We had planned since early in the year to spend 4 days in the Enchantments on the last week of September - I had even postponed knee surgery until after the trip. The Wenatchee fires changed everything so we bailed and decided to look for clearer air north to salvage the week. After tossing around a few options we decided on Sourdough Mountain and Stetattle Ridge. The weather forecast looked fantastic as we headed out.
We went to Marblemount in the afternoon and picked up a permit and a bear canister (not required but they did some arm twisting). We stopped at Mondos for some fantastic burgers and then headed to the Diablo Campground for the night. We got started at daylight and made our way slowly to the lookout with heavy loads.
We took a long break at the lookout and then started up the ridge to get into the backcountry zone to camp. The weather was fairly clear in the area but pretty thick with smoke to the south. That evening the smell of smoke was pretty heavy. Just after we set up camp, a brief shower came through to our surprise. So much for the forecast. At least it cleared the air for most of the next day.
We headed over to the tarns at the head of Sourdough Creek and noticed that many of them were dry except the largest two. The snow patches remaining had lots of algae so we were a little concerned about water along the ridge. The ridge went slowly. The ups and downs seemed far more numerous and steeper than they appeared on the map. We had lots of time, though, and no specific goal in mind. If we made it to Elephant Butte, we'd be very satisfied.
We saw some large snow patches with water below them before Point 6728 on the ridge so we decided to make our second camp there. After some discussion, we decided to pack light the next day and do a day hike as far north as we could get. The sky at sunrise changed our plans.
We awoke to a pink sky and could see rainbows over Luna and Triumph. We were on the southern edge of a weather system moving our way & we would soon be in rain. After further discussion, we decided to pack up and start heading back. If the weather improved dramatically, we'd spend another night back at the tarns. It didn't.
It stopped raining in the middle of the morning but it didn't look good enough to make us stay. We could see that the lookout was open as we were coming back along the ridge so we decided to head back over there, rather than followi the old trail down, and get a look inside the building. The old trail from the tarns up to the top of Sourdough is pretty amazing - complete with switchbacks and retaining walls. Some of the trail has trees in the middle that force you off the tread, so it's been abandoned for many years.
Back at the lookout, we met Dana who tried to get tool belts on us as soon as we appeared. We politely declined but she was still kind enough to give us a grand tour. They're doing a great job at restoration.
In spite of the less than stellar weather for photos, we had a great time.
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