This has to be one of our all-time best memories ever in our beloved Rocky Mountains -- and that's saying alot because we have had some unbelievable memories there!    But every time we think about this amazing winter "stomp" with our friends, we're filled with warm and longing memories!  Longings to go back and do it again!   So many of our Rocky Mountain Forum friends were there.  Almost everyone stayed together at the McGregor Mountain Lodge, which reminded me of a college dorm complex with everyone running around between cabins, hanging out talking and laughing.  It was such a blessing.   I remember having conscious gratitude for the fact that these people were family -- and Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park was "our" community.  It felt like being  home :)

The first morning we were there, Bill and I met Erik at the Dream Lake trailhead at about 5:30am so we could make it to the lake by sunrise.  It was glorious!   No wind.  Thick snow.  A pink glow over the lake.  It was so surreal!   But, as fabulous as that hike was, my best memory of that hike was after the hike, having coffee with Erik while he listened to my struggles with the direction I should take my photography.  We bounced ideas around, and I had a stirring in my spirit that I was hearing and being encourage by God -- thru Erik.  It was amazing!

This is a slide show I did to plant the awesome memories of this trip firmly in our hearts forever :)   The RMNPforums Stomp #5   Below, I've also attached a couple of videos that Bill took with his camera of all of us in the igloo.

The next morning, we all got up and met at the Bear Lake trailhead for our  "Stomp Hike" to Lake Haiyaha.   It was "The One" that we had all planned and psyched ourselves up for.   Part of the group had gone up the day before to build not one, but two igloos for anyone who wanted to camp out.   It  turned out to be a hike thru fresh, billowy soft snow -- and no wind!   Amazing for that time of year!    Of course we did  travel what was purported to be a more direct "shorter" back route up (and I do mean UP) one of Igloo Ed's "death trails".    But it was so beautiful!  I remember commenting over and over:  "I can't believe how beautiful this is".   It was like a winter fairytale land.  Big thick flakes fell down most of the way, and the snow was so soft, it was like walking on pillows.  But jeeeeeeez was it steep.    I will say tho, that  between Bill and our new friend J.P., we were all laughing so hard we could almost forget about how steep and hard the climb was.   And somehow, with so many of us trudging uphill in the snow together, it seemed to make the grueling steepness a little easier. 

Finally, the trees broke, and the most beautiful alpine view of the mountains and the lake below appeared.   It was literally one of the most awe-inspiring scenes I remember ever seeing.   As we feasted on the site, someone noticed, "Hey look. . . . there's an RMNP Welcoming sign on the lake!"   Sure enough.  Mark Zemmin & Allen Bierbaum had gone out -- and with an engineer's precision, had foot-drawn RMNP on the lake to welcome us.   "We're almost there!"  Orrrrrr, so I thought.  We had to hike around the lake, and the igloos were built in a thicket up the other side of the mountain.   Ohmygoodness, that last trek was steep.   When we finally got to the glorious igloos, we were informed that no one really comes the route we did -- because there is a shorter, much less steep route if you turned left instead of right and went up that way.   Tee hee.    That's okay.  We looooooove hiking :)

When we got there, we took off our snow shoes and marveled at the handiwork of the igloo builders.   We walked around and noticed a cave with a poor little "snow guy" crumpled up in the snow beside a toilet seat, complete with a "love note" wishing the igloo campers well :)   It seems Erik & Michael, the local mountain goats sneaked away in the night to play a prank on the campers.   We laughed our heads off -- but deep down -- how can you not be amazed at the physical prowess of these guys that head out under moonlight, and prance up there in about an hour and a half to play a joke on his forums comrades!  

So, after the appropriate tribute to the pranksters, we crawled in one of the igloos -- I think we had 14 of us sitting in one at one time!   As we sat there, we thought we were being visited by the "Beer gods".   Cans of Coors Beer started falling thru the sky hole in the igloo!   Everyone wondered if we had died and gone to heaven somehow!  But alas, it seems our buddy J.P. surprised us and revealed that the contents in his pack that he had been hauling up there on a sled behind him was in fact a case of Coors beer!   :)    What a man!! 

After a nice rest of giggling, videos, pictures and snacks, we all put the snowshoes back on and headed back down.  Again, we hiked in the biggest, fluffiest snowflakes falling all around us.  It made the most glorious winter wonderland I ever could have imagined.   It seemed the trip down took 10 minutes, but I'm sure it took longer than that.   When we got to the parking lot, we were so weary, but so filled with well being.   It was absolutely PERFECT! 


These are a few photos from our Haiyaha hike.    These are not all my photos -- but the collection of everyone's photos made the memories totally complete.  I think my favorite of all are the ones of the igloos at night.  These were taken by Aleks Miesak, who was one of the campers who stayed overnight.  The other pictures were contributed by Brent Doerzman, Kristin "Iceberg" Slauter,  Tom Veik,  Mark Zemmin,  Jennifer "Grannyheart" Rhiesen, Igloo Ed, Aaron, and Bill.

Here is a snippet that Bill took in the igloo.   Igloo Time :)     and   Sandy, Bill & Erik playing at Dream Lake