Updated: Dec 7, 2022
The Enchantments - WA
This is one of my absolute favorite stories and the second worst experience I’ve had whilst hiking. You’ve been forewarned.
One background thing to know about me… Once I decide I’m all in for something, anything - I am absolutely all in. Hiking was no different.
So here we are, 1 whole month into hiking, I decided to take on the Enchantments in one day. The Enchantments are a 20 ish mile, 4500 ish elevation gain,, point to point hike. Which means you park your car at one trailhead, hike the beast, go back down to the other trailhead and have someone drive you to where you started.
So why on earth would a 1 month old hiker decide to hike this? Because she’s crazy. That’s why. All right, now that we’ve moved passed this, let’s continue to the journey.
The day before the hike, I drove the 3+ hours to get to Leavenworth where I would be staying the night. I got in, had a lovely dinner and then tried to sleep in a way too hot hotel room.. So no sleep. I then got up at 4 am to drive to the trailhead so I would have the whole day to do this wondrous hike.
In the morning, I was so exhausted that I decided I would just hike up to Colchuck Lake and hike back down. I thought it was only 6 miles round trip, but it was actually 8… lovely.
So about 3 miles in, I was so insanely tired and annoyed that I wasn’t at the top that I decided I would just get to Colchuck Lake and be happy I made it that far.
I finally got to the lake and as you can see from the pictures, it is absolutely, insanely stunning. Towering mountains all around, crystal clear, turquoise blue lake and trees as far as the eye can see. All the beauty electrified me and gave me such an incredible amount of energy.
And then, the magic words that have started pretty much all the downfalls of my hikes, “if you just go right around and up the mountain on the other side, it is absolutely incredible”.
Aasgard Pass, almost 2000 feet of elevation gain in about ¾ of a mile….
Well as you may have known from previous posts, I have a bit of an issue when it comes to people telling me I just need to go a little further and I’ll have a better view. So off I went, excited to see these beautiful views. I knew that it would be a rough go, but what I didn’t know was that the whole ascent was a rock scramble.
But I came to found… this was not a “big boulder” kind of rock scramble, but a “small rocks, tons of dirt and absolutely terrifying to climb up because you have no idea how you’ll get down” kind of rock scramble.
So about every few minutes, I would stop and think to myself “what on earth am I doing?! How on earth am I going to get down?”. Yet for reasons known only to God, I kept going. I couldn’t even see the trail, but followed others up, trying to stay in their path so I didn’t get lost.
So finally, exhausted, very low on water and frustrated at my own stupidity, I made it to the top, flopped down and couldn’t figure out what on earth I was going to do after I got done resting. So after lots of conversations with people around, I was told by a group that it would be better to complete the rest of the hike, since I already did about half of it.
I started my hike towards the other trailhead, slowly but surely… through lots of snow. The main thing running through my head was the last time I had accidentally hiked through the snow for 11 hours and ended up with a completely blistered face (if you don’t know this story, see my last Reminders of a Mountain post). But I was dead set on just finishing the hike this way because I was told this was the best way..
Until… I met another group who were camping there who looked at me like I was an insane person and told me I absolutely should go back down Aasgard. My main concern was that I wouldn’t be able to follow the trail (because it wasn’t marked clearly), but with a wave of their hand, they waved away the concern and told me that I would absolutely be able to see the trail cairns (rock stacks) when I was going down because it was easier to see from the top.
They were so absolutely certain that I decided to make my way back down Aasgard. But to get there I had to figure out how to get back to the top and I had already gone about a mile. As I headed back, I looked at the vast snowy expanse… and wandered for a solid mile trying to figure out how to get back to the top to head down. Finally, mercifully, I saw someone finally who pointed me in the direction of the top of the mountain.
So I started making my way down the mountain and at first agreed that I could follow the cairns and although I was moving very slowly and kept slipping and falling flat on my back, at least I was making my way down. Until… I couldn’t see the cairns any more.
I was trying to not panic as I still made my way down, but after climbing down two rather large boulders, I found myself smack dab in the middle of trees growing…. sideways…
I looked back where I came and saw there was no way to get back up the boulders. The trees were growing sideways, so there was no way to get anywhere going sideways. So I did what all panic driven hikers do over 13 miles into a hike they did not prepare for - I decided to smash my way through the trees and get down to the lake, where I reasoned that I would be able to walk along the side and get back to the trail. (I didn’t say GOOD reasoning).
So smashing through the trees, I continue to stop every so often and ask myself if there was any way I could actually make it out. I smashed, kicked and pushed the trees out of the way, while they took their frustration out on me by poking holes into my clothes and whacking me in the face.
I finally got to the lake and had 1 second of relief, until I saw that the trees were growing into the lake and there was no way I could walk around the lake. So, like any self respecting person who is dehydrated and exhausted, I decided to take off my socks and boots, roll up my pants and walk in the water. About 3 steps into the water I realized this was a terrible idea, as the sharp rocks poked at my tender feet andddddd then promptly slipped and fell in.
Because one of my socks floated away, I put my boots on in the water (without socks) and walked along the rocks (and sometimes swimming) to get to the other side. I saw two people along the only tiny piece of sand who were packing up to leave, so I swam as fast as I could to get to them.
So here I am, emerging from the water… in all my hiking gear… completely soaked and they were shocked to say the least.
“Hi” I started, “a lot has happened to get me to this point, but do you know where the trail is?!”
They stared at me in horror, but were absolute angels who promptly gave me water and showed me to the trail. So finally, I was on the trail that I couldn’t possibly get lost again, directly to my car.
I was very pleased about this until my ankles started to sting pretty bad. I figured it was because my pants were rolled up and I wasn’t wearing socks, but when I tried to roll my pants down to cover my ankles, it hurt even worse… so I came to the conclusion that on top of everything that must have happened, I must have come across some stinging plants… lovely.
So off I trotted to get to the car, and the last three miles I was so done with everything that I ran as much as I could with loosely flopping boots around my un-socked feet. So I finally made it to my car and took off my boots and saw blood streaming down my ankles. Sooo apparently my boots were rubbing against my ankles, for about 6 miles… So they had quite the time to etch some beautiful scars deep into my ankles that I still have to this day…
But if that wasn't bad enough, I didn't have any extra shoes in my car and you could not have paid me to put those boots back on. So after driving 45 minutes to the nearest open store, I limped in, in only socks, hoping and praying that I wouldn't get kicked out before I got some water. I grabbed a few liters of water and started downing them in the middle of the aisle (I was too thirsty to wait until after checkout), then wobbled around the store getting some Gatorade and some medical supplies to clean up my poor ankles.
So right there in the parking lot, I decided I should use the peroxide I just bought to ensure my ankles wouldn't get infected, so with shaking hands I opened the top and proceeded to pour the peroxide on my wounds.
I'm pretty sure I screamed it hurt so bad... there was a motorcyclist in the parking lot who was observing and he looked frightened. So I'm quite sure that I expressed my pain very loudly. But after that lovely experience, I decided it was time to head back to my hotel for a nice, lovely sleep.
Moral of the story? Sometimes you make a lot of successive stupid decisions, everything goes wrong and you walk away with lots of lessoned learned.
Think about work and life: Think about a time when you have made a stupid decision that has snowballed and everything turned out wrong. It is a humbling experience indeed.
But through that lesson of humility, we learn and grow so we have more grace for and a better understanding of those around us. So while the process was rough, the outcome is that we are better than we began.
And that is a beautiful thing.