Pond takes second on 'Love in the Wild'
SONOMA NATIVE HEATHER POND and her partner and new beau, Miles Haefner, examine the map during the final challenge of "Love in the Wild."
Photo courtesy of NBC Universal
Naysayers hold your tongue, apparently it is possible to find "Love in the Wild." At least that was the case for Sonoman Heather Pond.
While she didn't win Wednesday's finale of the NBC reality dating show, she did find the beginning buds of love in her partner, Miles Haefner, the show's adorably sweet Midwestern boy. Pond said since filming wrapped in April, the pair have been quietly dating, unable to share the news even with their nearest and dearest.
"It was really hard to keep it a secret from my friends and family," Pond told the Index-Tribune. "We had secret names for each other in our phones 'cause my friends were always trying to see who I was calling and texting."
Haefner has made several trips from his native Minneapolis to visit Pond in San Francisco, and she has also gone to the Midwest to see him, although the pair weren't allowed to be seen in public together, meaning most of their visits stayed behind closed doors.
"We're just really happy to be public and be able to be out going to movies, doing happy hour - just normal couple things," said the 26-year-old Pond. "I'm actually flying out next week to visit him."
In the show, 20 singles began looking for love and adventure at a remote Costa Rican retreat.
The contestants were paired up to compete in adventure challenges that took them everywhere from dark caves to mountaintops. During the off hours, the singles explored love and relationships under the watchful eyes of the camera's lens. At the end of each challenge, the couples had to decide if they wanted to continue on together, or switch partners on their quest for love.
Early on, Pond and Haefner gravitated to each other, and the relationship bloomed quickly, especially after Haefner planned a surprise picnic for the pretty brunette. "With him, I felt something was different. It was something more than a crush," Pond said, adding that without the distractions of her regular life, she was able to quickly connect with Haefner. "You're kind of in this bubble and I think everything was really intensified. I really got to know him on a deeper level."
The pair were pitted against Mike Spiro and Samantha Woods during the grueling final challenge, which more than 4.5 million viewers watched on Wednesday. The couple ran into trouble straight out of the gate when Haefner languished while trying to swim out to the canoe they had to paddle across a lake.
"I'm thinking I'm going to be the first person to die on national television while wearing a life jacket," he joked on the show.
After crossing the lake, building an ox cart and maneuvering it through narrow roads, the couples set up camp for the night. In the morning, it was a foot race up a mountain to the top of a volcano, which Pond and Haefner just barely lost.
"Of course we wish we could have won the trip around the world," Pond said of losing out on the grand prize. "But I feel lucky I got to be a part of it ... I think the stuff we were able to do was really once in a lifetime. That's the stuff on your bucket list, and I was able to knock out a bunch of those things."
For now, Pond is back living in San Francisco where she works in public relations. She is eager for those closest to her to get to know her new flame.
"My friends are so excited to meet him and it's so great to finally be able to talk about it with them," she said. "I know he's excited to go to Sonoma and go wine tasting and visit my dad's shop (the Chocolate Cow) and hang out with the family."