Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Enchanting Eightmile Lake and Magical Clovers

If I mention "The Enchantments" to any hiker in the northwest, 99% will know exactly what I'm talking about; anyone else will probably think I'm just another Harry Potter freak. (which in fact, I am) It may not be a spell, but it's always felt like it would take a little magic to be able to experience the Enchantments for myself. Although, after getting what I consider a little taste last weekend, I'm ready to conjure up whatever hocus-pocus is needed to go back for the real thing.

The Enchantments refer to an area in the Alpine Wilderness considered by many to be the Holy Grail of Washington state hiking. Indeed, it's so popular that you have to enter a lottery and hope you win the permit allowing you to camp amidst it's wonders. (along with the privilege of handing over a few dollars) Every year I consider it, and every year I fail to enter in time. It's sort of in my nature to rebel against jumping through hoops, and the whole thing just felt like far too much bother.

Officially in the Alpine Wilderness
This year the 4th of July fell on a Friday, with the added blessed miracle of a good weather forecast. My friend Debbie was asking me to help her plan a little getaway to celebrate her husband's birthday, which was on the 6th. With their recent purchases of all kinds of Costco camping gear and the guarantee of sun, a cozy little camping weekend in Leavenworth would be just the ticket! Except there was the slight problem of Leavenworth having first come first served sites at all the campgrounds, and IT'S FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND WITH SUN. But it was our only chance, considering every site in the entire state that you could reserve was already booked.
"Little" Eightmile Lake...almost to the big one 
I've been dying to do my first backpack of the year. Choosing to go on the fourth of July weekend was probably not the most brilliant idea...but going on the 3rd so I could be in Leavenworth early enough on the 4th as to have a shot at a campsite was brilliant! Researching the area I found the perfect hike; just six miles round trip, easy to drive to, several sites around a beautiful lake...and an "Enchantment Zone" permit requirement. (wah, wah, wah)
Lots of beautiful wildflowers

Eightmile Lake may be in the Enchantments, (quite a few things are named "Eightmile" in the area; I have no idea why, but it has nothing to do with mileage in this case) except it's not really IN the Enchantments. The Holy Grail area is in the "core", and can only be accessed through three other zones; none of which include poor little Eightmile Zone. So even though it's still wildly popular, it's sort of the red headed step child of the group; which gives someone a chance at getting a permit without having to enter the lottery. Therefore, with just a few clicks on the computer and a twenty, I scored myself the last available one for that day. (go to recreation.gov to try for yourself)
Somehow I talked my oldest daughter into coming with me. Just two years ago she would have said "No way!", but one by one she is facing down all her fears, and I couldn't be more proud. She felt ready to cross "being mauled and possibly eaten by wild animals" off her list, so away we went.

I'm afraid Amber gets her ability to vividly imagine horrific outcomes from me. The mind can be a wonderful dreamer, and it can also be a terrible tormentor. When I read on a trip report about someone getting freaked by the log bridge, (without handrail) I sort of panicked. I utterly hate them; I feel I'm just clumsy enough to fall off and break both my legs and maybe even die. I decided to keep that information to myself--Amber didn't need any extra fears telling her why she shouldn't go.

As we walked along the trail, Amber kept finding four leaf clovers. I'm not sure if it was some sort of mutant strain of clover, but the luck was bounteous. After finding one with five leaves, and then another with six; she declared that we had now become invincible. (then murmured "famous last words" under her breath) I was hoping this feeling of invulnerability would extend to the log crossing; and sure enough, the darn thing didn't even give her pause. I had to confess my own misgivings about it, but then strode across with the assurance that I had our magical leprechaun powers protecting me. ;)
Easy Peesy
There were two other groups already set up when we got to the lake. I was trying not to mope believing that the best sites were taken, when we went just a bit farther and claimed what truly was the perfect spot. What a view!!! A short climb down brought us to a wonderful place to jump in the water...if it wasn't so freakin' cold. Instead we sat and watched several fish swim by; it was pretty magical, even by Hogwarts's standards.

They're always after me lucky charms!!!
The hike out the next day was uneventful (except for the masses coming in) and speaking of magic--would you believe we were able to get a site at one of the campgrounds, fourth of July and all! I hope my luck will continue on into next year, when I'm determined to finally apply for a coveted permit for the "real" Enchantments.

The view out our tent door. Amazing.

For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way -
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.

or maybe you know this one better...

Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes, Clovers, and Blue Moons! Pots of Gold and Rainbows, and me Red Balloons!  ;)

All done. High five!

Now for some fun in Leavenworth


  1. Just found your link at Washington trails and jumped over here. Nice blog, great pictures, fun story. Thanks for sharing! Hoping to take my 2 sons on this hike this week.

  2. I have been dying to hike at the enchantments! Looking at your photos makes me so jealous!