Steamboat Springs Sean Hicks has found the perfect woman with whom to spend the rest of his life. Not only is Gretchen Jarosz an attractive and a highly motivated businesswoman, she wants to spend her honeymoon hunting in Canada.
But wait, there's more when Sean asked if he could have a special tuxedo made for their wedding day, she was willing to compromise. Gretchen couldn't quite go for a full camouflage tuxedo, but she suggested that the groom and his groomsmen have camouflage cummerbunds made. And yes, the engaged couple is registered at Cabela's, the ultimate purveyor of all things hunting.
Sean and Gretchen are engaged to be married on July 28 at Sky Valley Lodge. The ceremony may include more than a couple of signs of the couple's mutual love for the outdoors and hunting.
"I love camo clothing," Sean said. "I just think it's the coolest-looking stuff." He is an accomplished bow hunter and the walls of his small office in the business he owns, Pioneer Materials, are lined with trophy mounts. There's even a full-sized black bear mount in the corner.
Gretchen has only just begun to hunt but is equally enthused.
"I really like to hunt, but I know, for a hunter to take a beginner under his wing" isn't something that comes easily, Gretchen said. She was thrilled this fall when Sean took her hunting and she successfully claimed her first mule deer doe. Later in the fall, when Sean already had his own elk in the freezer, he guided Gretchen and his sister, Deanna, on an elk hunt. But Sean was planning to bring home more than big game he had purchased an engagement ring.
The plan was for Gretchen to harvest her first elk. As soon as she had the elk on the ground, but before the excitement of that accomplishment had worn off, Sean planned to produce the ring from the pocket of his hunting coat and make a dramatic proposal of marriage.
There was just one problem: Elk hunting is a difficult and unpredictable enterprise.
Getting to know you
Gretchen has lived in Steamboat Springs for more than five years she owns Mountain Hair Studio. Sean moved here two years ago to open his drywall supply business.
They met when Sean took a seat in her salon. But it wasn't love at first clip.
"Most cosmetologists don't find their husbands that way," Gretchen said a little sheepishly. "You like to keep things professional and not be picking up your clients."
Sean, who was commuting home to hang with his buddies on weekends, continued getting his hair cut in Grand Junction for a number of months. Finally, he decided it was time to get his hair cut locally. Of all the local shops he could have chosen, it was fate that he chose Mountain Hair Studio.
"You know how it is you give a hairdresser one shot and if they blow it, you try another," Sean said.
Happily, Sean approved of the first haircut he received from Gretchen. He even tipped her $5.
But even though they both recall having a sense that they had met someone special, the couple moved very gradually toward a dating relationship.
That was due in part to the fact that Gretchen and a girlfriend couldn't figure out who Sean was, who his friends were or anything else about him.
"A friend of mine and I were trying to find him," Gretchen laughed. "I looked everywhere everywhere. I could not find him."
Gretchen was checking out local night spots but didn't realize that Sean was sharing an apartment with a friend who already lived in Craig, picking up his mail in Hayden and driving to Grand Junction each weekend.
Sean was looking for a relationship but didn't focus on Gretchen until he made a list of the qualities he sought in a partner. Essentially, he was looking for an attractive woman who was athletic and enjoyed the outdoors. He also sought a partner who was motivated to succeed and already had a direction in life.
"After a few months of finding out all about Gretchen (while sitting in her salon), I was like, 'Hey, that's Gretchen!'" Sean recalled. But he was still reluctant to take the big jump from a client-cosmetologist relationship to a personal relationship.
"I was afraid of rejection, especially because I thought she might be the one," Sean admitted.
Going to the dogs
Finally, it was an interest in hunting dogs yellow Labs to be exact that got the couple together. Gretchen already had a Lab, and Sean, by coincidence, was planning to get a puppy. When he went to pick up his pup and went home with two instead, he realized he had a reason to call Gretchen and ask if she would like to meet the puppies.
Puppies are cuddly, and before long, Sean and Gretchen had advanced their relationship to cuddling as well.
Fast forward 10 months and Gretchen and Sean are heading out for their fateful day of hunting with Deanna, who didn't know what her brother was up to.
Sean is the type of hunter who when he's on the trail of big game can hike up and down steep drainages all day. Gretchen was already put off by the fact that Sean had been acting strangely all week (because he was anxious about proposing), and when he pushed the two women to the limits of their stamina, they began to get angry.
"I was like, 'What is your problem?'" Gretchen recalled.
"She was just getting madder and madder at me," Sean agreed.
Finally, Sean spotted a herd of more than 40 elk crossing the opposite ridge. But in order to get Gretchen in position for a shot, they would have to hurry down the ridge they were standing on and back up the next one.
By the time they reached the bottom of the drainage, the women were already tiring.
"I knew I had to come up with a plan fast or wait and probably get into a fight," Sean said.
The thrill of the chase
He told Gretchen and Deanna he would push on ahead and wait for them at the top. When he gained the top of the ridge, the elk were disappearing from sight, so he took the ring box out of his coat, opened the lid and wedged the box in the bowl of a tree, then waited for his fate.
Gretchen puffed up the ridge and had Sean been an elk, the look in her eyes might have been enough to stun it and drop it to the ground. She walked right by the "engagement tree" until Sean said, "You'd better come over here and look at this elk sign!"
When Gretchen spotted the ring, her mood was magically transformed.
"She was pretty much speechless," Sean said.
"He got down one knee and I got the whole nine yards," Gretchen laughed.
Gretchen's inability to speak passed quickly and she whipped out a cell phone to call her family.
They couldn't get a cell phone connection and she nearly burst with excitement before they reached the nearest town and she could get her call through.
Don't ask the name of the town, and don't ask the name of the ridge where Sean proposed dedicated hunters never give away their hunting spots.
However, the couple will say that they'll be spending their honeymoon hunting for whitetail deer and maybe even bear, with Bob and Jocelyn Heyde of Homestead Outfitters in Alberta, Canada.
Gretchen had just one stipulation: "I'm not spending my honeymoon in a tent," she said.
Fortunately, the Heydes have a comfortable lodge in the middle of the north woods.