In the High Alpine Wilderness, Man is a Visitor

Chasm Lake

Every now and again there comes a day when you have to take advantage of epic weather conditions. In the high alpine wilderness, man is a visitor.

Snowshoeing in the high country of Colorado comes with its share of dangers and discomforts, all of which we prepare for and deal with as a trade off for being able to enjoy one of our passions, hiking.

Years ago, we both made a promise to each other that no mater the conditions, we would make an effort to keep exploring all year, in all conditions. However, there are days, few and far in between, where all things come together for an epic day in the outdoors. This day just happen to be one.

Chasm Lake Alpine Wilderness

Chasm Lake [11,800′] sits in a small granite walled cirque in Rocky Mountain National Park at the base of Longs Peak [14,259′], Mt Meeker [13,911′] and Mt Lady Washington [13,281′] high above the hustle and bustle of daily life. An unforgiving environment, even for the brave at heart, ascending to such a place in the dead of winter is breathtaking, yet dangerous.

And then it happens. The weather clears for a small window of opportunity, the clouds part and the wind clams. We stare at each other knowing, this is it. Gathering our winter gear together with excitement we soon find ourselves on the road well before the morning light.

The trek up to Chasm Lake is a relentless uphill battle through thick forests to the sub-alpine and finally above the treeline where weather and nature rule the ecosystem. This place was not meant for human survival, rather a place to respect, visit and retreat in humble awe of the dangerous beauty.

Chasm lake Rocky Mountain National Park Alpine Wilderness

Snowshoes on our feet, we set out on an amazing snowshoe outing to experience the wild and raw beauty. Every now and again there comes a day when you have to take advantage of epic weather conditions. In the high alpine wilderness, man is a visitor.

Peace,

MAD

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Lake Isabelle Early Spring Hike

Winter Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

This is indeed why we hike, why we seek the solace of the high country and why we love sharing our experiences that others might be inspired to step out of their comfort zone and see it with their own eyes. Lake Isabelle is just such a place to step outside of everyday life and into the wild unknown.

Lake Isabelle hidden from the outside world lies just to the south of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. And while many do seek an alpine experience here during the summer months, few will make the trek through the deep snow of the winter season which can linger well into June.

Winter Lake Isabelle Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

At just under 11,000′ in elevation, Lake Isabelle sits protected from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, surrounded by three spectacular peaks, Navajo (13,409′), Apache (13,441′) and Shoshoni (12,967′) and fed by the Isabelle Glacier (12,000′) via the St Vrain Creek.

While getting here is not like climbing Mt Everest, the altitude is something to respect if you’re not used to its effects. Patience is the key as you climb steadily along the trail past vast mountain views, clear running streams, lush forests and the ever present Indian Peaks which stand guard over the area.

Our latest outing was nothing less than amazing. The traditional summer trail is not passable in winter and early spring, as it is buried deep under a blanket of winter snow.

One must take precautions by understanding the lay of the land and be quite familiar with route finding and topographical maps. While the use of a GPS device can be helpful, if the batteries ever fail, you’d be on your own. Add to this technical aspect of finding your way there and back, and knowledge of unpredictable weather in the high country is a major plus to a great experience in the Colorado high country.

Lake Isabelle Winter Hike Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

Our route took us away from the summer trail and across Long Lake’s northern shore. Long Lake is itself a beautiful destination, and fed also by the St Vrain Creek as it cascades down the mountain out of Lake Isabelle’s eastern outlet.

Following Long Lake to the this drainage point out of Lake Isabelle was indeed our route. The final ascent up the drainage is demanding, as it is typically a beautiful waterfall in the summer, though in winter resembles more of a narrow ski run, steep and well covered in pristine snow. Once we made the ridge, the peaks around the lake began to appear and our excitement grew.

Getting here can be a challenge in the winter, but the reward is overwhelming. Being in the presence of such a place is breathtaking. Pictures can do no justice, neither can our words, it just simply is an exhilarating alpine experience that has to be seen and explored to understand.

From this vantage point, if your able to turn away from the lake, you can see the entire route from which you came and be able to put it all into perspective.

St Vrain Creek Winter lake Isabelle Indian Peaks Wilderness Colorado

From the Isabelle Glacier, Lake Isabelle, the St Vrain Creek, down through the valley and into Long Lake, this is indeed why we hike, why we seek the solace of the high country and why we love sharing our experiences that others might be inspired to step out of their comfort zone and see it with their own eyes.

Being in the wild untamed wilderness has a way of reminding us of how beautiful the natural world is.

To see more photos of the Indian Peaks Wilderness visit the MAD Hippies Flickr page. We hope to see you on the trail 😀

Peace,

MAD

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Overcoming Personal Challenges

The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

 The Loch Rocky Mountain National ParkHave you ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Our latest adventure had us in just such a place of overcoming personal challenges.

Which way should we go? I don’t know. One is obvious and unfamiliar, the other is obscured but the only way we’ve ever gone. Both are daunting, difficult and quite intimidating.

There we were, only a half mile away from fulfilling a dream of backpacking in a winter setting to The Loch, an amazing gem hidden deep within Rocky Mountain National Park. There was no way we were going to stop now! Only accessible by hiking in, or in our case, snowshoeing. The Loch is a picturesque mountain setting. Complete with a beautiful lake, clear running streams and surrounded on three sides by towering mountains dressed with glaciers and pristine white snow.

It was the first weekend of spring in Colorado and unseasonably warm in the high country, 20s overnight, 50s during the day. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pack in and surround ourselves with the raw and untamed wild of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Backcountry camping can be a bit overwhelming at first, as you are far from services, your vehicle and people. Cut off, you’re on your own.

Camping at The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

Not only was it the first weekend of spring, indeed there was something else brewing in the air. It was to be the vernal equinox accompanied by a supermoon and solar eclipse. Say what you will, but the energy in the air just seemed to have an intriguing sensation to it. The area we were in, part of Glacier Gorge, is known for extreme winds, and yet the air was still, calm…deafening. We sat in the pitch black of our campsite awe struck at the innumerable stars, twinkling and shooting across the night sky. The silence was intoxicating.

And yet, we stood in between two avenues. We had come so far and were getting excited that our destination was close at hand. Following a familiar route we came to an abrupt stop on the trail. The summer route we knew well was buried deep in snow, obscured and hidden under the winter snowfall. We had never attempted this in the winter and were not familiar with the winter trail that followed The Loch’s outflow stream that usually is running fiercely through the gorge from snow melt in the summer months.

Snowshoeing The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

Although we saw evidence of other hikers heading that way, we had never taken it and did not exactly know where it led. It could be to The Loch, or it could be to another valley away from our destination putting us even further away. The winter route dubbed Icy Brook is more of a steep icy / snow climb that didn’t sound too inviting to two weary backpackers who were carrying heavy packs and were all too ready to be at their destination. We opted for the summer route instead.

With no visible trace of the trail we relied on our GPS device to lead the way. Granted we were “supposedly” on the trail, we were also knee to hip deep in snow drudging up the side of a mountain. Indeed, a workout! Once we made our way up the steep snowy slope we came to an area we knew well. Just below The Loch now, we resumed our hike in by our own intuition of the lay of the land. Incredible views all around, we left our uncertainty behind us and made the final ascent to The Loch.

Snowshoeing to The Loch Rocky Mountain National Park

We spent some time reacquainting ourselves with our old friend [The Loch], whom we’d only visited in the comfort of summer. A now frozen over lake and deep snow in all directions, finding a suitable campsite might seem difficult. We’d talked about it before even beginning our trek, we wanted a room with a view! After a short while it’s as if the clouds had parted, the birds began to sing and a ray of beautiful golden sunlight came down from the heavens and shown down on an outcropping above the lake that was free of snow and provided 360 degree views of The Loch and all its beauty. We were there.

Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park, Icy Brook

When it was time to leave we begrudgingly packed up our tent, sleeping bags and belongings, stuffing them back in our packs to make our way back to the trailhead and home. But we weren’t done yet. We had spent some time exploring around The Loch during our stay and discovered that the Icy Brook route was indeed the winter trail that would take us back to where we would meet up with what we already were familiar with. It was like looking over a cliff. We met our fears, took it slow and prepared ourselves for the steep descent. Once at the safety of the bottom we just looked at each other and smiled, let’s do it again…but another day! Exhausted, though happy to have made the trek, we were thrilled to have gotten through some learning curves and uncertainty. It was another one for the books that filled us with new found joy of experiencing the wild untamed backcountry of the Rocky Mountains.

To enjoy more photos of this outing and others like it, visit our MAD Hippies Life Rocky Mountain National Park Flickr Album

Peace,

MAD 😀

That Was an Ass-Kicker

Crater Lakes Trail

Crater Lakes TrailFinding a word or short phrase to best describe our outings usually comes naturally as the experience defines itself. But when we both agreed on  “that was an ass-kicker!” we just had to laugh.

Our recent snowshoeing adventure lead us up into the James Peak Wilderness of Colorado to hike up to a series of small lakes called Crater Lakes. Not necessarily a very long hike, at just over six miles round-trip, but more along the lines of a good workout from the elevation gain [1,400′ from 9,200′ to 10,600′], all the while snowshoeing.

In 2014 we made the decision to hike every week come rain, sun or snow. Unfortunately the last several weeks we have been unable to get out for time crunches and unforeseen events.

With the weather being more like spring-like in Colorado, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to head up into the mountains this past weekend and were so happy we did.

Mountain Sunrise

We arrived just as the sun was rising on the mountains, which we took as an open invitation to high country adventure.

On the trail we made our way to the trail split that would take us up to the Crater Lakes area. It had been easy going up till this point. But, once on the Crater Lakes trail, all bets were off. After not hiking for several weeks we were feeling it.

Thank G-d for snowshoes, otherwise we would have been post-holing our way hip deep in snow. Hearts pounding, legs burning and our minds trying to tell us to go back home to sit on the couch and eat ice cream, we pushed on.

The term “ass-kicker” quickly became the established theme of the day. It’s amazing, when you don’t workout, hike or snowshoe [what’s the difference] for a few weeks it’s crazy how much you notice it. We took a few breaks, professed our condition to each other and mother nature, then sucked it up and pressed on.

Once we reached Crater Lakes we were exhausted but elated, grinning ear to ear at our ability to overcome and then be witness to such an amazing landscape. It was tough, but it was worth every drop of sweat!

Crater Lakes

Sitting down on a boulder overlooking the frozen and snow covered lakes we just had to laugh as we both looked at each other and said, “that was an ass-kicker!”

Peace 🙂

MAD

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Snowshoeing in Paradise

 MAD Hippies Life Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National ParkOur recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park was nothing short of incredible.

It doesn’t matter how many times we head off on a trail in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, we’re still going to be amazed at the landscape. Winter vs Summer, much less Spring or Fall, there is excitement and energy that is unique within the current season that cannot be replicated in another. We’ve found that the same trail can hold a plethora of observations that are unique to that day alone. The trails are always changing as nature itself is in constant transition.

MAD Hippies Life Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park

Granted snowshoeing is done in a more, how should we say, “brisk” setting, with the necessary precautions and proper gear the outing can not only be successful, but very enjoyable. Lots of people think winter is not the time they want to head off into the mountains to go for a hike, but we’ll tell you different. Indeed, because of this there are less people on the trail making for a more intimate experience. Whereas summer can bring a crowd because of the preferred weather conditions.

MAD Hippies Life Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park

In between storms is our favorite time to head out. There just seems to be a calm about nature during these times, perhaps as a way of preparing and recovering at the same time. Who knows. It just has an energy about it where the air is still, the silence is magical and nature watches you and puts on a show inviting you to explore further eyes wide open. With your mind ablaze with curiosity of the next bend in the trail, each new revelation just leaves you stunned at your surroundings. Times like these calm the soul and rejuvenate your sense of being alive.

Peace 🙂

MAD

See more pictures like this on our MAD Flickr page!

Winter Wonderland

MAD Hippies LIfe Royal Arch Chautauqua Park Boulder ColoradoAfter a good ole fashioned snow storm moved through Colorado, we were itching to hit a trail and experience the beauty of Colorado in the winter. This past week we also learned that a favorite trail of ours that had been closed for over a year because of severe flooding had reopened making our choice of outings a no-brainer. Winter gear packed in the truck, we headed out excited to hit a snowy trail and enjoy sunny blue skies in Boulder, CO. The Royal Arch trail might not be a long trail, or even a high altitude mountaineering experience, but that notion soon fades as you hit the trail and are quickly thrust into a beautiful and serene environment among the amazing Flatirons of Boulder. Hiking in Colorado is no doubt a wonderful blessing, hiking in Colorado in the winter just seems to take it to the next level. Whatever the case we are indeed in the midst of some amazing mountains that never cease to amaze us in any season all year long.

More photos of our hikes and experiences

Peace,

MAD 🙂

Resisting the Wind, Absorbing the Experience

MAD Hippies Life Flattop Mountain Rocky Mountain National Park Our latest outing took us back to Rocky Mountain National Park on a summiting adventure atop Flattop Mountain [12,324′]. Well equipped, we met nature head on as fierce winds were blowing off the peaks as if to say “try if you will human, but this place is for the determined only.” Determined we were…slowly, methodically and carefully we put one foot in front of the other and pressed on. Climbing ever higher, the energy release and altitude gain quickly reminded us where we were. But the reward today was not the destination, it was the trail, the many views…the energy of a raw and unrelenting nature that had welcomed us into its high alpine playground. Indeed, we were resisting the wind while absorbing the experience. We love hiking the Rocky Mountains, in any season, as they all hold unique opportunities to experience the beauty of Colorado.

More photos

Peace,

MAD 🙂

Let it Snow!!!

MAD Hippies Life Blue Lake Indian Peaks Wilderness ColoradoOur excitement has been mounting lately as the weather in Colorado is beginning its seasonal change from long warm days to short, cold and snowy events. Not to worry, we’re ready for the snow and can’t wait to dust off the snowshoes.

After a quick moving storm dumped several inches of snow in the high country this past week we headed up the first chance we got to check out the conditions and see nature in its raw form. Blue Lake is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness at just over 11,000′ and offers spectacular mountain views. Unfortunately those views were put on hold for clouds, fog and snow squalls moving in unannounced…all the better!

This was just the sort of hike we needed to get our snow legs back on for the fast approaching winter hiking season. Indeed,  an amazing day full of all types of weather and trail conditions.

See more photos of our experiences

Peace,

MAD 🙂

Dreams Do Happen

On yet another wonderful adventure to Rocky Mountain National Park, we were greeted with amazing early spring weather in the Colorado high country. We went into this overnight trek not fully aware of what surprises lay in store for us. While the calm Springlike weather was indeed a treat, other hidden gems began to unfold around each corner we ventured to explore. The most prominent and decisive feature that would define our experience wasn’t even realized until we returned home and, what to our surprise lay hidden within the memory card on our camera was indeed what would, and has become the theme of this latest experience…Dreams Do Happen.

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[Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park]

We’ve said it many time before, those moments in life that leap off the page and define who we are can’t be made, they just happen. In the flash of an eye without realizing it, the circumstances appear for a moment and then they are gone. Question is, did we pay attention, did we see it and did we grasp it with all of our being and hold on for dear life? We often dream of what we want life to be never really understanding that it’s constantly unfolding all around us, every day waiting for us to accept it and move on. We’re not waiting for the train to come into the station, life is happening now, constantly, what are we doing with it and how are we responding?  The picture above is a great example of the little things all around us, here for a mere moment, and when the ice melts, its gone. A sign along the trail calling to us to take notice of our surroundings. We almost fell off the couch when we noticed this picture…a heart shape appearing on the water for a moment in time at Dream Lake.

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[Moonscape Above Our Tent]

The stage was set, the evening before our hike was spent in utter relaxation around a campfire, deer meandering through, fire crackling at our feet and a cool Spring moonscape rising in the sky to let us know another day had ended and an incredible one will begin soon. An evening of dreams and elk bedding down all around us, we awoke in the morning mesmerized by the natural beauty of not only our base camp, but the incredibly calm mountain weather that was calling us to rise quickly, hit the trail and be the first [and perhaps only] people to witness manifesting dreams of what already is.

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[Dream Lake 10,000′]

Funny how you can go through life wanting something that has been right under your nose the entire time. Pardon our boasting, but we have been married now for 30 plus years, meeting in high school we never looked back. Jumping into life head first, we became parents at an early age [three beautiful daughters] and went through all the motions life seems to have for all of us to get from one stage of life to the next. Years later here we are, just us as it was in the beginning wondering how we were supposed to redefine our lives on the backside of parenthood. The answer was simple, we’re still the same young lovestruck teenagers we were when we met, no redefining needed! We’ve been talking about this quite a lot lately, curious as always about life and what it all means. And yet here we are, contemplating at the edge of Dream Lake about to realize dreams do happen and we’re still living it…

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[Nymph Lake along the trail to Dream Lake]

Sure, we’ve endured our share of problems, issues and all things in between, just like anyone else endures their own set of life’s dramatic ordeals. We were busy living life I guess you’d say. The clouds would gather together overhead and declare the change of season while we pulled up our pants and weathered the storm. Each challenge a moment of extreme character building to etch out who we would become after each lesson of life passed. Sometimes we failed, other times we passed the test no problem. Don’t we all? And today we are alive, staring into each others eyes amazed at the ride we’ve taken together through life. That’s something to celebrate. And if trouble comes tomorrow, we’ll deal with it.

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[Dream Lake’s Dreamy Woods]

What’s on the other side…who cares. Life, energy, rebirth into the hereafter. One thing’s for sure, we’ll all find out one day! For now live in the moment, in each other’s arms, hand in hand, cheek to cheek, running naked and laughing at each other for the incredible gift we’ve all been given to live our dreams, to have dreams, to be a dream…to be at all. Dreams do happen, and indeed are happening! If that weren’t enough, this blog is being closed out while a seemingly appropriate song drifts in the background just as the heart shape appeared on Dream Lake, might we share the lyrics and perhaps prick your imagination to dream a little…

“Still, You Turn Me On” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer [1973, Brain salad Surgery]

Do you want to be an angel,
Do you wanna be an angel
Do you wanna be a star
Do you wanna play some magic
On my guitar
Do you wanna be a poet
Do you wanna be my string
You could be anything

Do you wanna be the lover of another undercover
You could even be the
Man on the moon

Do you wanna be the player
Do you wanna be the string
Let me tell you something
It just don’t mean a thing

You see it really doesn’t matter
When you’re buried in disguise
By the dark glass on your eyes
Though your flesh has crystallised
Still…you turn me on

Do you wanna be the pillow
Where I lay my head
Do you wanna be the feathers
Lying on my bed
Do you wanna be the cover
Of a magazine
Create a scene

Every day a little sadder
A little madder
Someone get me a ladder

Do you wanna be the singer
Do you wanna be the song
Let me tell you something
You just couldn’t be more wrong

You see I really have to tell you
That it all gets so intense
From my experience
It just doesn’t seem to make sense
Still…you turn me on

Click here to view more photos of this hike!

Perseverance is the Key

Our latest hike is one we have wanted to take for some time, And while it is an area we have hiked several times before, we had never been there in the often avoided deep cold of winter. Add to the difficulties of winter hiking in the high country, we have personal reasons for our trek as the area we were heading for is dedicated to the memory of a dearly departed family member whose love for life was, and continues to be, an inspiration to us. As such, perseverance was the key to successfully reaching our destination. Our goal, Long Lake (10,600 feet) just below the Continental Divide deep within the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Sunny and blue conditions invited us to trek on and push through deep snow to reach our goal. Our trusty snowshoes and a positive attitude and off we went in search of not only an incredibly magical destination, but as much, another spiritually fulfilling adventure.

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[Approaching the Long Lake trail head in the Indian Peaks Wilderness]

Bucket lists, desires, goals, needs…we’ve all got them. This hike falls in between pretty much all of those. We’ve tried before only to get turned back by weather. A winter hike in the high country can be difficult in and of itself, add harsh winter conditions and you have to ask yourself if the safety risk is worth the effort. Several weeks ago we tried this very same hike, at the trail head we were met with severe winds, blowing snow and a temperature of 6 degrees making for near whiteout conditions. Halfway into the hike we turned around and headed home. There’s no doubt it was still a good hike, but safety was the key to our being able to return another day. As I’ve stated before, I used to be hell bent to reach the destination no matter the end result. Nowadays I appreciate what I can do in hopes of fulfilling my goals at any given time, responsibly and respectfully for not only myself, but all those involved.

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[A stop sign near the trail, shows the amount of snow in the area]

Perseverance was certainly a key factor to this hike. Hiking in deep snow, even though well equipped with winter gear, is no easy task. Physically demanding, and perhaps even mentally demanding, we pushed on weighing the balance of safety and our own desires. Our hike was 7.5 miles round-trip, which equals about 10 miles in dry snow free conditions in energy output. Given our winter gear and good weather conditions it was really a matter of can we physically do this. Our love for the outdoors and the area we were hiking in was certainly a great selling point, but even more so was the desire to go to a place that has a much deeper impact on us than just a hike. As was said before, the memory of a departed family member and how great an impact they had on our lives was more moving than the most beautiful hike we could ever venture on. Just knowing their spiritual presence was in the air made the day all the more magical. Indeed, with this in mind, the most daunting of tasks in life can bring out strength we never knew we had. In the end, our hike was not only successful, but every bit fulfilling in body, mind and spirit.

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[Long Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness]

There’s no way a picture can convey the actual experience. Indeed, in this case that notion holds true. Long Lake in the backcountry of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is a special place. The energy one feels here is otherworldly and so calming it is hard to leave at the end of the day. An infectious and captivating peace comes over you as you enter into this area. Perhaps the obvious beauty, perhaps the elements of nature themselves or perhaps even the spirits of the Native Americans whom protected these lands in years past and the peaks who are aptly named for them, this area draws deep into the individual who is blessed to have experienced it. It is here one can spend ours exploring, meditating or just absorbing the soul-cleansing nature of paradise on earth. Long Lake is not only a destination, but a gateway to further expansive adventures into its beginnings. High above in the backdrop the snow deepens and slowly melts all year feeding the streams that flow into Long Lake as if the veins of the of the spiritual world breathe life into the earth. Yes, there’s more here than meets they eye…

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[St Vrain Creek outflow from Long Lake]

A deep blanket of untouched powder adorns the Long Lake area all winter. Perhaps a bit of OCD, but I love leaving snow untouched, allowing its natural beauty and cleansing effects to be left to the eye and not the foot who tramples its serenity. Places such as this bring peace to a weary soul and the traveler who finds it, to this I would add, the traveler in this life and the next. It’s no wonder Debbie and I frequent this area every chance we get. Being able to come here in the winter has been a long time dream of ours that is no doubt to us been worth the effort. Indeed we will be returning, not only in winter, but all seasons. And not only for ourselves, but to engage the memory and energy of our loved ones who not only live on, but walk with us daily.

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[Indian Peaks Wilderness]

Our hike is dedicated to our beloved Rosemary Rogers Olsen whose infectious love for life, people and nature continues to be an inspiration

Click here for more photos of this hike!