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

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

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…

Hiking into the Enchantments

Hiking into the Enchantments

Decided to celebrate my gf’s 50th birthday by an overnight in the Enchantments. We left Seattle very early to get to the ranger station for the permit drawing by 745am. All was good until we hit a road construction roadblock in Tumwater Canyon. So we were late for the drawing. We still managed to score a Snow Lakes permit and decided to camp there and venture up to the Lakes from there. The hike was beautiful; Fall colors were just starting to come on. This is the 8th toughest day hike in the country according to Backpacking magazine. Even so, I always remember this as the “easier” route into the Enchantments. A mistake I wont be making again soon 🙂 Its basically a nonstop climb with a few level spots to tease you. My pack was about 35lbs and hers was about 20. Lots of pondering about how to drop even more weight in the gear.

We got to the dam between the Snow Lakes and saw a group of goats with babies wandering about. Closeby was a group of 20somethings making a lot of noise. I figure the goats were there hoping for salt. About an hour later we reached the last camp before the bridge at the west end of Upper Snow Lake and set up camp there. We were soon asleep after she unwrapped a small birthday gift in our tent.

I set the alarm for 5ish to get up and hike up to the Lakes. I peeked out and the weather looked ominous. Socked in and damp. A half hour later it was snowing. That was our clue to pack up and head back down. We talked with the kids and their plan was to head up to the Core area. Eyeing their gear, it seemed like a bad idea. We also ran into several cheery parties heading up the trail. Knowing the weather forecast and being where we had been, we hoped they had packed well. Back at the trailhead, it was time for Starbucks, Icicle Brewing and Alpen Hamburgers 🙂

Definitely going back up in a week or two for larches and hopefully better weather.