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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 12th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 49

Wild wedding: A match made in heaven meant getting married in nature for Craig and Linda Shafer


All it took was one look into the colorful meadow edged by rocky peaks and pine trees and former Sun Arts Editor Craig Shafer knew Cuyamaco Rancho State Park was where he was going to marry Linda.

“It just kind of jumped out and said, ‘There it is!’ The valley was just so—when you saw it in springtime, it was full of wildflowers,” Craig said.

But, that’s not what it looked like when Linda first set her eyes on the spot that snagged her husband-to-be’s heart.

Craig and Linda Shafer were married on a rock in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park 20 feet above the meadow where their wedding guests stood.

“The first time she saw it, it was [the] middle of winter,” he said.

Linda is as big of a nature lover as Craig, but as a first impression of where she would have her future wedding, the snow was a little much to take in.

“He’s trying to show us this would be a great place to get married, and I was like, ‘I don’t know about that,’” Linda said.

Several Cuyamaco Rancho hikes later and the couple was married on what they call “our rock” about 20 feet above the valley floor in the spring of 1977.

The couple spent two years looking for that perfect spot. They knew they definitely didn’t want to get married in a church ceremony, but were looking for someplace that had a spiritual feel.

“It had to be nature; you had to feel like you were out in nature,” Linda said.


Huntington Library’s botanical gardens and the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden were the first two spots on the wedding wish list. Both were beautiful and natural with walking paths and flora and fauna, but neither place allowed weddings in the 1970s. But the high school sweethearts weren’t in a hurry to find someplace, and wanted to wait until that perfect spot showed its face.

“We lucked out because we got a better place,” Linda said. “Everyone couldn’t get over how beautiful it was.”

About 70 guests made the 1 1/2 hour trip into the mountains from San Diego over Memorial Day weekend. Access to the park was first-come, first-serve. Nowadays a wedding permit for Cuyamaca costs $25—which is nothing compared to the Big Sur area, where California State Parks and Recreation charges $550 for a beach affair.

“There’s no way you could reserve that space,” Craig said. “I mean, back then you could pull into a camping spot without a reservation.”


They meant for the wedding to coincide with a colorful wildflower bloom, but missed it by a week. Still, the valley floor was bright green with springtime and dotted with white flowers. Wedding guests parked in a small lot and traipsed a half-mile through the woods down a path that led into the meadow.

The only real hiccup was a stream running through the middle of the meadow. Usually, it was a one-step-and-you’ve-crossed-it kind of stream, but that year it was more of a one-jump endeavor.

“I figured if I could do it in a wedding dress, then anyone else should be able to do it,” Linda said.

Added Craig, “We didn’t know it was going to be as active as it was. People joked about it afterwards. They said, ‘we didn’t know we were going to have a cross a river,’ but only in jest. They loved it.”

Everyone was able to make the jump, although a couple of older individuals needed help. And then a dressed up Linda hiked up a path alongside the gigantic rock they were to be married on. Wedding guests stood in the meadow below Linda, Craig, the best man, maid of honor, and the reverend.

There are three districts that watch over happenings in Central Coast state parks. Permit prices depend, of course, on where you want to tie the knot. Not all state parks are available for weddings. The Channel Coast District runs from McGrath State Beach to Point Sal State Beach, (585-1850). The San Luis Obispo Coast District governs parks from Pismo State Beach to Limekiln State Park (927-2065). The Monterey District manages state beaches and parks in the Big Sur area (831-649-2836).

Because the park didn’t allow amplified sound, the reverend had to project his voice in order for the guests to hear.

Surrounded by nature, Craig said it was a feeling that hit him at his very core, and together the Shafers relished every moment of their day.

“For years people talked about the most unique wedding they’d ever been to,” Linda said. “People got what we got.”

The Shafers’ love affair with nature hasn’t subsided in the last 37 years, although their ability to get into the thick of nature has changed a bit. Now instead of camping in a tent, they have a teardrop trailer. But the couple still takes four or five long weekend trips every year into the wilderness.

A couple years after the Shafers were married, snowmobiles tore up the meadow and it had to be closed for restoration. Linda said 10 to 15 years ago, they made the trip from the Central Coast to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park for their anniversary and the meadow was still closed for restoration.

“But we knew the back way,” she added. “And still made it to our rock.”


Contact Staff Writer Camillia Lanham at

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