Thursday, September 19, 2013


John and I.  This was my first visit
to these lakes since I was his age,
or before. 

One of the most beautiful series of lakes on Earth, I would guess, is the Enchantments in the center of Washington State.  Rugged and wild granite peaks rise at strange angles as snow fields melt into a series of ten or more blue-green lakes, with crystalline waters flowing between boulders and flower fields from one to the other.  These are ranges dominated by softwoods (I counted nine species), most of which are evergreen.  But these high, relatively dry elevations (the lakes are up to 7500 feet above sea level, with peaks rising higher around them) are also graced with a generous scattering of larch trees, which turn golden in the fall. 

Aasgard Pass is that "flat" spot to the left of the central
peak in this photograph.  I hummed "Ride of the
Valkyries," but none appeared to fly us over it.  At least
we weren't carrying heavy packs. 
But central should not be confused, in this case, with accessible.  Sane people know that three days should be reserved for a visit to the Enchantments: after a hundred mile drive from the Seattle area, a long, hard day up, or two days if you ascend through the backdoor (more on this shortly), then a day of having fun without a backpack on your shoulders, then back down.

So here's fodder for those who question my sanity, or good judgment.  Yesterday, John I hiked up to the "back door" at Aasgard Pass (named after the country where Valhalla is placed in Nordic mythology, full of jewels and gold), into the Upper Enchantments.  We swam in one of the highest of those lakes, and hiked back down again, walking the last mile in the dark.  (John is back to the University of Washington today, so that was his send-off.)

Colchuck from above.  The larch are just
beginning to change color -- though still beautiful. 
In distance, our hike was probably no more than 15 miles.   But we gained some 5,000 feet on the day, perhaps more.  Furthermore, past Colchuck Lake - the gorgeous glacier-fed lake in the first three photos here -- much of that path is (a) over large granite boulders that one must scramble, or small rocks some of which may break loose, (b) almost invisible, with rock cairns marking what path there is, if you can find them, (c) a bit dangerous (such as when we went the wrong way around a rock outcropping), and (d) wicked steep. 

Was it worth it? 

Do you have to ask? 

Two of the first of the Enchantments, descending slightly from Valhalla.  Clearly the land exists, and
really does possess jewels.  The lower lakes are punctuated by oddly-shaped granite peaks, and of course
have more vegetation. 

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