Fellowship of the Engagement Ring
Once upon a time, two treasure hunters and a Highlands Ranch couple searched Keystone Mountain for a lost ring.
No, it’s not a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. It’s the story of Derrick Monnig and Debra Sweeney, who, on Feb. 1, skied Keystone’s Outback. A foot of powder coated the mountain, and, as the couple took in the view, Monnig dropped to a knee and proposed.
Then, the ring dropped into the snow. Poof. It sank and was gone.
The couple scoured the snow, but they were unable to find the $6,500 ring. Keystone ski patrol jumped in with shovels, but still no luck.
“It was the day the Columbia exploded,” Sweeney said. “It was a day I won’t be forgetting.”
After a few days of searching with GPS systems and sifters, the piece of jewelry still eluded the couple.
Monnig and Sweeney returned to the Front Range ringless but hopeful. Another search a few weeks later failed again.
Word spread of the lost ring, prompting Jon Brewer, a member of the Eureka Treasure Hunters Club in Denver, to offer his services.
Fellow club member John Steele joined the hunt. The foursome planned a trip back to Keystone in April to see if the ring had surfaced after the snow melt. But then, a huge spring storm piled two feet of snow back on the mountain.
Again, the couple would have to wait.
Last Saturday, Monnig, Sweeney, Steele and Brewer reunited on Keystone Mountain with metal detectors. Sy Meheen, a ski patroller and the mountain bike events coordinator for Keystone, arranged transportation to bring the couple within 2 1/2 miles of the site where the ring was lost.
They hiked with their equipment and GPS coordinates to the site but forgot the GPS locator equipment. With two metal detectors whirring and sputtering empty signals and Monnig and Sweeney scouring the ground, the group hoped a stranger hadn’t caught wind of the lost ring and completed a search of their own.
“The first indication where the ring was lost was 100 yards off,” Brewer said. “After about an hour and a half, everyone started to be very discouraged. But finding lost things really deals with intuition and a sense of where you lost this thing originally. Most people tend to dismiss their gut feeling and replace it with false logic.”
So, Brewer asked Monnig to remember, again, where the ring had fallen into the snow. Monnig pointed to a bush and directed the crew a little further down the mountain. While Sweeney and Steele hunted on top of the mountain, Brewer and Monnig stood facing each other, perplexed.
“They were having a conversation about how it was time to give up,” Sweeney said. “One of them said, “Well, the sun’s shining. Maybe we’ll see a sparkle or something.’ Then, they just started yelling. I just ran down there and there it was. They had it.”
The platinum-banded diamond ring sat “like it was on a jewelry store shelf,” Brewer said. Monnig reached between the two rocks and plucked the lost ring from its hiding spot, kneeled down and proposed all over again.
“Maybe it wasn’t quite as exciting as the first time,” Sweeney said. “Maybe it was a better ending, though. It was a completed proposal.”
The engaged couple returned to Highlands Ranch to send back the insurance money and continue planning the wedding, scheduled for Sept. 13 in Dubuque, Iowa, Sweeney’s hometown. The treasure hunters, meanwhile, returned to Denver, mission accomplished.
“That’s what I like to do. I like to find things that people have lost,” Brewer said. “You get the pleasure from somebody getting back something they love.”
Meheen, a Keystone employee since 1985, said he’s never seen this happen, although folks leave tons of gear on the mountains each year. He was just happy he could help.
“I have never dealt with people like those at Keystone,” Sweeney said. “We have no need to ski anywhere else. The Keystone people treated us like family.”
And thus, the fellowship of the engagement ring was born.
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