The North Carolina mountaintop that Scotty McCreery chose as the site for his recent marriage proposal turns out to have a special history for the couple — thanks to a misadventure that McCreery caused.
The “Five More Minutes” singer explains to PEOPLE that he and fiancée Gabi Dugal often frequent the scenic spot, which is located near the famed Grandfather Mountain about 200 miles northwest of their hometown of Garner, a Raleigh suburb.
“We were looking for a waterfall about two or three years ago and I completely screwed up and got us lost,” McCreery, 24, recalls. “And I was like, well, the next trail map, we’re just gonna see where it takes us, and we got out and then came up to these beautiful cliffs. Now it’s kind of our spot every time we go to the mountains.”
“It did not work out as planned,” he adds, “but it probably worked out even better.”
McCreery also explains why the proposal, on Sept. 26, occurred on a weekday. Dugal is a first-year nurse at Duke University Hospital in Durham, and she tries to work weekends — when McCreery is out on tour — so the couple can have time off together during the week.
“It’s nice with her work schedule,” he says, “because nurses work three days a week.”
These days, McCreery says, the couple is having to maneuver between two home bases — Garner and Nashville — as well as his life on the road. “You’ve just got to be pretty adamant about getting time together when you can,” he tels PEOPLE.
No wonder that he’s most looking forward to just being together when he imagines married life.
“Especially like when I do come home [to Garner], instead of her being on one side of town and me on the other,” the American Idol winner says. “We might be able to have dinner [together] … It’s just we go to the same place. That to me would be the most special part of it all.”
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Though he and Dugal are still trying to figure out where their newlywed home will be, McCreery says he recently purchased a downtown Nashville residence, “and every time she comes she says, ‘I just love this place even more’ … so [her relocation to Nashville] has definitely been talked about.”
In the meantime, there’s a wedding to plan. “We’ve already figured out the place and the time,” McCreery reveals (though he’s mum on specifics), “and now it’s just putting it together. We have too many guests, and now we’ve got to cut it down. That’s the hardest part.”