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

Enchantments Fall Colors Multi-Day Hike

My Enchantments party kept shrinking until there were two of us: Dan and myself. We headed up Sunday, leaving a parking lot packed and parked cars running down the road. I basically carried too much stuff. My pack was at 45lbs which is twice what I usually carry. Part of me is proud of this: Not bad for a 50yo, but also I need more gear discipline. Many of my gear choices paid off since we had snow the second morning but it still was heavy load. I brought two camera bodies, 3 lenses and a tripod.  Didn’t end up using the tripod, but the three lenses were nice to have.  The Arcteryx Altra 75 does carry well.

A ranger was checking permits at the Stuart/Colchuck crossroads. Much appreciated and we thanked him for hanging out there being the gatekeeper.

The fall colors going up were absolutely gorgeous, and never stopped. Took a while to get up Aasgard but we reached the top with a bit of light left to find our first camp spot. Dan had mistakenly dropped our Sawyer filter down a stream chute so it was unfiltered water for the trip. I’ll get back to you on how that panned out although I’ve usually had no trouble drinking unfiltered water up there.

We found a spot around the first of the lakes and camped there. We moved the next day to something a bit more wind protected. Weather was cold and windy, with snow apparently on the way. We got the snow the next morning. I didn’t sleep well, both hearing the snow and dealing with a mouse in my tent. I thought one was trying to come in. Who could blame them? I had some seriously yummy treats in a warm dry enclosure. Turns out once he ran across my head I knew that he was trying to get out. Eventually I got that sorted.

Anyway woke up the next day with a light dusting of snow. Really beautiful landscape. Eventually it started to continue to snow for the rest of the morning and we decided to head down on Tuesday. Snow turned to rain on the pass, and continued all the way to the car and down to Leavenworth. I think it was a good decision. We shared lots of beta with various other hikers. Drove back to Seattle where my cat was very curious about my pack and its intriguing smells 🙂

Ok now some gear commentary. What I brought and thoughts on it…someone might find this useful.

Arcteryx Altra 75 Pack: Carries very well, very adjustable and comfortable. It’s so big you can get lured into bringing more stuff than you really need 🙂

Shires Tarptent Contrail: Very light, roomy and easy to set up. Tends to sag when loaded with snow and rain. Very dependent on its stakes which creates issues in soft powdery granite sand. Not much condensation when set up up facing into the breeze. I didn’t use a groundcloth this time and had no issues. Uses a hiking pole to set up. I didn’t bring poles but instead used a single 48″ zpacks carbon pole.

Western Mountaineering Versalite 10 Degree Bag: I sleep cold. I know this about myself and bring much more bag than most would. Part of this is a slower metabolism that doesn’t create as much heat in the bag as it used to. That being said, I was warm in this bag, wearing pants and a light coreloft top. My little Sea to Summit inflatable pillow and Thermarest NeoAir XTherm pad helped create a very snuggly sleeping situation.

Anker Power Port Solar Lite: I usually get a hair of a Verizon signal in the Enchantments so I bring my phone to wake up in the morning, capture candid photos and text missives of well being back home. The Anker did a great job of keeping the chargeables charged. Keep in mind that the cold is working against your batteries and often just keeping them inside the sleeping bag at night will preserve some charge.

Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry, Good to Go Dehydrated Meals: Yuck. Sorry I don’t know what to tell you. We carried an assortment of these up the hill and back down. One dinner of these was enough. One reason I love overnights is that I can bring a zip lock bag of my frozen homemade bolognese pasta sauce or meaty three bean chili and reheat.

Zipshot TR406 mini tripod. I have two monster Gitzo’s at home and they stay there when I’m headed into the Enchantments. I don’t use tripods much in the backcountry. I watch my shutter speeds and practice careful handheld technique to get sharp photos. That being said, to catch a timelapse, a small tripod helps. I like the 9oz Zipshot which basically has tent pole collapsing legs and a minimalist ball head. One secret to making this more stable that no one mentions is to spread the legs out wide enough to create some tension. That seems to help make it more solid.

Arcteryx Firebee Parka and Atom LT pants. Hiking up the hill, you are plenty warm. Its the time sitting around camp or waiting for sunrise that you need insulated layers. Like most NW natives, I have a whole closet of options. These two pieces however were essential to my warmth. I wore them constantly and was never cold, even in windchill gusts into the teens.

Endurox R4 and Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes. I like to think that I use every modern trick of nutritional chemistry to make the Enchantments a more pleasant hike. I mix Endurox into my water bottle as it does a great job of replenishing lost glycogen and helping with muscle damage and protein needs. Everyone has different thoughts on this kind of thing but Endurox makes me feel less sore the next day. Plus the banana flavor is yummy. Since I tend to sweat like a waterfall, eventually I’m going to flush out my electrolytes which leads to cramps. Putting some Endurolytes in my drink helps ward these off. A pinch of Sea Salt will do the same thing but I like the Mango flavor.

Ok that’s what I have….hope it helps

 

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Enchantments Fall Colors Camping Hiking Ultralight Survival Guide

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First off I should say that I cant stay away from the Enchantments Lakes Basin in Washington State.  Each Fall, I have to go at least once.  The first time I went, I carried way too much stuff and finished the through hike in 17 hours with bleeding feet and a strong desire to crawl back to my car.  Two weeks later however, I wanted to go again.  Since then, I have become a scientist of sorts figuring out how to lighten my load and make the whole experience more fun.

Last week, I headed up to get some fall color before I fly off to China for a work trip this week.  I saw a lot of miserable people coming up the trail, carrying too much stuff. Actually it was usually one excited person and then the others they had talked into going. I recommend taking a hard look at your load and gear. My pack was a 45L Zpacks Arc Blast, which weighs less than a pound and carries beautifully. My bag was a 10 degree Zpacks 900 fill down bag which weighs 22 ounces. My tent is a Tarptent Contrail which weighs 27 ounces and has never let me down.  I won’t soon forget seeing someone carrying a full-sized Costco tent, still in the box, bungee-corded to their pack.  Or hikers carrying iron skillets.  Ugh.  And for the record, you don’t have to spend a lot to go light.  Ebay, hiker gear for sale sites, craigslist and manufacturer’s website bargain bins are all great sources of discounted gear.  I seldom if ever buy new and only as a last resort.

I saw people carrying gallon jugs of water. I carry one small bottle of gatorade and filter as i go with a Sawyer bag filter. I carry “gatorade” tablets to make more as i go along. Now the camera gear is where i splurge, since that is why I am going.  I recently swtiched from Canon to Sony, which lightened my load a bit.  I see people carrying Gitzo 4 series tripods.  I would never do this.  I carry my Gitzo 0540 and it feels excessive.  Other times I have carried my Tamrac Zipshot hiking pole tripod which weighs 8oz.

I will expand on this topic as more thoughts come to mind.  Thanks for listening. #ultralight #tarptent #zpacks #enchantments #hiking #backpacking #fallcolors

Enchantments Lakes Basin Fall Colors with Zeiss 85mm Otus and Sony a7r2

The Enchantments Lakes Basin is one of the toughest and most rewarding hikes in Washington.  Once you’ve been up there, it’s hard to stay away as the larches turn golden in late September.  This year I decided to take two cameras, three lenses and two tripods.  I was particularly excited to see how the Zeiss 85mm Otus would capture the detail and the glow of the larches as they showed off their autumn palette.

I camped overnight and eagerly anticipated the morning light.  About an hour before sunrise, I headed out with the Otus mounted via Metabones on my Sony a7r2.  I tried to capture not only the broad landscape of fall colors but also the closeup details of the larches and their reflections in the lake.  Once the light had passed and the sun was overhead, I could barely wait to see how the shots had turned out. Mike Reid Photography

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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

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.

Annual Visit to the Enchantments Lakes Basin for Fall Colors and Larches

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Set out to find some fall color and larches. Won the walk up permit drawing, interfaced with the cranky permit lady (she reminds me of the accountant from Monsters Inc.) and quickly organized into a party of 8.
I’d like to provide one of those butterflies and rainbows trip reports where everything is wonderful but seriously, this hike is a slog. Its officially the 8th toughest day hike in the country and for good reason.  I got my pack weight down to 28 lbs including a bottle of Pyramid Oktoberfest and a pack of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Via.  My Zpacks ten degree sleeping bag weighed 1.5 lbs. My pack was 3. My tent was a Shires Tarptent weighing 1.6 lbs. Almost everything metal was titanium or carbon fiber.  I planned on eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I carried a liter of water, planning on filtering more as I went along. Its a long hard hike, each step contemplated carefully so as not to trip/fall/slide/tumble etc. Lots of hydration, sweat, aches, thoughts of anything other than how my thighs felt. Reaching the top of Asgaard, I didn’t have some wonderful revelation of otherworldly beauty, instead more real thoughts of cramps, observations of desolate granite and an eye on the watch to be sure to reach Leprechaun before dark. Ran into some guys camping right on the trail above Inspiration. Really? So many awesome spots nearby. Oh well.

Got up early for sunrise and got some decent photos. Decided to leave via Snow Lakes despite having to arrange a ride back to Stuart where my car was. I never seem to want to visit Asgaard twice in one hike. I cant imagine why. Many in my party had never been to the Enchantments before so that was fun to show them around. But their whining about suffering and how they were getting old was tiring as they were half my age 🙂

Cliff Notes: Decided to go in via Colchuck and Asgaard, camp near Leprechaun Lake and then down via Snow Lakes. Colors are looking great and weather is awesome. Made seven new friends along the way and had a great time. Lots of Aleve and Advil recommended. Once you’ve seen this, you cant stay away.