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 Camping Hiking Ultralight Survival Guide

Enchantments hiking camping ultralight guide leavenworth larches Enchantments hiking camping ultralight guide leavenworth larches Leprechaun Lake Fall Colors

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

Heading up to Pinnacle Saddle for Sunset

I had heard that most of the snow was gone so I decided to head up to the Saddle to see.  Turns out there’s a bit still left but it should be gone in two weeks.  Flowers are starting to come on.  A bit of lupine and paintbrush around Paradise.  I packed an over night pack in case I decided to camp last night but didnt:

My overnight photography pack. REI Stoke 29 pack and
– sony a7r with Zeiss 50mm
– Zeiss 16-35mm
– Gitzo gt-0540 tripod, RRS clamp and BH25 head, remote, extra batteries
– Ten Essentials including Nitecore p10 800 lumens flashlight
– Pants, down jacket, pullover, extra socks, extra doorag
– One Black Diamond Ultra Mountain carbon pole for tent
– Two bottles of purple gatorade
– Bananas, pb/honey sandwich, powerbars, powergels
– Shires Tarptent Contrail and stakes
– MH Phantom 32 bag

Felt light, carried well and I didnt end up camping last night.  www.mikereidphotography.com

Rainier Sunset IMG_2493

Spring Overnight Hike Along the Baker Chain Lakes Trail

I had noticed on WTA.org that the Chain Lakes Trail up around Artist’s Point had mostly melted out.  So I decided to go up there for an overnight and hopefully some nice light on Mount Baker.  My gear selection was Arcteryx M40 pack, Shires Tarptent Contrail and ZPacks 10 degree bag.  These choices turned out to be good, I was warm enough at night and the pack carries so well with about 25 lbs or so.  I have to mention that I really appreciated the Zep Peach air freshner that someone left in the bathroom at Artist’s Point.  Much appreciated as its a losing battle in the bathroom, but the Zep helped.

Iceberg lake wasnt quite totally melted out but still had a nice reflection.  I decided to scramble down the avalanche chute and try to find a spot along the lake.  I think it was definitely worth the trip.  www.mikereidphotography.com #backpacking #hiking

DSC09303 DSC09338

…and now the timelapse I made at sunrise

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

Artist’s Point Sunrise Overnight

I had been meaning to hike up here for sunrise for quite some time.  By mid last week, however, I had exhausted my list of companions, so I went alone. Weather was supposed to be good;  Clouds clearing off and temps around 20 with winds gusting to 30mph.  I was also curious about some of my new winter gear and how it would perform.  So off I went to Heather Meadows parking lot.  No recent snowfall, and the snow on the ground was crunchy, so I went with my Sorels and no snowshoes.  My other gear choices:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 tent – I knew I would need something freestanding but didn’t think I would need my Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault.
  • Zpacks 10 degree down bag and Thermarest Xlite Xtherm pad.
  • Arcteryx Naos 55 pack
  • Mountain Hardwear Phantom and Ghost Whisperer Jackets with Transition Windstopper underneath.
  • Arcteryx Windstopper shell pants with Windstopper tights underneath.
  • Delorme inReach satellite beacon
  • Sony a7r camera and Zeiss 21, 50 and 100-300 lenses with Gitzo 0540 tripod.

Climb to Artists Point was uneventful, except maybe wishing they would open the road up with so little snow.  I’ve always seen the WSDOT as being a flexible organization.  🙂

At the top, the wind came on strong.  I tried pitching my tent in two spots and it blew itself inside out.  I lashed it to a tree while I looked for a better location.  Scouting around, I noticed a group of tents near the parking lot which was under several feet of snow.  I went back to gather my stuff to join them.  It turns out that seeing me, the guys camped there set out to come see if I was ok.  We met in the middle. They helped me with my tent aka wind sail and we camped together against a bluff that blocked the wind sort of.  They had used a sled to bring up an ample supply of Coors which we dove into.

With me in it, my tent was bending 20 degrees or so in the wind, but I eventually fell asleep.  I was warm enough, figuring the wind chill at about 0 degrees.

I got up early and got some nice shots of Baker with alpenglow coming on at sunrise.  I went back and thanked my new compadres and packed up.  As I was heading down, scores of skiers were heading up.  The new day looked spectacular.DSC03286 DSC03311_stitchsmaller DSC03397

Low Tide Blue Hour Light at Second Beach

Here’s how this trip came together. I’ve been watching the weather at certain locations and in this case, the tides on the coast. The tide tables… http://tides.mobilegeographics.com/locations/3230.html indicated an unusually low tide this last weekend. NOAA weather said it was going to be mostly clear and warm. I had the chance to rent a new lens I’ve been wanting to try out, so its on. Its about four hours out to the coast and dont underestimate the additional 14 miles plus hiking once you’ve left 101.

Second Beach Blue Hour Low Tides