A Wintery Hocking Hills Elopement

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly
Kara and Zach Barnard married in the Hocking Hills in early April 2021.

This story first appeared in the spring/summer 2022 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in December 2021.

Kara (Johnston) and Zach Barnard eloped in Saltpetre Cave State Nature Preserve in the Hocking Hills on April 2, 2021, and received a belated April Fools’ Day prank from Mother Nature: 20-degree temperatures. They warmed up with their coffee-based unity ceremony, which was officiated by Windi Noble of Run to an Elopement. They were joined on their Hocking Hills honeymoon by their dog, Luna.  

The Johnstons met in 2015 via Facebook, of all things. “I posted a story about modern love, Zach commented on it—something like, ‘While I’m sure there’s a lack of love, I’m also sure there is plenty to go around,’ ” Kara recalls. “I knew I had to meet him.” She summoned her courage and sent Zach a private message, and the pair hung out that night, listening to ’90s music and watching the Discovery Channel. 

Their engagement story is fitting for a couple who eloped in a Hocking Hills cave: Zach popped the question in Moab, Utah, after a grueling, 100-degree hike to a waterfall that the ended up having all to themselves. The pair later picked out the ring together in Denver. “He caught me off guard by asking, and it was so sweet and special,” Kara says. 

Find more local wedding inspiration:Sign up for a free print subscription to Columbus Weddings and join Countdown Club

“Our elopement was unique and exactly what we wanted: intimate and in nature,” she adds. “Every moment was special, and we were truly able to focus on each other.” 

The Details 

Photographer: Elizabeth Nihiser Photography

Ceremony: Saltpetre Cave State Nature Preserve 

Officiant: Run to an Elopement 

Florist: Shaffer Creative Co. 

Accommodations: The Tumbleweed cabin at Getaway Cabins 

Bride’s attire: Gown from BlushFashion on Etsy, hiking boots 

Groom’s attire: Suit from Banana Republic 

Rings: Young in the Mountains (Denver) for bride, Zales for groom