Enchanted by the Enchantments

Ever since I read a trip report about running the Enchantment Lakes when I first moved here Seattle it’s been a goal to get there. However it’s been hard to put a trip together. Typically if you are doing it in one day you go as a group both for safety and to allow you to park one car at the end of trail (at the Snow Lake Trailhead) and drive to the beginning of the trail (at the Stuart Lake Trailhead) saving 8 miles of road and about 2000 feet of climbing. The running club organizes an anual trip but it’s typically on Sunday which conflicts with my Church commitments. I’m also just not great at planning this type of thing ahead of time – it’s hard to know when I’m going to have the time it would require to take off for a whole day to do this kind of adventure.

As the Fourth of July weekend approached this year Carrie mentioned that she wanted me to think about what I would like to do to make sure I got to do something I was excited about during my day off on the 3rd and the enchantments immediately came to mind. So the morning of the 2nd before I went to work I packed my backpack and got my gear ready. The plan for to drive the 2 hours to Leavenworth and find a campsite at Eight Mile campground between the trail heads and sleep there the night before the run so I could get an early start. I took my bike with me and I was going to leave my bike at the Snow Lake Trailhead and drive to the Stuart Lake Trailhead. After the run I would then ride my bike back to the start.

When I arrived I was able to find a campsite despite the busy holiday season since most folks were trying to stay more than 1 night. When I scoped out the trailheads I dismissed the biking idea. The road up to the Stuart Lake Trailhead was too rough for my road bike and a lot steeper than I expected. So instead I decided I would just run the whole thing – starting and ending at my campsite. This should be approximately 26 miles.

I got a brat for dinner the night before and slept in our cot under the stars and after a quick breakfast I was on the road by 5:30 AM.

Campsite as I was about to leave.

Campsite as I was about to leave.

I ran with my Mountain Hardware Fluid 18 pack and started with a full 100oz bladder. I also took along a water bottle with a built in filter that Mark and Cheryl Billings gave me as a gift. In addition I had more food than I thought I would need and a small kit of survival essentials.

The pack was pretty heavy and I knew I wouldn’t be able to run as fast with it – but I also knew that the day was not going to be about speed but rather about enjoying the day and the scenery.

Words are not really going to be able to capture the ridiculous beauty of the area. And rather than a long narration about the trip I’ll just include some bullets with the highlights of what I want to remember. Even the pictures are a poor substitute for standing in the middle of this amazing place and just being overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to be in such a unique place.

  • The road up to the Stuart Lake Trailhead was a beast. I soon discovered why people try to avoid it. I should have made a better attempt to hitchhike up the trail with a few of the cars that drove by but my pride got in the way.

    View from the road as I ascended to Stuart Lake Trailhead

    View from the road as I ascended to Stuart Lake Trailhead

  • The trail up to Colchuck lake was quite runnable and a lot of run. It was exciting to start to see the mountains reveal themselves as I steadily climbed up.

    Colchuck Lake from Aasgard Pass

    Colchuck Lake from Asgard Pass

  • Asgaard pass was super intimidating. It’s a giant wall of rock and running up it was not possible. It was a hands and feet scramble the whole way up. It was about 45 minute per mile pace for about 2 miles. The views from this part of the “run” were some of my favorites of the day though. Especially when you reach the top and can see the Enchantment Lakes area on one side and look down to Colchuck lake and huge mountain views all the way to Mount Baker on the other side.
    Mount Baker in the distance from Aasgard

    Mount Baker in the distance from Aasgard

    Peaks while Climbing Aasgard

    Peaks while Climbing Aasgard

    Aasgard Pass. Does not capture how big this climb is

    Aasgard Pass. Does not capture how big this climb is

  • The actual run through the core Enchantments area was surreal since it’s such a different landscape than anything I’ve been in before. The closest was when I ran the section of the Wonderland Trail through Fryingpan gap last year. All the mountain peaks, lakes, streams, and snowfields are a virtual buffet of visual delights.
    Lakes!

    Lakes!

    Peaks!

    Peaks!

    Core Enchantments

    Lakes and Peaks!

  • The mountain goats are almost tame and would let you get within 10 to 15 feet of them. My favorite wildlife encounter of the day was seeing two baby mountain goats with their mother up close.

    Baby Mountain Goats!

    Baby Mountain Goats!

  • I added approximately 4 miles to the run due to losing track of the right trail. Part of the time this was due to missing ciarns on the rocky part of the trail and having to backtrack to find the trail again. The other issue was that I kept running into campsites and losing track of the main trail. I got particularly turned around near snow lake and it took me about 30 minutes to find the trail.

    Don't lose track of the cairns!

    Don’t lose track of the cairns!

  • The decent back to Snow Lake Trailhead was runnable but the switchbacks to get down the trailhead seemed never ending. This part of the run was around noon and the heat was getting brutal. The further down into the valley I got the temperature got higher and higher. It was about 102 degrees at the bottom.

    Snow Lake Trailhead Selfie

    Snow Lake Trailhead Selfie

  • The run from Snow Lake Trailhead to the campground is only about 2.5 miles and should have been some of the fastest of the day. However the heat was brutal and my body was thrashed by then. I ran out of water in my backpack and had to resort to filtering out of Icicle Creek. It was a death march back to the campground and again I should have hitch hiked back but my pride once again got in the way.
  • I got back to my car about 2:00 pm so the whole adventure was about 9¬†hours.

    Back at the car. Beatdown.

    Back at the car. Beatdown.

  • My Garmin got all messed up – it really doesn’t do as well on trails as I would like it to. It also got really confused when I switched into navigation mode when I was a little lost near Snow Lake. Here’s the track. It was more like 30 miles but I think the climb numbers are about right ~6500 ft.

Overall this was my favorite adventure run I’ve ever done. Can’t wait to go back!

MVP Gear were the Brooks Pure Grit 3’s. Special thanks to Carrie for supporting me on these wild adventures.

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