Colchuck Lake: The Gateway to the Enchantments
The first time I heard about the Enchantments was when I was driving home from a camping trip in Leavenworth. I had stopped at a small pub to kill time while traffic died down and sparked up a conversation with a local. He brought up the Enchantments, saying that he had been there many times and showed me a few photos. They took my breath away! I had seen photos like these from the wallpapers that came installed on my laptop, now knowing that they were not only real but they were in my own backward! In fact, it was just a two to three hour drive from Seattle.
I soon realized that to be able to camp in the Enchantments, you have to win a lottery; however, you can hike in the Enchantments without a lottery pass. I wasn’t able to go up there to hike until October, so for five months I chatted with those who had gone and asked for advice. The consensus was that I should start with hiking to Colchuck Lake, which is just the tip of the Enchantments iceberg, but would be more than enough for me to get a taste of it’s beauty.
Leavenworth gets pretty cold and snowy in November, and they often shut the trails down around mid-November. By the middle of October, I finally had a free Saturday to make the drive and do the eight mile hike. It was harder than I had expected. When all of the websites I had read said 4,000 ft in elevation gain, they forgot to mention that 3,500 of that was in the last mile up! To add insult to injury, I left Seattle later than I had planned and arrived at the parking lot for the trailhead around noon. There were so many cars there that I actually got discouraged. You know the feeling of wanting to be out into nature... alone! But I was there, and I was pumped. The view at the top was going to be worth it.
Along the way, I stopped several times to take photos, but I was also slowed down because there were many people coming down the mountain and the trail can be narrow. It was cold, but the hike was keeping me warm. I knew I had a short window of time for daylight, so I tried to make the last 2 miles up as quickly as I could. At times it was painful... up... up... and up some more. My butt was sore, my calves were burning, and I wanted to die. Okay, I didn’t really want to die... I just wanted to be there already.
And then, I was there. It was magnificent. The view of Dragontail Peak was mesmerizing. The water in the lake was low, but I could see why people say this was a great place to take a summer swim after a long hike. After a while of being in awe I was starting to get cold, and the sun was setting. It had taken me four and a half hours to reach the top and I had four miles to go back down. After a snack, a swig of whisky, and several photos... did I mention I lugged a tripod up there? I turned around and headed down.
It took another three hours to descend and before I knew it, it was dusk and then dark. I always bring warmer layers and a headlamp, so I was fine hiking in the dark. The trail is pretty well marked and there were other folks still going up and down the trail. It did occur to me that my brother would be starting to worry about me. I had told him and a friend of mine that I would be off the mountain by 8 p.m. but I also knew that they would be worrying about me hiking in the dark. I didn’t have cell service and couldn’t text them to let them know I was okay.
I finally made it back to my car, ready for a meal and some Pinot Noir in nearby Leavenworth. Turns out, my parents were the worried ones. My mom somehow thought that I was going on the hike at eight in the morning and would be done well before sunset. As I was taking off my gear and getting into my car, I noticed a business card on my windshield. It was from the Leavenworth Sheriff. It said, “call your mother."
The moral of the story is to always take a headlamp and tell someone your route, timing, and plan. But most of all, enjoy the views!
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About The Author
Amoris Walker is an Award-winning documentary film maker, voice over artist, and social media strategist. She grew up in a family band called The EarthWalkers; traveling around the USA teaching sustainability and conservation through music, comedy, and art. When she’s not working, you can find Amoris on a mountain, in a kayak, canoodling puppies, drinking wine, or taking photos and shooting videos. Her love for the outdoors comes with the responsibility to help protect it. To learn more about Amoris simply visit her Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.