strangers. But when the perfect location calls, I answer! Meg and I just couldn’t get the idea out of our heads, so we said “screw it,” met up on a Saturday afternoon, and hopped in her Jeep with Daniel for the four-hour ride to Max Patch.
I’d been to Max Patch before, but never for engagement photos. It’s a bald mountain (meaning there are no trees on top) on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. It’s also an iconic feature of the Appalachian Train and the perfect spot for a couple of outdoors-loving folks. From the top, you get a 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the huge North Carolina sky. Even in less-than-perfect weather, the scenery just can’t be beat.
Speaking of, did I mention it was rainy? Hardly the kind of day you dream of when you’re driving eight hours for a photoshoot, but an interesting challenge nonetheless! Luckily, Meg and Daniel were down for the adventure, too.
Pit Stop at Cardin’s Drive-In
About halfway between Chattanooga and Max Patch, we stopped for lunch at a little place called Cardin’s Drive-In. Meg and Daniel had been there before, so when they insisted we stop, I went with it!
The three of us loaded up on burgers, fries, and a freaking amazing banana split. (Again, it was freezing cold and raining, but it’s never a bad time for ice cream.) I got these super silly shots of Meg and Daniel going to town on their food and – my favorite! – a ring photo with a big ol’ cheeseburger. I mean, come on. That’s love right there.
I’ve learned over the years to both trust my gut and to trust my couples. When two lovebirds say they want cheeseburgers, I grab my camera and tag along. It’s usually the least expected stops that result in the most memorable images.
With full bellies, we loaded back into the Jeep and cranked the radio for the next two hours of our road trip.
(Note: Unfortunately, Cardin’s closed down permanently in 2019. I’m glad we got to share a meal and make memories there before the owners retired. Thanks, Cardin’s crew!)
Arriving At Max Patch
After four hours on the road, we finally made it to the top of Max Patch. By the time we actually reached our destination, the three of us were laughing like old friends. There’s nothing like a four-hour drive to turn total strangers into buddies for life.
It was still raining by the time we reached the top, so Meg and Daniel snuggled in for some cozy photos in the back of Meg’s truck. Meg inherited this beautiful old Jeep Cherokee from her grandfather, and I’m so glad it got its moment in the spotlight! (Aside from, you know, hauling our butts all the way to North Carolina and back.) Meg and Daniel brought some blankets from home and turned the trunk into a warm little nest. And let me tell you, these two had absolutely zero reservations about getting handsy in front of the camera. They were all cuddles, laughter, and love.
We waited for a while, but the rain just didn’t quit. But after driving all the way there, we weren’t giving up! Instead, Meg and Daniel made a little costume change and we grabbed our gear to hike to the very top of Max Patch.
Hiking Engagement Photos
The way I see it, hiking engagement photos are usually done one of two ways: in actual hiking clothes or in formalwear. But Meg and Daniel did both!
For the drive and their Jeep photos, both wore classic jeans and trail-ready boots. Meg donned a natural grey sweater, and Daniel had on an army green button-down. Oh, and have I mentioned their hair? These two both have the most insanely beautiful brown curls, and I loved capturing their hair whipping in the wind on the hike.
For their second outfits, Meg and Daniel went a little more formal. Daniel went for dark khaki pants and a breezy button-down, and Meg had this precious blue and white floral dress. And she was such a champ! She rocked that knee-length dress, even in the dreary, freezing weather. (For context, just look at my attire. Hint: I’m the one bundled to the nines!)
Max Patch Engagement Photos
I was bummed when the clouds rolled in on our way to Max Patch, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing! The Blue Ridge Mountains were gorgeous draped in a layer of fog, and the dry yellow grass on top of Max Patch played up the blues everywhere else. I love playing with natural colors, and this palette was a dream come true.
I couldn’t help but capture some detail shots while we were up there. Meg’s classic gold ring in the gold grass was too perfect for words, and the photo of Daniel’s hands around her waist… I’m swooning. Like I said before, these two couldn’t keep their hands off of each other!
Even in dress clothes, Meg and Daniel fit perfectly into the landscape. As soon as we got to the top, they were running around and giggling like kids in love. It takes a special person to make you laugh uncontrollably like that. Judging from their engagement photos, these two have definitely found their person.
Packing Up to Head Down Max Patch
As the sun started to set, the three of us packed up our stuff and prepared for the descent back to the Jeep. We’d waited so long, and the clouds didn’t look like they were going anywhere. Meg and Daniel were ready to call it a day – and call their hiking engagement photo session a success.
Now, I’ve packed up early on many a photoshoot only for the sun to return as I was driving away. And with a four-hour drive ahead of us, I had a feeling Mother Nature would play that cruel trick again. I had this gut feeling that the setting sun would dip below the clouds just long enough for a few unforgettable images, so I begged Meg and Daniel to hang out and freeze with me for a little bit longer…
Here Comes the Sun!
THERE SHE IS! THE SUN!
When I’m right, I’m right! The sun dropped below the cloud line for the most brief, beautiful moment, and guys… I screamed. The three of us literally jumped for joy and rushed to make some magic before the last rays of the day slipped away.
They laughed. They smooched. At one point, I yelled, “Grab her butt!” Meg and Daniel basked in the sunset light and put their love on display on top of the world (or at least 4600 feet up).
It’s moments like this that make traveling, waiting, and freezing my ass off on a mountain worth it. Yes, we would have also made beautiful images had the sky been clear. But the day wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable, and we wouldn’t have whooped and hollered at the setting sun together. Ten out of ten, would freeze my ass off again.
All in all, it was a magical end to the most fun hiking engagement photo session ever.
If this engagement session taught me anything, it’s to say absolutely yes to any crazy adventurous, kind of hair-brained ideas my couples throw at me. It would have been easy to ask Meg to pick a closer location, but by the end of that first phone call, I think we both knew something special was waiting for us at the end of trail.
Whether you’re traveling just down the road or a whole state away for your engagement photos, I want in! There’s nothing more fun for me than hitting the road with my couples and going on a true adventure together. I’ll bring snacks!
Shoot me a message and let’s chat about all things weddings. Big or small, near or far, I want to capture your day in a way that feels true to you and your love story.
And if you just can’t get enough of Meg and Daniel, check out their wedding photos!