So how to you add a little excitement to a multi-family KOA camping trip in a motorhome? Well, if you're in Leavenworth you go lay some miles down in the Enchantments that's how!
With a new daypack and some new trail runners that needed to be put to the test, Jessie was pretty excited to get to see some of the Enchantments while we were in town. We found a taxi service that will gladly rob you, I mean drop you off, at the Stuart Lake trail head so at 5:45am we were on our way up Icicle Rd. for a day of fun. There was no way on earth I was going to pay that fee twice in one day so our plans for getting back into town was yet to be determined, but despite my usual extreme level of planning this detail really didn't bother me.
With a 6:30am trailhead time we were off quickly covering the first section of the Stuart Lake trail to where the Colchuck Lake trail splits off. Now, if you remember back a bit I've done this trial before, but had yet to actually see the trail because last time it was all under 3ft of snow. It's incredible! This is a technical hiker's dream. Rocks, roots, and yet very little mud make for a very technical trail to hike. The last mile push up to Colchuck Lake gets steeper, the rocks get bigger, the steps get higher, and I was in love! The weather was perfect, and cresting the ridge at the top of the trail you could see that Dragontail was out just sitting there all majestic as hell. Damn I love that mountain! One day.... I don't care what route I end up taking up it (hopefully it's the Triple Couloirs), but I sure do have a longing desire to bag that peak. We took the trail around the lake to the large boulder field that sit's below Colchuck Peak and the moraine. This, was amazing! I could easily scramble around this boulder field for hours. Jumping, leaping, feeling the grip on your shoes bit into the granite just makes you feel like a kid all over again. There's a lot of enjoyment showing someone this area for the first time. It's a magical place that is almost impossible to capture with pictures. Jessie even got to witness a family of mountain goats stroll right on by while I was fertilizing the flora much farther up the hill.
We went down to the lake to refill our hydration bladders, and immediately got that childish look on our faces. We knew what needed to happen. Off came the clothes and into the lake we went! We're so pasty white I'm sure the mountain goats probably thought there were a couple of polar bears that just landed in their territory. Haha! With our clothes back on, we headed back around the lake, and descended down the Colchuck trail to the split. Jessie's shoes were working great, spirits were high, and overall we were really feeling good so we decided to tack on the extra 4mi round trip up to Stuart Lake and back.
Now what's weird is as we headed up the Stuart lake trail I felt like I was in a completely different part of Washington. It felt like back home. The massive boulders were much more hidden amongst the trees and under the bushes. The meadows of beautiful wildflowers were breathtaking, gave a feeling of complete peace and tranquility. The trail was not technical at all, much more dirt packed and gradual. Then you'd come around the corner into a section the was rocky and dry. Not large boulders, but the under-brush would be gone, and you'd be more out in the sun. The smell of pine trees warming in the sun is pure heaven! It felt exactly like being in central California. This trail is truly magical, with so many different faces, and personalities. The lake itself is surrounded by trees, and feels much more like the typical mountain lakes that we're used to on the west side of the Cascades. I took the opportunity to snag some beta images of Argonaut since Justin and I will be returning in August with an overnight permit for the Stuart Zone, and plan to climb it. We enjoyed a nice peaceful lunch on the east side of the lake while watching a duck repeatedly dive for fish and bugs under the water. The sting of the outlandish taxi fee was long gone, the stresses of work and life distant, and at that moment life was free of all things negative. This... is how to live.
With some calories and energy replenished we headed back down the trail making great time, and covering the distance surprisingly fast. I'll actually quite shocked how well we did that day. We covered a total of about 14.5mi and 3,800ft of elevation gain with surprising ease. No one was doing the gimpy-hiker-walk, and when we made it back to the trailhead at around 2pm we were feeling amazing!
It took about 30sec for the bliss of the days accomplishments to quickly fade away, and the reality of needing to find a way back to the KOA to set in. We walked across the packed parking lot heading for the road with our eyes scanning on full alert. As we rounded the bend we spotted an older couple getting into a nice new 4-door SUV. Bingo! I walked up, and politely asked if we could hitch a ride back to down. After giving us a VERY obvious eye up and down (obviously trying to judge filth and stench level, lol) he obliged, and we found ourselves a plush ride back into town! These people were wonderful. We chatted about the days events, where we were from, and it was just a great feeling to know we were a part of such a wonderful community of fellow hikers. After borderline begging them to just drop us off right there at the end of town so they weren't going out of their way they insisted on taking us across town to the KOA. This, without question, was the end to a perfect day
Looking back... I was a little bummed Auden decided he wanted to sit this one out, but I think he made a good call. The day prior we talked over the distance we were originally going to do, the elevation gain, , the potential temperature of the day, and with the pool at the KOA in the back of his mind he decided to pass. I do think he could have made it to Colchuck Lake, but it wouldn't have been easy. The sheer size of the rock steps and amount of elevation gain would have taken big toll on his little legs, and as long as we do our part to take care of the magical place called The Enchantments they'll always be there for him to see.