Another day dawned with a cloudless sky. The Enchantments remained serene and beautiful. It was all getting a bit usual everyday. The sun, the water, the green, the blue, the goats, the rocks, the ups and downs of the terrain – all seemed very familiar, like the palm of my hand, like gravity. The way of living also was becoming habitual. Starting from tossing and turning in a sleeping bag to waking up in a tent, eating energy bars, boiling water in a tiny stove, hydrating dehydrated foods with boiled water, filtering river water with a UV (Ultra-Violet) purifier, the grind of hiking up and down for miles with a 30 pound weight on, the feeling of a heavy boot on tired traveled feet (more tired the feet, heavier the boot), the sponge bath in freezing cold water, the pitching and packing of a tent, the assembling and disassembling of a backpack – all were becoming a new normal. But the end of it was near. I could sense it. One more day to go after today. Hopefully the day would be as gorgeous as today’s. Though it would be different. I was excited that finally I would sit back in a car instead of solving the puzzle of where to put my next step so I didn’t slip, I could get a hot shower or have a burger and a soda, warm my food in a microwave, sleep on a memory foam mattress, and recline on a sofa while watching TV. Civilization was calling me. And still somewhere in the back of my head, I wished it didn’t end. I wished I could be there for longer. I guess one needs to be privileged enough to be born free. I probably missed that ‘enough’ part by a glance. At least I like to think that way.
Back to the present – we had plans. Andrew would leave us in the morning and hike the remainder of the 10 miles to snow creek trail-head and head home. The rest of us would take a detour to Crystal Lake (elev. 7000 feet) towards the South before heading down east to Lake Nada about 5 miles away. Our final destination for day 4.
After bidding good bye to Andrew, we decided to leave our backpacks at the campsite. We would need to be back at the same spot anyway on our way to Lake Nada. So we took our cameras and water bottles and headed towards Crystal Lake. The same Crystal Lake we saw from our camp site in upper Enchantments on day 2. It was a one mile round trip hike. We hiked by Perfection Lake one more time, this time by the South-East side. As we hiked through a meadow at the end of Perfection lake and down to a valley, Crystal Lake emerged from a small gap between two ridges. It was hiding in a basin at the south edge of lower Enchantments surrounded by mountains and cliffs. One of those mountains was Little Annapurna, and on top of one of the cliffs was upper Enchantments basin. We saw the same water fall coming down that we saw in Upper Enchantments, but this time from the other end. Only the end changed, the beauty and breathtaking color of the lake remained the same even from up-close.
We took time to pack our backpacks before heading out for our day’s final destination. The first thing we encountered was a giant granite slab that we needed to walk on to reach a valley about 75 feet below. The valley carried a creek and dropped it on Leprechaun Lake (elev. 6900 feet approx.) at the other end of it. This is the creek that was sourced from Sprite lake and fell to the valley along with us. As we reached the lower valley, nature expressed itself with all it’s exquisiteness, charm and elegance as if the past three day’s beauty dose was a prelude. When I was passing by Leprechaun Lake capturing every corner of it on my camera, it looked like someone must have meticulously planned and placed every mountain, lake, tree, rock, falls and creek in strategic locations around Enchantments. Otherwise how could it be? How could it be so perfect? Later, when we were having lunch on a ridge above Lake Viviane (elev. 6800 feet), Rennie suggested he wished to meet the engineer and the landscaper of Enchantments. I thought that was reasonable.
The north-east end of Leprechaun Lake is connected to Lake Viviane with a creek, just like the creek that connected Sprite and Leprechaun, and the falls that connected Perfection and Sprite. Likewise, Lake Viviane would again source a water fall that would become Snow creek before merging to upper Snow Lake. Lake Viviane is the last lake we would encounter in the core Enchantment zone. Right after passing the creek about a mile away from where we started, Lake Viviane showed up for the first time and we took our lunch break. We had seen Lake Viviane before from Prusik Pass the previous day. Like Crystal and Leprechaun lakes, we encountered Lake Viviane for a second time, and the second time was always up-close rather than from the top.
After the lunch break under the shades of trees and capturing more pictures of us and the lake, we headed out. This time it was to get out of Enchantment zone. Hiking for a few minutes on a ridge with Lake Viviane below on our left, took us on a narrow table top. And there lied the biggest surprise of our journey. Adventure was just beginning. We were standing at the edge of core Enchantments zone on a bare granite slab. In front us were Snow Lakes (Elev. 5500 feet approx.) 2 miles away and 1400 feet below. Few steps away from where we were standing was a sheer 300 foot cliff down to Snow zone. There was no vegetation, no earth, no trail. The only thing to protect us from a slip were a few rebars fixed into the rock. I was not sure if they would protect me from slipping or help me in anyway. I put my camera in my backpack, as I needed two hands to scramble down the rock face and also to protect it from any unwanted crash. The good thing was that when we started to scramble, it wasn’t as bad as it appeared. The steep scramble down on bare rock face continued throughout the 1400 feet until we reached the upper Snow Lake, with intermittent breaks to a regular trail. This was another cairns navigated trail in Enchantments. And throughout it’s stretch, it was paralleling the Snow Creek very closely. Sometimes we saw it and other times we heard it’s rambling fall. Hiking on the never ending rock face seemed frustrating, as well as adventurous. Our frustration found expression in our impatience, which was obvious by the frequency we checked our GPS elevation. It took us about one hour and 45 minutes to hike down this 2 mile stretch before we finally crossed Snow creek on a well built wooden bridge, to reach the upper Snow Lake. It was time for a welcome break. I took my camera out for the first time in the last hour and 45 minutes.
The first major difference that I noticed in our surroundings from The Enchantments was the type of pine and their increased quantity. The difference in the color of the lake water was also noticeable. Here it was greener than the blue lakes over there and the water was thicker than those pristine, unsullied lakes in Enchantments. After the break we hiked for another 2 miles, crossing the dam between two Snow Lakes and almost 500 feet down to Lake Nada (Elev. 4920 feet approx.). This was the first time in the last 4 days I emptied my 2 liters of water supply before reaching the destination. But we were already at the South end of Lake Nada, probably about 200 to 300 feet above it, and our camp site would not be too far away. So it wasn’t an emergency. The day’s last spectacle came by the means of man made technology rather than nature. The water rushing out of the irrigation dam obliged us with a spectacular view, maybe just to make sure we didn’t get bored of the whole melodrama, namely, The Enchantments.
We pitched our tents after finding our camp site in a quiet and tranquil area covered by large pine trees beside Lake Nada. I completed my usual chores of dining, sponge bathing, and filling up bottles with filtered water. Then I threw my almost burned out, collapsing, consumed exterior self into the warmth of the sleeping bag. Here I come, civilization.