Thursday, June 18, 2015

Turning 47 in The Enchantments

Last year, after I got a taste of "The Enchantments", I promised myself that the upcoming year I would jump through whatever hoops I needed to see the "real thing" and do the entire 20 mile loop through the core of the Enchantment Lakes. The problem is, I have a hard time remembering to flush our toilet, much less submit forms of any kind. I still need to renew my (expired) driver's licence for heavens sake! And to add to the hopeless nature of this pursuit, even if I remembered to submit in time, the odds of actually getting a permit are not very high.
Ten minutes in; always a climber
Along with this lofty goal, in years past I've tried to conjure up various spectacular birthday hiking excursions, to no avail. Too bad the permit season for The Enchantments doesn't start until a few days after my June 10th birthday, or I could try to combine these objectives. Wait a second...permits are not needed until June 15th!!!...and this has been the mildest winter in recent memory (making the Alpine Wilderness accessible much earlier than usual)...BEST EVER TWO-FER BIRTHDAY ENCHANTMENT ADVENTURE, HERE WE COME!!!

I am so thankful my husband also saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity and agreed to come with me. We discussed the pros and cons of going the "correct" Snow Lakes direction vs the "easy" Aasgard Pass way, and both agreed we couldn't give a flying fart what grumpy ol' Harvey Manning thought about hiking "esthetics"; we were a couple of cheaters! (If you think climbing 1,900 feet in less than a mile is cheating, that is. It sure in hell ain't easy, I can tell you that!) Ken had day hiked up the Snow Lakes trail countless times to the Snowcreek Wall back in his climbing days, so he was looking forward to going the opposite direction to see his old stomping grounds from another perspective.
A little sketchy snow crossing at the top. Ken bought me crampons, just in case
Upon arriving at the Stuart Lake trailhead to begin, Ken was a little shocked at the amount of cars. (Ha! Wait until we were leaving on Sunday!!) We knew, of course, we wouldn't be the only ones to come up with the brilliant idea of avoiding permit season; but the full lot was making us wonder if we'd even be able to find a spot to pitch our tent.
Found one! Not too bad, either!

Thankfully, we passed many people coming down as we headed up. (Ken was counting and announced, "that takes care of about half the cars") I know the four miles to Colchuck Lake were not exactly easy; but honestly, the brutality of the hike up Aasgard Pass on the following day has erased all memory of it.
Headed up Aasgard, in the shade at least
Always got to add to the cairns

It did take us awhile to find a spot, and it appeared to be just about the last one--but plenty more parties came in after us, (one with headlamps at about 2 am!) so where they rested their heads, I have no idea. The next morning (my birthday!) I was telling Ken that I'd "better see a goat!", while thinking "I'll probably be the only person in history not to see one in this area" (yes, I tend to be a defeatist when I'm afraid I won't get something I really want)...then, I'm not even kidding, just seconds later the biggest goat ever came bounding straight through our camp! Just about gave me a heart attack! I know I should have been grateful, but the truth is, he was gone so fast I barely saw him; making me worry I had missed my one shot for an an awesome goat pic. Ha, was I ever wrong!
Had to bring birthday cake!

First spot after the pass. We could see Mt. Rainer;
but couldn't get a decent picture
Like I said, Aasgard Pass was merciless. I didn't expect to be such a baby going up...but alas, I really did crawl up the thing--sucking air the entire way. Ken let me know the elevation effects your breathing, God bless him; but I don't think it makes you groan in agony with every other step you take. (I may have forgotten the 4 miles to get to Colchuck, but my legs sure didn't! They were PISSED) It took us (meaning me) four hours to go three miles to our next camping spot. FOUR HOURS...that is less than a mile an hour!!! That has got to be a new record.

Testing out the new crampons
I think the pictures do the talking when it comes to describing if it was worth it or not. We actually set up camp twice, because it was just so hard to choose! Beauty overload--what can I say? I can't, so I won't; but understand the pictures really don't do it justice either.

View from the "new and improved" spot at dusk. Perfection.
I will talk about the goats, though. At first we were shooting off pictures machine gun style, thinking how lucky we were at their proximity. By the fourth day it was more like, "get out of my way, stupid goat!";). I read how they liked human urine, but my God; when we got out of our tent it was as if they heard the ice cream truck jingle. After being followed around all morning, Ken says, "No wonder they call it a in, 'I herd you were going to pee' ". (ba-dum-chssh...elevation might also make things seem funnier than they are, because I laughed pretty hard at that one)

Had enough goats yet? Here's a two-fer; goat and marmot!
It was like Wild Kingdom out there!
Going down from Lake Viviane to the first of the Snow Lakes was almost as hard as Aasgard. If my legs were pissed on day two, they were down right ENRAGED on day three. At just about the time I told Ken to expect tears soon, we passed a blind hiker coming up. I'm serious. We wouldn't have known, except the guy trying to keep up with him asked us, "did you just pass a blind guy?" (okay, later at camp we found out he is "legally blind", but still!!! The dude is a rock star!) Yeah, I stopped complaining after that.
Impressive, right? Hopefully you don't watch Monty Python
Speaking of being back at camp--I am disappointed that I didn't make more of an effort to meet and engage with the people around us; but I was too damn tired to care. Hearing people's stories is one of my favorite parts of hiking, so next time I hope to be more social if given the chance. 
I got nothin'

The final day from Nada Lake to Icicle Creek Road was uneventful, except for of course getting caught peeing. (never fails...though, at least now with my "You Go Girl" I'm not squatting!) And we did get a good gander at the famed Snow creek wall, complete with stories of climbers falling to their deaths. (thanks for ending our magical trip on such an upbeat note, Ken! ;))
Coming up on Snowcreek Wall from the back

Trying to zoom in on climbers, but they are itsy bitsy.
Ken's been up it a zillion times.
Birthday in the mountains and completing the Enchantment Loop--I have officially marked two goals off my list, (Actually 3, if you count seeing a mountain goat) and now that I have turned the ripe old age of 47, I have only three more years until my grand goal of 500 miles on the Appalachian Trail. I'd be lying if I said the reality of it getting closer and closer is not starting to freak me out. All you hikers out there; young, old, fast, slow, strong, weak...heck, even all inspire me and give me hope that I can do it. And so, here's to pushing on and fulfilling our wander lust and adventure dreams. Cheers to us!
Did it!!!
Drink in Leavenworth? YES!!!

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Sweetest of Memories at Annette Lake

Three backpacking trips in five weeks!!! I'm on a roll! Though, spending that much time away from family tends to make one feel guilty, (especially a recovering shame addict like myself) so I was really glad my youngest daughter agreed to come with.

Even more amazing, Summer said she'd be okay with going only with me; but I knew she'd prefer having a friend come along. Melodie and I are newer friends, and our girls are also newer friends--what better way for us all to get to know each other more than to head off into the wilderness! Nothing unites like adversity, right?
One of the coolest log bridges I've seen
Killing time while waiting for the slow pokes

As I mentioned in my last post, adversity also always makes for a better be prepared for a really dull piece, because this trip was pretty close to perfect.
The view from our site...pretty perfect

Only a couple tales of woe; one of which involves using the privy when we arrived. I've used worse, but my daughter was horrified. She started to go into "teen-age freak out mode" (okay, she's always had a freak out mode; but hormones have not made them better, that's for sure) with a "there is NO WAY I'm going in there" tirade. She's not a stranger to squatting in the woods mind you; but being as we were in a parking lot of no less than 40 cars, this trail is not exactly your average "wilderness" experience. I knew how badly she needed to use it, so I did what any good parent in this situation would do...I paid her off. Sorry people, but when all else fails, bribery works; and after four kids, I'm not above it.
One of the sites to the right. Not bad either. (yes, we are stealing wood)
Camp chairs?!?! Melodie knows how to do it right. I'm buying some.

The journey up was not without complaints (I'll admit I sold it as being easy; which it was not) though at a little over half way up Summer saw me struggling and offered to switch for my heavier pack; making me very proud of course.
My amazing hiker girl

Something I will mention here for any of you reading this because your thinking about visiting-- you had better like dogs! I'm pretty sure we saw at least 30 of every shape and size; it was quite an amusing parade. They were all very well behaved...well, all except one. As we were taking a breather and having a snack, one of the procession's canine participants came over to investigate if we had any hand outs. When being denied a treat, Mr. Doggie decided to let us know what he thought of our lack of generosity by lifting his leg to Melodie's backpack! (innocently sitting off to the side) Thankfully the dog's owner had caught up by then and was able to run interference. Then she laughed and said her mutt had managed to mark a guy sitting by the lake who was just minding his own business. I think someone needs to go see a vet for a little "snip snip"... just sayin'. 
Cook extraordinaire 

When reaching the lake, you can go either right or left. There are good campsites in both directions, though be prepared to cross a sketchy log bridge if you go right. (not scary...just busted and therefore a bit challenging to cross; especially if you have a heavy backpack on) We knew we wouldn't be alone for the night, but I was impressed with how spread out and plentiful the sites are, giving a decent feel of privacy. (except for when the parade came marching through in the morning, of course)
Yes, this is the one picture I borrowed from Melodie. Don't rub it in.

Rocking the fire and utilizing every bush
I was going to try to tell the second tale of woe with great finesse, but I'm afraid it's one of those "you had to be there" situations. Besides, I was back at the campsite when Summer fell into the lake, (100% submerged and completely clothed) so I all I know for sure is that according to Lindsey, it's an image that will make her giggle for the rest of her days.
She fell in?!?!? What a shocker

I have no idea what is going on here
The wet clothes were much heavier to pack out

I anticipated sharing a tent with Melodie because I figured the teens would want to be together, but this was one of the sweetest surprises of the trip...not just that the girls asked to bunk with their Moms, but also that they genuinely seemed to enjoy hanging out with us. (a little, anyway ;)) Sure, there was some whining and eye rolling; but there was also those instances when suddenly they became again that little girl who just wants to lay down in your lap. I don't know how many more years I will still get those moments; so I know I can speak for both us Moms when I say every second was immeasurably precious. I hope we both have a few more coming.

These kind of memories do wonders to lessen my guilt over my back packing addiction. I am bringing another family member on my next outing; this following weekend I plan on extending my roll to a fourth trip. I have not had much luck with my past "birthday extravaganza" agendas, but I believe this time will be different. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Until next time!!!