A Courtship Built on Adventure

The first time Dana Rhoden spent time with Michael Baran was in 2010 at a mutual friend’s wedding in Coral Gables, Fla. “We danced all night and innocently kissed,” said Ms. Rhoden, now 43, and the owner of The Dana Agency, a public relations firm in Miami. “Nothing else happened because I was in a relationship.”

During the next four years, Ms. Rhoden, who was raised in New Smyrna Beach, saw Mr. Baran at social events. “I was interested but Dana was taken, and I was enjoying the bachelor life in Fort Lauderdale,” said Mr. Baran, now 45, and an independent real estate agent specializing in golf communities.

In 2014, Ms. Rhoden, a University of Florida graduate, was pleased that he agreed to find a mortgage broker for a Miami Shores home that she wanted to buy. The following year, Mr. Baran, who was born and raised in Valley City, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Toledo, heard that she was single, and asked to see her new house.

After the tour, they went to Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami’s design district and talked for nearly four hours about work, life and his interest in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. “I was impressed that he was smart, confident, supportive of my career and more than a party boy,” Ms. Rhoden said.

Intrigued by her independence and unpretentious manner, he called the next day. “I knew already that she was the best person,” and one “who makes others feel great about themselves,” Mr. Baran said. “We became inseparable.”

In June 2016, shortly before Mr. Baran set off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for his 40th birthday with friends, Ms. Rhoden scattered love notes and a Hemingway book, “Green Hills of Africa,” in his travel bag. “My idea of travel is laying on some beach with a good book,” Ms. Rhoden said. “His love of adventure-packed vacations that include intimidating activities left me exhausted just thinking about them.”

Mr. Baran spent the next few years finding creative ways to take Ms. Rhoden out of her comfort zone. During a 2017 vacation in Vail, Colo., he convinced her to mountain bike on rugged terrain. She fell 10 times, tore her slacks and was bleeding. “The last fall was so bad that I walked my bike down the mountain and cursed Mike under my breath,” she said. “I had to ice both legs and was bruised from ankle to shin.”

Shortly after, during her surprise birthday trip to St. Lucia, Mr. Baran convinced Ms. Rhoden to climb a mountain. “It was scary and physically challenging, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment because of the trust that was developing between us,” she said.

In 2018, he moved into her Miami Shores home. Although they share passions for dogs, wine and travel, living under one roof has been challenging and filled with discussion about their differences. Ms. Rhoden is tardy; Mr. Baran is always on time. He thrives on three or four hours of sleep; she needs nine. He refuses to toss old shoes and socks; she leaves piles of magazines and clothes all over their bedroom. “I am trying not to be so messy, and continue to work on my tardiness, which Mike will not tolerate,” she said.

Mr. Baran also learned how to share his life. “Dana encourages me to be more positive,” he said. “It is natural for her to make me a better person.”

In 2019, on Christmas Eve, Mr. Baran decorated their house with red roses and balloons before surprising her with a proposal.

On Aug. 30, they were married atop a mountain on the San Sophia Overlook in Mountain Village, Colo. Accessible only by gondola, the sweeping views of the town of Telluride and Wilson Peak provided the perfect setting for such an adventure-travel-focused couple. Before 79 guests, the nonreligious ceremony was officiated by their friend Shawn Silbor, who is ordained by American Marriage Ministries.

“When I am with Mike, I feel invincible,” Ms. Rhoden said. “He gives me immense security and confidence. He expands my heart.”