Making Trails

the travel blog of Lauren Nishizaki

Hiking the Enchantments (but not actually all the way!)

Washington, USA

Jake and I went on a 3-day backpacking trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We intended to hike all the way to the Upper Enchantments, but ground conditions (snow!) and fatigue prevented us from making it. We’re definitely planning a return trip!

Our hike commenced with switchbacks up the side of the mountain, unfortunately staying in view of the road for quite awhile before finally traversing around the bend. We were treated with views of wildflowers (lots of yellow) and shear rock faces (granite, sheared off by the seasonal temperature changes). We first encountered snow about halfway through the first day, and it remained a constant for the rest of our hike.

The first night, we camped on the bank of Nada Lake, although at the time we thought we had made it all the way to the Snow Lakes.

On Day 2, we hiked around Nada Lake and proceeded towards the Snow Lakes. We kept pausing to admire the still lake surface, the towering peaks, and the granite boulder fields.

After a series of switchbacks above Nada lake, we commenced a mad scramble up loose rocks and boulders. At the top, we looked back and realized that the trail wasn’t actually obscured under a recent avalanche; we simply lost the trail when it made a sharp turn into rocks and brush.

The southern shore of Upper Snow Lake was covered in snow (and logjams, some of which were covered by snow yet also above water), and the northern shore was steep and rocky and had a very distinct high-water line. In the snowy bowl on the opposing mountainside, we could make out the faint tracks of daring downhill skiers.

After leaving the shores of Upper Snow Lake, we made our way up Snow Creek (which was bursting with fresh snow melt). The trail through the trees was obscured by 6ft+ tall snow drifts, so we got a lot of experience searching for recent footprints and guessing about the trail location. We did a significant amount of climbing up and sliding down snow piles, and also had to watch out for snow bridges above running water.

After steady marching (stomping/sliding/sinking) through the snowy forest, we made it to a granite-filled landscape with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and Snow Creek (which had turned into a series of impressive waterfalls).

Unfortunately, before we could get to Lake Viviane (the first of the lakes in the Lower Enchantments) we hit our self-set 5pm cutoff and had to turn around to make it to a campsite before night fall. The sun was approaching the peaks of the mountains by the time we made it back to Upper Snow Lake, and for awhile we successfully kept abreast of the encroaching shadows. The sun set behind us right before the wind started to pick up (and I fell through the snow-covering a logjam and into knee-deep freezing alpine melt below right before we found our campsite).

On our third day, we made our way back out of the mountains. The ice on Nada Lake had noticeably diminished and there were some stars and a whale’s tale melted into the surface. The final switchbacks above the trail head were painful; at several points, we wished to be able to leap off the mountainside and paraglide back to the car (inspired by the paragliders we saw above the peaks surrounding Upper Snow Lake on the second day).