Participants: Schmidt Alti-Babe (The conductor), Schmidt Alti-Dude (The boxcar), GeoTom (The caboose)
Access: Highway 2 > Icicle Road (FS 76) > Eightmile Road (FS 7601) > Stuart Lake Trailhead
Trails: Lake Stuart #1599, Colchuck Lake #1599.1, Snow Lake #1553
Map: Green Trails The Enchantments 209s
Miles traveled: ~18
Elevation gain/loss: +5,682/-7,618 (per the conductor’s altimeter log)
Summits: None, but Alti-Dude demonstrated wicked bouldering skills on a previously unnamed rock
Lakes visited: Colchuck, Freya (Tranquil), Reginleif, Brynhild (Isolation), Olrun, Sigrun, Brisingamen Lakelets, Talisman (Inspiration), Rune (Perfection), Sprite, Leprechaun, Viviane, Upper Snow, Lower Snow, Nada
Things I learned this weekend: Alti-Dude likes to play with his pole.*
Alti-Babe takes good photos, but will go to any lengths to sabotage the efforts of others.**
Stuart Lake Trailhead Station to Colchuck Lake Platform:
After a too short sleep at my friend Mark’s house in Leavenworth, we woke up and headed back up the Icicle and Eightmile Roads all the way to the Stuart Lake Trailhead Station. It was cold as the 8:00 departed Stuart Lake Trailhead Station only slightly behind schedule at 8:12. The tracks were clear to the Stuart Lake/Colchuck Lake junction, and we veered left towards Colchuck Lake. The grade increased as we neared the lake, but eventually flattened out along the shores of the lake. We arrived at the Colchuck Lake Platform to find only a few other travelers. A refueling break was in order before we tackled the next section of track up and over Aasgard Pass.
Colchuck Lake Platform to Aasgard Pass Depot:
Refueled and ready, Alti-Babe the conductor led us around the shores of Colchuck Lake to the base of the infamous Aasgard Pass climb. We were almost derailed by some small stands of slide alder along the tracks, but managed to push through. This track is in much better shape than the Eightmile Mountain siding. A few small icy spots remained but were easily avoided. The going was slower than anticipated due to a heavy load in the caboose (A Big Wet Burrito from the previous night). Along the way we had an unexpected sighting: A group of 4 humans were descending with a canine friend. It didn’t appear to be a wild dog or a stray they had just found. Maybe they thought that dogs were allowed after permit season is over? We decided not to say anything and continued with our ascent. Eventually we arrived at Aasgard Pass Depot.
Aasgard Pass Depot to Crystal Lake Overlook:
Our original schedule had us continuing through the upper basin towards Little Annapurna, and making a turn towards the Lil Annapurna/Dragontail Col and eventually topping out on Witches Tower. Team S (with yukon222) had laid the track back in July but a sheet of ice over the tracks this October day made us reconsider. We had left our snow plough (Ice axes and crampons) at the Stuart Lake Trailhead Station (Alti-Dudes ice axe was lost somewhere among the slide alder thicket on Eightmile Mountain). Without this necessary equipment we decided against an attempt at this summit, and decided to just enjoy the upper lakes instead. A solitary goat stood above, watching us. We said hello from a distance and continued on our way as we were behind schedule.
We steamed on toward the shores of Lake Freya (Tranquil). Alti-Dude was looking for fishies, but with his pole broken, he walked by with a forlorn look on his face. Our journey continued on past Lake Reginleif and Lake Brynhild (Isolation), Lake Sigrun and Lake Olrun and eventually to the Brisingamen Lakelets. Alti-Dude wanted a summit of some sort, so he decoupled from us and scrambled to the top of a massive six foot rock along the trail. He found no summit register on top and declared it Broken Pole Peak. Or something like that. After safely descending the north face he recoupled with us and off we went. Shortly we arrived at a small station overlooking Crystal Lake. There was a smelly toilet nearby.
Crystal Lake Overlook to Lake Viviane Station:
By now the Alti-Crew had been informed that I had never been down into the middle or lower Enchantments. We conferred for a couple minutes and decided to continue our journey eastward, abandoning any sort of printed schedule or timetable. We had no passengers on board or freight to deliver, so why not? The only issue would be getting back to my truck at Stuart Lake TH Station, but with all the people we had seen along the way we figured someone would be so kind as to give us a ride back. Or I could walk, but I figured I might be out of steam by then.
We began the descent into the middle and lower Enchantments. Our first stop was Talisman Lake (Inspiration). One thing I noticed right away was the increase in vegetation, especially the much sought after larch tree. They were still golden, and this made me happy. So happy that I almost forgot about the annoying pain in my wheels (feet).
The well traveled tracks continued their descent through the larches to Rune Lake (Perfection) and Sprite Lake, which surprisingly was filled with water and not a lemon-lime soda. We were surprised to see another canine with a solitary human companion. This was a bit too much so I asked if he (the human as I assumed the dog could not read) had missed the small, vaguely worded signs at the trailhead stating that dogs weren’t allowed. He merely looked down at his feet and stayed silent. I decided to leave it at that.
Shortly we came upon two hikers headed in the same direction. A usually shy and reserved Alti-Dude struck up a conversation with them and we discovered that they already had a car shuttle in place and agreed to transport us back to the Stuart Lake Trailhead Station. Thanks Josh and Joe.
Our travels took us further down the Enchantments mainline past Leprechaun Lake. The only gold we found here was in the form of larch needles. They were beautiful, but not the type of gold to make any of us quit our day jobs. Eventually we reached the shores of Lake Viviane Station and stopped for another refueling break. It was here that I ran out of water. Fortunately I still had some Gatorade and the Alti-Crew had a device that could filter out any ickies in the water.
Lake Viviane Station to Snow Lake Trailhead Terminal:
We were now officially off the Enchantments Mainline and on something known as the Snow Creek Slog. I had heard of this before. Rumor had it that one could see the Snow Lake Trailhead Terminal for hours before actually arriving. I thought that was an exaggeration, but was soon to find out not by much.
The Snow Creek Slog descended slowly at first to the shores of Upper Snow Lake. The Golden Larches gave way to greener forests. We reached the Upper Snow Lake Siding to find the water level slightly below the high water mark. Alti-Dude and Alti-Babe found a site where they had camped in their younger days. By now I thought I might have to stay here too, but another snack break and I was ok to continue.
We meandered along the south and east side up Upper Snow Lake, over the dam between the lakes and down towards Nada Lake. Another small stand of slide alder along the trail gave us flashbacks to the previous day’s Eightmile Experience. The slide alder attempted to board the train, but with a little trekking pole work from Alti-Dude thwarted the attack and passed by safely.
The Snow Creek Slog lived up to its name as we descended into the darkness. Headlamps came out and gloves came on. The lights of the Snow Lake Trailhead Terminal were visible, but the altimeters stated that we still had over a thousand feet of elevation to lose. Trains aren’t supposed to descend that fast. Alti-Dude found a watch on the ground. Score! Within 3 minutes we saw lights headed our way. A man asked if we had found a watch. We had. Alti-Dude handed it over without asking for a description or a reward. What a nice guy. (sucker).
We finally made it to the Snow Lake Trailhead Terminal at 7:41. Of course, our ride back to the Stuart Lake Trailhead Station was behind us, but we could see their headlamps high on the hillside above the terminal. We waited for a little while, and eventually Josh and Joe appeared and we piled into their vehicle and drove back to my waiting truck.
The drive back to GeoTom land was uneventful. The AltiCrew had to leave immediately to retrieve the whippets. Good trip, but not sure if I want to do it again. At least until next year.
*Alti-Dude like to play with his fishing pole. What did you think I meant?
** I was using a camera that I normally don’t use. Alti-Babe looked at it and under the guise of 'photography advice' suggested that I use the ‘Landscape Mode’. I thought it was a ‘Sunset Mode’ as the Landscape Mode on my point and shoot had a different icon. Enough photos came out funny that I am having doubts as to her motives.
What a great day "accidently" doing the Enchantments through hike!
I feel I need to apologize for my actions on the trail this day. First, when we decided to not go for a peak and do the through hike I came down with summit fever and left my hiking partners behind to tag a summit. I am sorry for the danger that my actions placed myself and my friends:
Later, when I saw some slide alder by the trail I had flashbacks of our Eightmile Experience and went nuts. I know now I could have poked someones eye out with a flying trek pole and I'm truly sorry.
Here are my meager photo contributions (more panos at our flickr site!):
-------------- Anything stated by me in no way reflects the attitudes or opinions of my wife
Nice report, GeoTom, and really lovely photos. (The Schmidt team hasn't weighed in yet, but looking forward to their thoughts/eye-candy.)
Edit: Nice shots Schmidt's. 'Dude I like "Warmchuck Pond", much better than Colchuck Tarn, which is what I've been calling it.
Man, you should have given the dog owners a real earful! Why do some people do this? What's wrong with them? There are numerous signs at the trailhead...
Obviously all three of us are dog owners, and while I won't speak for the Alti-Crew, the sight of the dogs really annoyed me (not the dogs themselves but the people bringing them in). I might have been more vocal if I had been there alone, but I don't know the Schmidt's well enough yet to show my total ass#### side. They still think I'm a nice guy.
Ragarding their photos: I have browsed their flickr page. Looks like some good ones in there. Maybe I shouldn't have even posted mine
-------------- "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
The dogs didn't sit well with us either. I actually said something to the first group, but I got "The Look" from Dude, so I kept quiet on the second run-in. I'm personally glad you said something, GeoTom. Really, no one likes a rule breaker. It just ruins it for the rest of us.
Another clever TR Geotom! Glad the Schmidts shared their extensive knowledge of the Enchantments with you. Always nice to have expert "tour guides" along. And the larches hung on to their needles too! Weird year with such varying larch timing/colors.
Yes, seeing the Snow Lake TH for so long before you arrive at it is extremely annoying.
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