Trip report from July 17-19, 2008 hiking up the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth, WA. This wilderness is renowned as one of the most beautiful hikes in the state and after visiting, I really can’t argue with that. Due to overuse of the Enchantments the Forest Service limits overnight camping via a permit system. I booked permits back in March, on the first day I was able to send in an application and, as it turned out, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer weekend. I reserved permits for a group of three, but ended up only being able to convince one person to come along (friend from work). I suppose this simplified logistics if nothing else. Posted below is an account of day one. I’ll post day two and three tomorrow or the next day.
Thursday July 17, 2008
We took off from Yakima at 6:30 this morning and zipped up to Leavenworth in a little more than an hour and a half. The weatherman said clear and sunny for the weekend and the skies over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness were complying. In Leavenworth we stopped off at the Ranger station to pick up our reserved wilderness permits and grabbed a few last minute supplies (groceries, Jetboil fuel, bug spray) before heading for the trailhead about ten minutes down the road.
The trail switched back and forth heavily from the get-go and my fully-loaded pack jostled robustly against my deltoids as we stomped upward. Lots of evergreen, lots of rock, and a stream running well below the trail. Snow Creek Wall (pictured below right) up ahead made a good progress landmark. We’d been warned that the mosquitoes were raging, but weren’t bothered at all in the early going.
After a couple of hours of hiking over streams, boulder fields, and dusty trails, we reached Nada Lake (bottom left) and the first moment in the hike where things really became picturesque. The deep blue water was inviting, but we had a long hike to go and hypothermia to avoid. Pictured bottom right, these Columbine flowers lined much of the trail above Nada Lake.
After cresting the boulder field above Nada Lake we had fairly level terrain to and around Snow Lakes. Snow Lakes is a popular camp spot with established sites overlooking the almost tropical-looking blue lake water. The mosquitoes were also camped here. Below left, the trail actually crosses at this dam between the Snow Lakes.
Getting to Snow Lakes is certainly a full day of hiking in itself, but Enchantments was the goal and Enchantments it would be. 1500 feet of elevation gain to go from Snow Lakes. Lots of cascading waterfalls on the next steep stretch of switchbacks.
And then suddenly we were scampering over a last stretch of rock and stumbling into a landscape that looked like it belonged in a Norwegian fjord, or a fairy tale. The first view you get as you top out is the picture on the left (cliffs above Lake Viviane) and then you swivel to the right and are peering up at a stunning spire of perched granite (Prusik Peak).
I was recharged instantly and spent the next half hour scampering around the rocks above Lake Vivianne. How is that color water even possible?
With our elevation gain largely done for the day, we set about finding a campsite, where the only difficulty we encountered was narrowing down our choices from all of the idyllic options. We eventually wandered past Lake Viviane across a sketchy-looking snow bridge and settled on a site on a peninsula within Leprechaun Lake with views of McClellan Peak across the water.
I set up my tent, cooked up a little couscous for dinner (Jetboil is the greatest invention ever), then explored the surrounding hills for a couple of hours. Returning to camp I bumped into a family of goats who tagged along with me all the way back into camp. A thermos of Jetboiled hot chocolate and one sunset later and all was right with the world.
Oh, and I should mention the toilets. These may be some of the best views from a toilet you could ever ask for. Hats off to the Forest Service. Left: gazing up at Prusik while you handle your business. Right: views of Snow Lakes taken from a well-placed toilet.
Friday preview (peaks climbed): McClellan, East Dragontail, Dragontail, Witches Tower, Little Annapurna