Enchanted by The Enchantments

I learned a lot of things on a recent weeklong backpacking trip with a bunch of guys…

…including the fact that boys like to talk about poop. A lot.

Their poop-banter was delightfully juvenile and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I also loved having the opportunity to spend so much quality time in nature with friends that mean the world to me.

This past year and a half has been very difficult due to the illness, and ultimate death, of my mother. I’m just now beginning to find my footing again as I step back into a life of adventuring. These guys have always surrounded me with love, laughter and friendship, and I relished the opportunity to have them all to myself for several days.

My companions included Glenn (my husband) and his brother Chris.

Chris enjoying a brief rest on our hike.

Glenn (center), always good for a laugh. (Photo by Chris)

Glenn and Chris hadn’t been backpacking together since they were in the same Boy Scout troop over 37 years ago. They lost their parents when they were quite young. As such, I always enjoy their conversations when they get together and try to reconstruct their shared history (a dynamic I’ve never experienced as, until recently, my mother has always been around to ask).

For example, does Chris remember the time they replaced the mildewed wallpaper in the kitchen…only to discover the smell was actually coming from a rotten pan of au gratin potatoes that had been long-forgotten in the oven? Or, is Glenn’s recollection of why people started calling him by his middle name (Glenn) instead of his first name (Donald) the same as Chris’ – that his parents didn’t want to be constantly reminded of their close friend Donald’s untimely death in the Vietnam War?

I also got to spend time with Kyle, whom I’ve worked with for well over a decade. For many of those years we sat within spitting distance of each other. We used to spend nearly every waking moment at work in each other’s company, including eating lunch together every day (chicken burritos from the food cart a few blocks away…extra Tapatio sauce!). In recent years, however, we’ve been working on different projects and so, while I’m still physically near Kyle, we are moving in different circles and I don’t get to connect with him very often. I’ve missed him.

Kyle and I catching up. (Photo by Chris)

Kyle pointing to the ridge we were going to hike over. He was a little too excited about the prospect. (Photo by Chris)

Fritz also came along for the adventure – bless his heart! Beyond doing a few trail runs with us, Fritz has never gone hiking…much less backpacking for several nights after climbing an incredibly difficult trail! His 45th birthday was coming up and he decided to try something totally new and outside of his comfort zone.

Fritz went from novice to advanced hiker in a matter of days!

Happy Birthday Fritz! I bet this will be one you’ll never forget. (Photo by Chris)

Fritz and I are each others’ biggest cheerleaders. We challenge ourselves, and each other, to constantly try to do more than we thought we could. I can’t count the number of hills I’ve run up because Fritz was at my side saying we could do it.  Trying new things together is a most cherished aspect of our friendship.

Backpacking is, by far, my most favorite thing to do in the entire world. It was such a treat to share that with Fritz. I got to watch him gain his “trail legs” and step with more determination and confidence as each day passed. I got to watch him enjoy his first tastes of dehydrated camp food. I got to watch him go through withdrawals as we moved out of cell service range and he began disconnecting from the outside world…and then I got to see him become enveloped with that sense of Zen that can only come from such disconnection.

“Look like you’re having fun,” I said, before snapping this picture. He’s always a good sport.

My dear friend John also came along. John is like a brother to me – a brother with the biggest heart and the sharpest wit. Plus, John thinks I’m as funny as I think I am…which is a lovely character trait!

John. I so adore this man.

John’s beloved wife Melissa died the day after my mother died. We found ourselves on parallel journeys and have been able to, I think, provide some solace to one another because of our shared experience of watching the most important person in our lives be consumed by cancer. Melissa loved backpacking, and being with John in nature was a treasured activity for her. I have no doubt he missed her terribly as we meandered down the dusty track. Despite the sadness, John was able to smile, joke, laugh and enjoy the camaraderie of the trail. That warmed my heart.

John (blue jacket) enjoying yet another grand tale of Glenn’s. (Photo by Chris)

John demonstrating how awe-inspired he is by the scenery.

John and I talked about what Melissa would have loved about our hike, and how she probably would have made campsite pancakes like me (way too big to flip safely in the pan…but yet, we can!). Grief is an ever-shifting and complex journey – and I’m so thankful that John and I got to spend some time remembering the past, while also making new memories together.

My final companions were the towering mountain peaks and shimmering alpine lakes that surrounded us on our journey.

Yup. Doesn’t get much better than this! (Photo by Chris)

I had heard about a place called “The Enchantments” in Washington State from several friends that had visited there over the years. It was said to be such a magical place that you had to win a lottery to be able to camp there. We were lucky enough to get such a camping permit and, under the haze of smoke from distant forest fires, we set off for what was one of the most beautiful backpacking trips I’ve ever been on. It was one of my most challenging backpacking trips as well, with ~5,700 feet of elevation gain, nearly 50 switchbacks and more rocks, boulders and uneven trail surfaces than you could shake a stick (or trekking pole) at!

For those who want the specifics:

  1. We were on the trail for 4 days and 3 nights.
  2. We hiked in and out on the Snow Lake Trail near Leavenworth, Washington.
  3. We camped at Upper Snow Lake and day-hiked into the “Core Zone” area.
  4. We traversed ~23 difficult miles – that seemed to be going either straight up…or straight down.
  5. I now know more about the male digestive system than I should!

Enjoy the pictures below, and to see more pictures and video visit Chris’ blog.

Snow Lake Trail

Glenn and Fritz working their way up the trail.

Kyle waiting for us slow pokes in one of several boulder fields the trail traverses.

Fritz perfected his Spider Man approach to scrambling over the boulders.

Some smokey haze at Nada Lake. (Photo by Chris)

Evidence of the wildfires burning throughout Washington.

Up, up, up, up and more up…

Trail buddies.

A motley crew.

Kyle and Glenn…are we there yet?

Two of my favorite fellas!

Log jam at the dam end of Upper Snow Lake.

Close up of the log jam. Hard to tell where one log starts, and the next one ends.

Keeping your balance with a heavy pack is great fun on boulders like this! (Photo by Chris)

Camping at Upper Snow Lake

John attempting to hang a few of our bear-bags. Not as easy as it would seem…

A view of our campsite from above… (far view top, closer view bottom)

Enjoying (?) dehydrated camp food delicacies. Fritz loved the beef stew. The cashew curry, not so much.

John hanging more bear-bags…which we mostly did because of the rodents. Lots of very friendly field mice came for dinner.

Not a bad view…but it sure got cold in a hurry as the sun started to set.

Fritz, Kyle and Glenn filtering water from Upper Snow Lake. (Photo by Chris)

“Core Enchantments Zone” Day Hike

Kyle kept saying “we’re almost to the top” even though we clearly weren’t!

Still not to the top of the ridge… (Photo by Chris)

Kyle, Chris and John – My hiking buddies for the day.

Making our way up toward the top of the ridge between the Snow Permit Zone and the Core Enchantment Permit Zone. (Photo by Chris)

Lunch break! (Photo by Chris)

Following the creek between Perfection Lake and Leprechaun Lake.

The trails definitely aren’t for the faint of heart – would be even more harrowing with a 40 pound pack on!

I loved the contrast of the blue skies, gray rocks, indigo water and yellowing pine trees.

Perfection Lake. (Photo by Chris)

Our turn-around point at Perfection Lake. (Photo by Chris)

Waterfall across the way at Perfection Lake. If you look closely you can see two hikers above the falls. (Photo by Chris)

The larches were just beginning to turn yellow…if only we had arrived a few weeks later (Fun fact: although they are conifers, larches are deciduous trees and lose their needles in the fall).

John and Kyle taking in the view above Lake Viviane.

John pointed out how the rock across the lake was happy to see us.

It was lovely hiking between the lakes in the Core Zone. Definitely worth the effort to get up into this area.

Leprechaun Lake. (Photo by Chris)

Taking in the view after climbing up so high. (Photo by Chris)

Wildlife

Our next to last day…and we were all starting to smell like the wildlife! (Photo by Chris)

Chris, Glenn, Kyle and Fritz went for a short hike and came across some deer. Glenn apparently thought he was at the petting zoo? (Photo by Chris)

On the way out we came across a family of the infamous “Enchantments Goats” – two mothers and three babies.

Hello mama goat! (Photo by Chris)

Here’s a video of our goat encounter.

Thanks for the great memories guys. I love you all!!

4 comments on “Enchanted by The Enchantments

  1. Wha a great post to wake up to this morning. Everyone who has done the Enchantments will testify to your experience. Beautiful and rugged. What a joy in life to have such companions to do it with.

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