LOCK HAVEN - For the past five years, Lisa Serepca of the Philadelphia area and Stephen Beers of Renfrew have been avid hikers and mountain trail enthusiasts.
When the two met at the Bald Eagle Megatransect in 2007, Beers and Serepca found they walked at the same pace on the trail ... and in life.
By the time they had crossed the finish line, it was clear there was more between them than just a passion for hiking.
Lisa Serepca and Stephen Beers embrace following their marriage Saturday at Zindel Park during the Bald Eagle Mountain Megatransect. The couple met during the 2007 Megatransect, and became engaged at the Hyner Challenge last year.
They stayed in touch and started dating.
And then, last April 18, during the Hyner View Trail Challenge in northern Clinton County, Beers proposed to Serepca. "Stephen told us he was going to propose, so I was ready with the camera when he asked her," said Janet Weener, Serepca's mother. "It's great to have (captured) that moment."
In honor of their love for hiking and for the race where they fell in love with each other, the couple chose to participate in and get married at the 2009 Bald Eagle Mountain Megatransect, a 25-mile trail hike/run along Bald Eagle Mountain, overlooking the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
They hiked 11 miles from the starting line to their chosen location for the ceremony.
The couple wanted to choose a spot along the intense trail that was both beautiful and special to them. That place was Zindel Park at McElhattan.
"The location was half way, between where they both lived and it was here that they realized they really wanted to be together. They wanted to keep it simple and have a small wedding for immediate family," said the bride's stepfather, Stan Weener.
The bride enjoyed planning the wedding herself, and got a lot of help from Megatransect Race Director Dave Hunter.
Since the beginning of the race in 2003, Hunter and his team have worked hard to keep the Mega enjoyable and exciting for participants.
"Dave was great. Without him it wouldn't have been possible. If he wasn't doing this (directing the Mega) he should be a wedding planner," said Serepca.
According to Janet and Stan Weener, Hunter helped in every way he could and was enthusiastic and thrilled that a couple wanted to be married during the race.
"It's also a great way to draw some attention to a beautiful location that doesn't get much recognition. Even though he was busy with the race he came over and helped us put the tent up. We really appreciate it," said Stan.
Family and friends gathered for the afternoon wedding in Zindel Park. Those attending waited in anticipation for the bride and groom to arrive.
"We are all so excited for this," said Gayle Beers, mother of the groom. "There has been a smile on Stephen's face for a long time."
The bride's aunt, Dr. Audrey Serepca-Rice, and uncle, Donovan Rice, came from California for the ceremony.
"Everything is so beautiful. This will be exciting!" said Audrey.
The stone ruins at Zindel Park were transformed by family members into a beautiful alter, draped with a white veil and decorated with fall leaves and flowers.
"I'm just so happy for them. They are a good match. Stephen and Lisa have the same values and are just so much in love. She beams when Steve is around. I have never seen her so happy," said Janet Weener.
The groom's son (and best man) Charlie, and his daughter, Laura, wished their father the best.
"Dad is really happy. He found the right girl," they said.
Many Mega participants who were passing through Zindel Park shouted congratulations to the couple and expressed excitement at the unique location and idea.
"I don't know anyone else who got married on a hiking trail," said sister of the groom, Pam Scott.
The happy couple arrived around noon and crossed the stone foot-bridge into Zindel Park, hand in hand, with huge smiles on their faces. After a few quick 'hellos' to guests, the couple quickly changed into fresh clothing inside a tent set up for that purpose.
"Since Lisa and Stephen are going to complete the hike, they didn't want to wear anything fancy. We are going to save that for after, at the reception at The Madison Restaurant, where they decided to wear dressier clothing," said Janet.
With the help of her sister and maid of honor, Beth Serepca, the bride arranged flowers in her hair and prepared to walk to the alter, escorted by Stan Weener.
The sun broke through the clouds and was shining down on the wedding party just in time for the ceremony performed by Lock Haven Mayor Rick Vilello.
"We were talking to Dave Hunter about all the wedding arrangements and he suggested Vilello. He's a great guy, very enthusiastic and kind," said Stan.
"If someone is crazy enough to be in the Mega, I'm crazy enough to marry them," Vilello said, which evoked a round a laughter from everyone. "It's a neat part of the job. They had a great story about how they met and this is not only one the best places in the region, but in all of Pennsylvania for a wedding. It's beautiful out here. I was happy to take the opportunity."
After the "I do's" were said and teary eyes were dried, the family assembled for wedding photos.
Eager to finish the race, Mr. and Mrs. Beers pinned signs to their backpacks announcing their new status.
The word "Just" was displayed on Stephen's pack; and "Married" could be seen on Lisa' as they hurried off, hand in hand, to the next checkpoint on the Megatransect.
"I'm feeling so great. I'm married!" said Stephen. "We had a long walk over some rough terrain. Most brides walk 50 feet to the alter, Lisa walked 11 miles."