The Enchantments- Alpine Lakes Wilderness

A not so lifelong dream, but a dream none the less has been to run the entire length of the Enchantments in a single day.  By no means am I an accomplished runner but it's certainly something I love.  My husband loves it too so I thought this would be a great way to spend time together while simultaneously abusing our bodies.  For those of you who haven't heard of such a place, the Enchantments is a popular point to point backpacking/trail running destination regarded as one of the most spectacular locations in the Cascade Range.  Good luck reserving a permit to camp here because it's often booked over a year in advance.  The trail length exceeds just over 18 miles and is packed with gruesome elevation gains/losses with tumultuous rocky terrain difficult to navigate.  The Enchantments has two options for a starting point.  The first is the Snow Lake trailhead off of Icicle Creek Rd, just minutes out of Leavenworth, Washington.  From here it's a 6.5 mile gradual incline loaded with switchbacks galore to the entrance of Snow Lake.  The elevation gain totals 4100ft.  From there the trail ascends another 2.5 miles over granite rock until you arrive at the Lower Basin of the Enchantments.  The other possible route begins at Stuart Lake Trailhead.  This route, although not as long is substantially more difficult with a higher elevation gain in a shorter distance.  The distance from Stuart Lake Trailhead to Colchuck Lake is roughly 5 miles with an elevation gain of 2100ft.  Once arriving at the south end of the Lake you will see the notorious Aasgard Pass.  This is your final ascent into the Upper Basin of the Enchantments sitting at 7800ft elevation.  Aasgard Pass is a distance of 0.8 Miles with a 2200ft elevation gain.  Having backpacked from both entrances my personal preference is starting from Stuart Lake Trailhead.  Although I have read that the purest way to experience the Enchantments is progressing from the Lower to Upper Basin, for me it boiled down to whether I wanted to go up or down Aasgard.  Because of its steep grade and my brittle knees, up was the way to go.  Either way you slice it, this point to point trail is a harry beast.  In total this run/hike took us roughly 7.5 hours to complete.  I can say this was easily one of the hardest things I have ever done both mentally and physically.  My husband commented on the drive home about how prior to the start of our journey he wondered if running the Enchantments would make him lose respect for this magnificent mountain range.  Would running it equate to conquering it?  "Absolutely not," he said.  "The Enchantments allowed me to be released after I surrendered."  As we limped and dragged our broken bodies back to the car it was clear who won the battle.

            During 7 or so hours of our run I thought mostly about how much pain I was in.  But there was a sliver of time in there when I thought about life prior to becoming a wife and having kids of my own.  Like some some of you, I have moments throughout the day to day when I seriously lack gratitude for what I have and instead pine away for the days when I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.  So here we were, Dave and I sitting on the edge of a granite boulder looking out at the beauty surrounding us, doing the exact thing I so often long to do and the one thing on our mind is, "I wonder what the kids are doing right now?"  We have a rare day to ourselves not to mention a break from our daily responsibilities of work, parenting, taking care of cars, a house, a yard, etc., and what we're thinking of is our kids.  This isn't to say I don't deeply value the one on one time I get with my husband, because I definitely do.  But what I realized is that what I once thought was important to me now pails in comparison to what I have.  I'm so grateful for all of my adventures, explorations, travels, experiences, backpacking trips, hikes, etc.  I'm beyond thankful for my time with Dave and our memorable trek through the Enchantments this past weekend.  But what I'm most thankful for is the two little ones waiting for us when we return home and those same little ones who will one day join us in our many adventures to come.     

 Colchuck Lake.  4.5 miles in with 2100ft. elevation gain.

Colchuck Lake.  4.5 miles in with 2100ft. elevation gain.

 Aasgard Pass.  Last push to get to the top of Upper Enchantments.  2300ft elevation gain in a single mile

Aasgard Pass.  Last push to get to the top of Upper Enchantments.  2300ft elevation gain in a single mile

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 Image on the left take from the top of Aasgard Pass.  Image on the right taken from half way up Aasgard.

Image on the left take from the top of Aasgard Pass.  Image on the right taken from half way up Aasgard.

 Upper Enchantments 7800ft.

Upper Enchantments 7800ft.

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 Lower Enchantments

Lower Enchantments

 Another section of the Lower Enchantments.  Or what dave refers to as "The Shire."

Another section of the Lower Enchantments.  Or what dave refers to as "The Shire."

 Nearing the end of the Lower Enchantments.  Looking down onto Snow Lake.

Nearing the end of the Lower Enchantments.  Looking down onto Snow Lake.

If you plan on running the Enchantments, here are a few tips:

What to bring:

  • Hydration Pack
  • Gloves
  • Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Compression Sleeves (not a must but would definitely help)
  • Water Filter
  • Clif Shot Bloks(3-4 packs) or GU's if you prefer
  • 5-6 protein bars (We had Clif trail mix bars)
  • 1-2 Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
  • Small first-aid kit (for possible blisters and major scrapes)

Depending on how frequently you plan on stopping and your skill level I would plan for 7-9 hours for the run.  For a day trip you only need a parking permit which you can purchase for $5 at the ranger station in downtown Leavenworth.