“In the Enchantments, nature has carved one of the magnificent places of this world–an alpine paradise of granite worn smooth by glaciers, larches manicured by wind and cold, and crystal blue lakes strung together by a creek that tumbles and thunders between them.”
I had heard about Enchantments number of times in the last year, especially from the WHC FB group during the allotments of permits. It’s usually a 2 days+ backpack trip but since I didn’t have camping permit, 3 others and I planned for a day hike which included a distance of 18 miles. The max I had done in a single day was 13 miles and I was fairly confident that I could pull this off but I was not sure about the after effects. We chose Aug 20 and the temperature forecast for that day at Leavenworth was 36 deg C – the highest I ever saw in my tenure at Washington. We planned to leave Seattle at 3:30 AM on Saturday morning. To get enough sleep, I had to sleep early the Friday night and for that I had to get up early on Friday morning. So I was kinda getting myself prepared for this from Thursday night. On Friday, I kept chugging water to keep myself hydrated and all these efforts paid off well. Since it was not a loop hike, we needed two cars and I rented one.
I slept around 8 PM on Friday, got up at 2:30 AM and it was around 3:45 AM by the time we left Seattle. We drove to Leavenworth to find it beautifully nestled between the golden sun lit mountains with an almost full moon in the background.
We had a small break at Starbucks and then went to Snow lake trailhead where we parked one of the cars. We then drove to Stuart lake trailhead and started our hike at 7:30 AM. The first part of the hike was quite easy until we reached the steep sections before Colchuk. We reached Colchuk lake in 2 hours covering 4 miles and I was happy with our pace. Colchuk lake with Dragontail Peak in the background looked stunning and it really felt like the gateway to enchantments.
It was from here where our pace was reduced and continued till the end of the hike. I could see the ridge on the top and two passes beside the Dragontail peak. I was like the pass looks steep and obviously we wouldn’t be going on those passes but instead around in some other direction. But as we continued along the rim, we saw people on the passes and indeed we had to go through the pass. Cairns showed the way and it would have been extremely difficult to do route finding without the GPS. We took the Asgard pass in the left to reach the ridge and it gained 2000 ft in 1 mile. I kept a very slow and steady pace and with the help of spectacular surrounding beauty reached the top of the pass without much fuss.
Along the way, there were waterfalls, scrambling and the route was quite fun. A guy who was descending Asgard pass told us that the previous time he was there he saw someone skiing the slope, paraglided and then landed on the frozen Colchuk lake. I imagined to be an insanely awesome adventure. I had missed the cairns and reached the top covering some extra distance and Vineetha was furious at me for doing so. From then on we kinda stuck together for most of the remaining hike. We were done with most of the elevation gain for the day (4500ft) and it was gradual descent from there on. The core enchantments starts on top of the pass and I could already see an alpine lake with snow and white mountain. Slowly we traced the trail which wound between lakes, mountain goats, snow mountains and greenery. Initially, I felt like visiting any other hike and Gaurav and I felt that the Enchantments hype was not that worth but we were proven wrong soon. It wasn’t that hot at that altitude (7500 ft) but it was quite bright. We had lunch under a rock shadow and while having we saw that a chunk of ice slipped of at a crossing on the lake. Apparently someone was running on it and the group was close to being stuck in the ice. It was post lunch where we were treated with stunning views and experiences in succession. First was at Inspiration lake where the lake shone in the bright sun. I washed my face here and we spent some time near the lake. The black and white granite stone was unique and captivated us.
Maja was uncomfortable at the thought of hiking in the night, so she was gently reminding us every now and then to keep moving. It was late afternoon already we had not even covered half the distance. Next was Perfection lake which was my favorite among the alpine lakes. There was greenery all around with a sand basin shallow lake. We all went in the water and the feet felt so good after the water’s touch. Once the trail wound around the lake we could see water falling into the blue lake from the snow on the mountains. People had camped with their tents, hammocks and having a gala time. I felt this was a paradise for water lovers. I really enjoyed walking between such pristine beauty and it just kept getting better. We were between waterfalls and number of swamps which nestled between pointed white mountains. We were all taken aback by the beauty and for me it felt like an exhibition. Mother nature was at her best and I was extremely happy to witness all that. It was truly enchanting!!
We were almost at the end of core enchantments near the Vivian lake where I could see the blue Snow lakes in the distance between the mountains. I just sat there sometime admiring the beauty. Though we were falling behind the time, I did not want to rush. We were little more than half way and it was already evening. There was another Indian group which was going at our pace and I kept them as benchmark for the pace. The trail to Snow lakes went on boulders and included some scrambling down which I thoroughly enjoyed. Near the lower snow lake, we saw water shooting horizontally and it was quite hard for me to believe that it was something natural. So I hiked away from the trail to check the source of it and saw that water was coming out of a pipe and the force gave me chills since I was very close to the jet.
By the time we reached lower snow lake it was getting dark and we took our head lights on. The trail was straightforward and we hiked the next 3 hours in the dark. Others were taking their time and Maja and I went ahead and rushed through the last part of the hike to just get done with it. It was here where the length of the hike bit us and it felt brutal to just keep going on. My watch’s battery had drained and I couldn’t track the distance anymore. I had earlier seen that the final stretch had few switchbacks and I was just waiting for it. At the end we had missed a turn and went ahead to a private property. It was Google Maps which came to my rescue here and I didn’t even know that the area was cached on my phone. It was 12 AM by the time Maja and I reached the Snow lake trailhead which completed the 16.5 hours, 18 mile hike. We waited for others to join us, went to take the other car and then left for Seattle. I was yawning almost the entire way.
It was around 4 AM by the time I reached home and around 4:30 AM by the time I went to bed. I was without sleep for 26 hours during which I drove for 6 hours and hiked for 16.5 hours – ascending 4500 ft and descending 6500 ft in between and still didn’t feel that worse. Good sleep on the previous night and hydrated body helped me pass through this. But I visited Washington’s paradise in those 26 hours and this state only keeps getting better at showing me its beauty which keeps me excited and craving for more.