Golden Larches Fall Colors Hiking and Photography: Enchantments 2017

Enchantments Prusik Peak Perfection Lake View

Enchantments Prusik Peak Perfection Lake View

Each year I contemplate the hike I will be making into the Enchantments for larches and fall colors.  I go over hiking gear lists, camera gear, food plans, compositions, etc.  I decided to go Snow Lakes route this year, having gone Asgaard Pass out of the Stuart Lake trailhead the previous two years.

My Zpacks pack ready to go at Snow Lakes Enchantments Hike Trailhead

My Zpacks pack ready to go at Snow Lakes Enchantments Hike Trailhead

We planned on staying 3 days near Leprechaun Lake.  The weather report indicated snow in the area we wanted to camp in and temps in the 20s so I packed accordingly.  My tent was the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1.  My sleeping bag was the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 degree and Thermarest Xtherm pad.  My pack was the Zpacks Arc Blast cuben/carbon pack.  Arc’Teryx Bora2 boots, Cerium SV and Alpha FL jacket, Rampart pants and Atom LT insulated pants.  There’s a reason why I worked retail at the ArcTeryx store for two years  🙂

My camera gear was my Sony a7r2, Zeiss 55 and Zeiss 16-35 lenses along with my Voigtlander 10mm.  I brought my carbon tent pole tripod, which was pretty underwhelming so my shots were all handheld.  For hydration, I brought two small bottles of gatorade and made more with Endurox R4 and electrolyte tabs as I hiked.  Food-wise, I had oatmeal and high protein granola, a stack of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and a pile of snacks heavy on Snickers bars.  I left the trailhead at 32lbs, which I was pretty happy with. FWIW, I don’t do poles after an unfortunately pole to tooth incident a few years back, and I drink straight out of fast-moving streams.  This has always worked for me, but I don’t necessarily recommend it for others.

Once the dates were in place, I put out some invites for others to go along.  All this inviting resulted in two people going with me: Jenn and Erwin.  Erwin insisted on camping halfway up which is new to me but we found camping at Snow Lakes to be a nice break and got some great shots there.

Snow Lake Enchantments Sunrise Light

Snow Lake Enchantments Sunrise Light

Another nice part of staying at Snow Lake is that the next section is flat for a while.  Having rounded Snow Lake, however, the climbing begins.  We took it slow and got to Leprechaun Lake in a few hours.

Jenn and Erwin Climbing up Towards Lake Vivianne

Jenn and Erwin Climbing up Towards Lake Vivianne

We camped near Leprechaun Lake and set out getting photos.It was a great trip as always.  Oncoming snow showers sent us back down a bit earlier than expected but we decided caution was in order.  As I write this a few days later, I, of course, already want to go back  🙂  Here is a random sampling of shots from the hike:

Many more shots at Mike Reid Photography

Lake Colchuck Hike and Timelapse Video

Lake Colchuck is one of my favorite hikes.  Its a hard slog up approximately 2500 feet but the payoff is immense.  This  alpine lake is a  great destination by itself but also serves as the gateway for the Enchantments.  I arrived Friday afternoon amongst a variety of rain squalls and questioned whether I was going to go or not.  Walking back from the bathroom, a woman whose car wouldn’t start asked me for a ride back down to Leavenworth.  That made the decision for me and I drove her back down the hill.  An hour later the weather had cleared significantly so I decided to go for it.  I was so happy I did.  The hike took me about an hour and 45 minutes to the lake.  Most of the obvious camping spots were taken but i found a “clearing” near the lake where i set up my tent and the camera for this timelapse.

I slept well that night and was visited by a goat looking for salt to lick.  I figured he was visiting all the campsites in his search.  I got up the next morning and headed back down to civilization.  I’ve been doing Stairmaster daily since January to strengthen my legs and it sure helped my knees.  As i descended, many groups were heading up.  I did what i could to encourage them, which was easy.  I had seen the peaks and the shimmering lake and knew they were in for a treat.  www.mikereidphotography.com #hiking #backpacking

Gorgeous Blanca Lake Hike in the Cascades

A few blowdowns including one massive log that required a little planning to get over. The snow shows up at the top of the switchbacks and gets deep around Virgin Lake which is still snowed over. Blanca lake itself is about 90% thawed and well worth the trip. I had hiked up with tent/sleeping bag/etc but I came back down around 5pm and there were still people hiking up in cotton/shorts/tennis shoes but who am I to judge 😉 Microspikes do help going both ways but the mud really stole the show on the way back down. http://www.mikereidphotography.com  @mikereidphotography @yourtake

Blanca Lake Washington Cascades

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Last of the Larches – Horseshoe Lake

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Packed trailhead with cars parked hundreds of yards down the road. I could have taken my truck but instead took the 330i which had no problems with the bumps and puddles. Personally, I like getting my BMW covered in mud and parking it next to a shiny SUV back in Leavenworth. Ok enough about my personal issues…

I found that this Meetup.com group had borrowed one of my Horseshoe Lake photos to entice people to go on the hike this last weekend. So I joined and gave the group leader some good natured static over using my photo and off we went to the lake. This is a less known corner of the Enchantments Lakes basin, which is known for its amazing granite and fall colors scenery. Its also a rather challenging hike. The last mile covers about 1500 vert feet alone to get to the lake. Got there for sunset, camped and then sunrise and then down. All Zeiss 18mm, 9oz tripod and Sony a7r.

Visiting Colchuck Lake and Travelling Light

Visiting Colchuck Lake and Travelling Light

Facing a really busy July, it was time to get out a bit for a challenging overnight. My friend and I chose Colchuck for a nice outing. We had some new ultralight gear to try out. The trail is in great shape and snow free but not bug free. We found a great campsite near the boulder field and set up for the night. Encountered many other hikers and climbers. Impressed with the massive packs and loads others were carrying. A few borrowed our water filter system and others stopped to chat about conditions. Rained all night but sunny and 80s the next day. An amazing adventure. Sony a7r was a dream with the two lenses I brought: Zeiss 18mm and 50mm.  My tent was a Tarptents Contrail and my sleeping bag was a Mountain Hardwear Speed 32. The Contrail was especially impressive after a night of rain and winds.  It was still standing and dried quickly.  My Granite Gear Vapor Trail also did very well with its 25lb load and most of the time I was unaware of it on my back.

Shires Contrail

Mysterious Horseshoe Lake, or Beyond Lake Stuart

Mysterious Horseshoe Lake, or Beyond Lake Stuart

I hadn’t seen enough Northwest alpine larches changing color so a friend of mine and I headed up past Stuart Lake to Horseshoe Lake. We had heard it was much like the Enchantments Lakes Basin and it didn’t disappoint. The “trail” past Stuart is an unmaintained combination of more than 100 blowdowns and routefinding, then 1100 vert feet of scramble to the Lake. However its an amazing spot once you get there and we had it to ourselves. Canon 5D2 and Zeiss 21/50mm.

On a side note, climbing back down from the lake, my front teeth impacted my hiking pole with sufficient force to break one of the lower ones. So I am on the mend this week and contemplating implant dentistry 😦

Enchantments – Learning to Love the Snow Lakes Approach.

Enchantments - Learning to Love the Snow Lakes Approach.

Second time doing this in two weeks, I am learning to love the Snow Lakes approach. Its 6000 feet of elevation gain on what’s been called the 8th toughest hike in the country. The Aasgard approach is “easier” but totally snowed over at the moment. The first time we hit overcast snowy weather at Upper Snow Lake and decided to not push onward. No photos 😦

Since this place tends to haunt you until you get up there, I set off to solo hike it and overnight as far as I could get amongst the Lakes. I met a nice pair of guys heading up for the first time and spent much of the trail telling them how awesome it was going to be. It took me about 7 hours to reach Viviane and start to look for a spot to camp. The snow was minimal until you reached Viviane and then it became 3-4 feet of crusty topped powder. I didn’t have snowshoes so I went in deep every so often. I never used my microspikes, but poles were handy.

Got up early the next day for photos and then packed up to head down. You can get a nice Verizon signal near the edge of Viviane so I was able to send some texts telling people I wasn’t in trouble. I also had a new toy: Delorme’s InReach 2 way satellite device that sends your location to friends every ten minutes and allows you to send pre-determined messages via email as well. It worked great and gave my gf peace of mind.

Coming down I ran into Cory and his merry band of elevation seeking crazies. His report should be up here soon and I hope he mentions his recipe for Lake Viviane-caught fish with bourbon sauce. Definitely trumped my cold peanut butter and honey sandwiches. We hiked back to the parking lot together and I learned a lot from them including how to tell a good Salsa dj from bad. Thanks guys for having me along 🙂

Now to go get another handful of Aleve…