(note: the goal of climbing Enchantment Peak was not attained on this trip due to bad weather but you might find some of the information useful for planning your own trip into this area)
Golden Week in the Enchantments
When Tom put up the notice that he had two extra spots available on his Enchantment permit I jumped at the chance to go. The timing was perfect for the Larch trees turning their famous gold color and I had always wanted to experience this first hand. Tom and I set up arrangements and were on the Stuart/Colchuck trail friday. We made it up to Colchuck and then worked our way around the south side of the lake to start up Aasgard. I don't know why but Aasgard always kicks
my butt but Tom was a great hiking companion and took my slowing him down in stride. The first thing that hit me going up the Aasgard route was above us you could see tier upon tier of Larch trees that had already turned gold, giving us hints of what was yet to be seen in the middle Enchantments. The Larch is only one of two pine trees that drop their needles and fortunately there are several areas in the Cascades where they put on their annual display of color. The Stark's referred to this as "the golden week".
After making the top of the pass, we took our time going down through the upper Enchantment lakes and were particularly impressed by the beauty of Brynhild (Isolation) Lake. This was Tom's first visit into this area even though he had climbed nearby Dragontail back in August. The photo possibilities in this area have you reaching for your camera and that is just what Tom and I did. We snapped a lot of pics and hopefully we’ll have some decent ones to share with each other and with the group. I think photography is one of the things that keep me motivated to return again and again and it was nice to have a hiking companion who seems to be cut from the same cloth. No fishing poles, no golf clubs and no mini tv’s on this trip, just our cameras.
Just after we made it past the Brisengamen Lakelets, I stopped to make a call (yeah I know, cell phones in the back country aren't approved by all) but since I am a dentist by profession I try to make certain no emergency situations are being left just to my wife and staff to deal with. I also tried to get my wife to order a pizza for us but she just laughed at me. Oh well. We made our way down to Talisman Lake and found a place to hang our Hennessy Hammocks and set up camp. For dinner, we had a Mountain House that we both actually really liked, Lasagna. I'll do that one again. Lights out came early and we settled in for a comfortable night in our hammocks. One nice thing about hammocks is you don't need level ground, you just need two trees the right distance apart. I slept far enough away from Tom so my snoring wouldn't keep him awake.
Hammock sleeping is so comfortable that it was twelve hours later before we got up and started to start utilizing a day that promised perfect weather conditions. With full sun, you could see that many of the larch trees had fully turned while others were still in the process. Beautiful. Prussik Peak towered over us to the northeast and Rune Lake was close at hand. After breakfast we made our way up to Prussik Pass and then climbed a trail on the east side of the pass that took us up to where you could get a great view of almost all the Enchantment lakes as well as Shields Lake and the lost world plateau in the other direction. We noticed several climbing parties on Prussik and it was fun to watch their progress for awhile. When the photo opportunities were depleted, Tom decided to head on over to climb up Little Annapurna. I opted not to go with him since I had been up it twice before and because I had a calf muscle that was giving me some fits. After Tom took off I spent time wandering over to an overlook at the edge of Lake Viviane and grabbed some pics and some lunch. Gnome tarn was also on my agenda as was visiting some of the erratics that line the ridge above Rune lake. Golden Larches were everywhere and the weather continued to be perfect. When I was finally through doing my thing, I headed back up to the campsite and was there briefly when Tom pulled back into camp. He had that look on his face, that look that said "Wow" He felt the view from Little Annapurna was topnotch and had made his way back over to the upper Enchantment lakes to take some more pics in the day's better lighting. He'd had a great day and had made good time. Dinner that evening was a combination of a MSR meal and another Mountain House one that was surprisingly good. The wind started picking up and pretty soon it was a heck of a lot colder so we hit the hammocks again for another 12 hour sleep. The wind howled most of the night and despite this I still slept much better than I do at home in my own bed. I need to hang a hammock in my bedroom.
Sunday morning was a different kind of day from the previous one and our plans to climb Enchantment peak and perhaps Cannon were put on the back burner for a bit as we waited to see what the weather would do. We had wind which is fairly normal but it was the fact that we were at the base of a heavy cloud cover that made us realize that should we climb up Enchantment peak, we'd have no view. We'd save this for another day. As the morning wore on, the weather was getting worse and when it started to snow it was time to pack up and get down. We left the Talisman camp at near noon and headed down the Snow creek trail route, passing Lelprachuan, Viviane, Snow Lakes, and Nada Lake. The wind was really howling at the outlet of Lake Viviane and it made walking across the outlet logs a bit of an adventure but as soon as we dropped several hundred feet in elevation the wind really died down and was no longer a problem. Basically it is a ten mile down hill slog from the middle Enchantments to the Snow creek trailhead parking lot and this route out is about three miles longer than going out Aasgard. After experiencing both routes, I think Tom will opt for Aasgard both ways next time while I prefer going in Aasgard and out another way. We made good time down to the car and after shuttling Tom back to his car which we left at the other trailhead, we hit the BK in Leavenworth for some good fat laden fries/onion rings and burgers. After getting our fill, Tom headed back to the Seattle area and I headed for the tri cities. All in all, another great trip into the Enchantments but I wish we'd had that one more day that the weather took away from us.