:: THE ENCHANTMENTS
“Ooooh, the EnCHAAAAANTments…” Yes i’ve heard about the Enchantments for years, and the obligatory oohs and aahs that always accompany the experience people describe hiking here. To me it’s felt a like a pipe dream; after entering the permit lottery for years to camp I’ve never won. (not too surprising given it’s about a 6% chance of winning). A grueling day through hike at 22 miles with no permit needed never felt appealing so I’ve been reserved with the idea I’d probably never go (I mean there are so many amazing places to hike and backpack here in the Northwest, right?). But when my friend Chris called and offered a spot in his friend’s group I did not hesitate with an immediate yes!
Chris and I drove with Jen and Ann (four out of a total of sixteen in the group) out to Leavenworth where we dropped them at an Airbnb in town and headed to a KOA campsite for a warm night of camping (and rather raucous partiers in a cabin rental next to us which I effectively quashed with my ‘outdoor grumpy old man voice’). Going from a KOA campound to the Enchantments in retrospect could not have had any more contrast.
We rose early around 6am to break down camp (Jen and Ann decided to get an earlier start than us). We dropped off Chris’ car at a local home where the owner drove us to the packed trailhead (Chris had also left his brand new hat in his car but luckily was gifted another hat from a returning hiker). The weather was heating up but luckily we had some cloud cover to cool things down as we gained elevation. And up and up we went, over 4000 vertical feet through dusty switchbacks, craggy scree fields and a water crossing as we eventually hit Nada Lake and then Snow Lake, our permit spot for the four nights of camping. We found a dry spot with good tree cover next to the lake for our tents and settled in for the night, complete with thunder and lighting.
The morning brought more cloudy weather as we decided to hike into the Core, another zone of the Enchantments and home to most of the alpine lakes. To get there required another lofty ascent (about 1500 vertical feet), but this time thankfully with a lot less gear in our backpacks. As the forest trail turned upward we went from flat earth to a steep granite incline, including some scrambling over boulders and exposed tree roots. Near the top of the ascent the rain started to hit as we inched closer to Lake Viviane (the first of many alpine lakes). The rain then turned to hail as Chris and I found shelter under a stout pine tree. We probably spent at least 20 minutes before the hail died down and turned back to rain, where we decided the get the hell off the mountain. So down we went, getting soaked along the way (Chris did not have a rain jacket…naughty!) and slipping on the granite surface. The rain finally ended as we reached camp where some much needed sun came back out to help dry out our wet gear.
The next morning brought much better weather as we ascended up the the core again. Past Lake Viviane brought us to Leprachaun Lake, then Sprite Lake, then Perfection Lake and finally Inspiration Lake. The scenery felt like a Disney movie, or maybe Tolkien’s Middle Earth: bubbling brooks and creeks, snow fields and glaciers, giant waterfalls way off in the distance, goats roaming the pastures and cliffs and of course all the shimmering, emerald lakes. We eventually landed on a glacier at the end of Lake Perfection where we decided to turn around, but not before I climbed to the top of the snow for a memorable glance at the entire lake and valley. On the way back the weather stayed warm and glorious as we descended back to camp.
The following day was a day to relax, swim and just hang out at camp. We did a few short excursions around the lake, ate the rest of our food and drank the last of the whiskey. I also finally used the hammock for some much needed reading and rest. The sunshine also helped dry out the damp clothes as we savored the last moments of a clear, beautiful day.
In the morning we packed up and hit the trail with more favorable weather. Where the ascent into the camp probably took us the better part of a day, the descent took us all of about three hours as we glided briskly down the mountain. At the trailhead we called for our ride to Chris’ car and drove back to pick up Jen and Ann (with a request Corona beer and apple from the store). A stop at the river for a dip was a must, then to a restaurant for a much deserved meal along with a salty Bloody Mary. Deelish!