When Clara Richardson looked down while walking the trail to the famous Hot Springs Cove near Tofino, at first it didn’t register that the wooden plank said: “Clara Richardson will you marry me?”

Anyone who’s walked the boardwalk trail — and has an ounce of romance in them — will remember the plank that rests near the bottom of one set of stairs. And now the mystery has been solved: She said “yes.”

When Dave Hill became Richardson’s fiancé that day in 2012, he had no idea he’d be raising the bar for marriage-minded guys everywhere. He was lucky it all went off so smoothly.

The couple, who’d been on-again, off-again for a few years, had rekindled their romance when they headed to their favourite getaway destination for the Valentine’s Day weekend in 2012.

“We took a float plane there and, being from Alberta, I’d always thought of them as being sort of exotic. I’d always wanted to take a trip in one,” said Richardson, 30, a Vancouver lawyer.

And like any great romance, the beauty is in the details, which were revealed when Richardson contacted Postmedia after a story about Tofino earlier this month mentioned the plank. (Read the Tofino story here.) The two-kilometre long boardwalk leads from the public dock to the hot springs and many of the planks are personalized with family names, dates, and messages.

By the time the couple boarded the float plane in Vancouver, Hill secretly already had worked months ahead of time with Innchanter innkeeper Shaun Shelongosky to find out the exact measurement of the plank. Hill created the script, and carved it himself at a friend’s garage so Richardson wouldn’t know about it. Innchanter, where the couple stayed, is a bed-and-breakfast boat moored near the hot springs and accessible only by water.

Once aboard the Innchanter, the couple went to the hot springs the first day.

“I remember thinking if he was going to propose, he would have done it by now,” Richardson said.

Meanwhile, Shelongosky went to install the plank in a terrible rain storm.

“I almost got caught by Clara while doing it,” Shelongosky said this week in an email. “I had to lie and tell her someone broke a board on the trail and I had to go and fix it.”

On the second day when they returned for another soak, she saw the plank.

“I was beside myself with excitement,” she said. “It was a total surprise.”

As Richardson accepted, Hill presented her with an elegant solitaire diamond ring.

Hill, a 31-year-old linesman for BC Hydro, had been filming Richardson all weekend — on the float plane, at the boat, and on the path to the hot springs.

“He’d run ahead and get video of me walking the path — so I was already used to it. For the proposal, he ran ahead and set it up as I was walking toward the spot where the board is, so it was all caught on film,” said Richardson.

“And we showed an edited video of that at our wedding reception — there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

Richardson and Hill were married at the Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet in August 2012.

Although the couple considered keeping the plank for themselves, they decided it should remain installed on the trail.

“We want people to see it,” Richardson said.




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