Chuck’s Land Rover pulled in at 7 o’clock sharp in front of my apartment building on a mid August evening. Our first stop to our destination was Leavenworth, a small Bavarian tourist town in Chelan county of Washington state. I was ready. So it didn’t take me long to get down and greet Chuck and Rennie. I hopped in the back seat after tossing my backpack which contained five days worth of living, in the rear storage area. And then we were off. As Chuck overtook slower vehicles on an accident prone two lane highway(US-2), making for a thrilling ride, it was just past 10 PM when we pulled into the hotel parking in Leavenworth. The hotel office was already closed. Chuck found a note instructing us to get our room key from the hotel next door. We called it a day. The next morning would see us starting early to our ultimate destination – The Enchantments.
About a month before that evening, I received an email regarding some availability for backpacking to The Enchantments Core zone. Planets must have been aligned because I was wondering about doing it just the day before. I had already heard about Enchantments being a stunningly beautiful place and on a clear, sunny Seattle day, I started wondering about backpacking there sometime this year. For the newbies, The Enchantments Wilderness area is restricted to only about 60 overnight backpackers per day from mid-June to mid-October. I started my research by crawling the Web. My enthusiasm grew as I read suggestions about Enchantments being ‘THE backpacking destination’ in Washington. Due to the quota system, it would mean only after mid-October that I would be able to do it. The application window was already past and even if it wasn’t, it would be on the chance of a lottery draw. So it felt like it had something to do with planetary alignments when I received that email.
We ran into Andrey, the fourth and final member of our group, the next morning on our way to breakfast. Andrey had decided to ‘rough it’ in his car the night before, and the plan was to join him at the trail head. But now we went to the trail head together after getting our pass from the Leavenworth rangers office. It was the Stuart Lake trail head. After five days, 18 miles, 6000 feet of elevation gain and loss, we wouldn’t be returning back to this trail head. We would end our journey 9 miles away, at the Snow Lakes trail head. So Chuck went to leave his Rover there at the Snow lakes trail head before he and Andrey hitchhiked back.
Our journey started around 10:30 in the morning. We would hike for almost 6 hours, 9 miles and gain 2200 feet before pitching our tents at the beach on the South end of Colchuck Lake. But before that, we sweated, rested, ate and photographed (not necessarily in that order) our way up. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon at the beach, and I was hungry as I only had snacks on my way. I do not believe in heaven, but when I swallowed the hot beef stroganoff, my brain told me heaven must have tasted like this. Long live dehydrated foods! After snapping a few sunset shots, we left for our designated tents. The night was uneventful except that a squirrel ate through my food pack and got a taste of one of my Clif bars. I had to get up to place the pack in another thicker tote that Chuck brought. We probably should have used rope to hang the food. I fell asleep pondering about the mighty Aasgard Pass waiting to be conquered by us the next morning.