Happy New Year to my followers and fellow lovers of the outdoors.
Wishing you a happy New Year with the promise of better times ahead for all of us.
Known as one of the most pristine areas in Washington State, The Enchantments are conveniently tucked in the cascade range near the touristy Bavarian town of Leavenworth. I was lucky enough to be invited with a friend who has applied and was drawn through the lottery system through the USFS with applications beginning in February for the coming season.
The Enchantments have five zones when you apply. It is written, last year 2019, over 18,000 people applied for The Core permit with only 350 or so permits approved. My friend had applied for Eightmile / Caroline Lake, set on the far west side with only 300 permits applied for with most all approved.
Destination: Eightmile Lake 3.3 miles/1,300 elevation gain
Our first day was carrying our packs and trekking to set-up camp. We parked at the trailhead and set off around 11 am. It was already in the 80’s and mostly exposed. The water from the last of spring run off was plentiful along the way.
Arriving around 3 pm we had enough daylight to set up our tents, hang our cache away from the critters and have a swim in Eightmile. Dangling on the line, the wind was cool and comforting and dried our dusty clothes from the day.
That evening, I quickly learned my appetite was 1/2 of a Mountain House so for my next trip I will need to divide the package into two servings so there isn’t so much trash carried out.
My cozy little tent rippled in the wind during the evening as well as a few little pitter patters of raindrops fell at night.
Destination: Caroline Lake 4.18 miles/ 2,000 elevation gain (8.5 miles round trip)
My friend Candace and me got up early to a beautiful blue sky. We decided quickly to pack our bags for the day and headed out to Caroline Lake, an additional 2,000 ft elevation gain to 6,200 ft.
Caroline Lake involves backtracking to Little Eightmile and taking a trail with signage that says Trout Cr. Following Trout Creek, you start uphill.
The Enchantment mountains of the Stuart range appeared to grow into the background as we continued to climb. It was hard not to just stop and stare at the beauty as we took our time to catch our breath.
The wildflowers were beautiful against the burn-out of pine trees as their little heads waved in the strong wind. Due to a recent fire, the soils were rich and fertile and the amount of wildflowers was more than I have ever seen in my lifetime and all at once up a 2,000 foot hillside. I took a lot of video with my GoPro this day because of the wide-angle lens, it was the right choice to take along. VIDEO LINK
We returned around 3 pm so the hike to Caroline Lake was a full day for us. Candace’s daughter was starting to get a bit concerned so make sure you let your party know it is so breathtaking you will want to take your time getting there.
We both felt so complete that this trip and portion of the zones that is most often overlooked, could just very well be just a well hidden secret as we had the hill almost completely to ourselves this day.
This night was still and calm, as we battened down the hatches, donned our repellent and bug nets and started in for the fight of our lives against hoards of mosquitos eager to get their fair share of any bit of bare skin their could find.
We finally retreated to our own tents and just hunkered down for an early evening.
Morning at Eightmile Lake
This was an amazing morning. We got up before anyone else at camp. I had my coffee and little bit to eat and we headed to the lakeshore for some reflection photos. I also shot some video of the lake which is nestled between two steep mountains.
If you are thinking about going to Eightmile Lake and The Enchantments, don’t miss this lovely section. You can view my full video here: FULL VIDEO LINK
Authors Note: Upon returning to my car, I discovered it had been broken into. LEAVE NOTHING OF VALUE in your car. Thieves know of every hiding place in your vehicle. They even knew about the secret hiding spot under my tailgate of my Jeep and the place where the carpet can easily be lifted to hide valuables. If you can leave your vehicle unlocked that is my suggestion. Luckily, the only valuable I had left was a few lug nuts and my registration and garage door opener. I made it out quick enough to call the neighbors and my husband also quickly changed our codes. Trailhead thefts are very common so remember, leave no trace and plan to leave valuables home.
I don’t know about you but, just about everyone I hike with has a trail name.
One year we decided to go with names from the American Gladiators. For those of you too young to know about this TV show. You can get up to speed on Wikipedia.
American Gladiators aired from September 1989 to May 1996. It matched gladiators against one another and other amateur athletes.
Our house went full-tilt testosterone when all my boys got a bit over-excited about watching them duel it out.
With my kids hands all over each other, I learned hearing the theme song, evoked the motion in the room to increase. In this way I know there has to be a similar parallel to a trail names.
My boss trail name became Turbo at that time with my friends, Blaze, Lace, and Red still owning their names like a boss as I write.
Recently, I decided Turbo needed a bit of a boost and thought Xena Warrior Princess was more fitting for me.
Xena has stuck for awhile.
I’ve always thought she was better at just simply being strong and beautiful then could muster up hidden strength when necessary from the gods. I’d kind of forgotten about her.
This week I decided Xena needed to be called up again. I always work out better when I have this mindful and playful attitude about kicking ass. To prove my point Xena did some serious ass kicking this past week.
Double workouts in a day. Bike rides, long runs, charging hill sprints and backpacks loaded down with 20 pounds of cat litter on neighborhood hill hikes.
I was on fire!
Because I frequently hike around the neighborhood with a 20 pound bag of cat litter stuffed inside, at some point I was jokingly saying each time, ” I am taking my cat litter on a walk.”
Since we’ve been up-close and personal, like my new best friend this past month, I decided on a name for my backpack. It’s better than taking your cat litter on a walk.
That’s where Jonny Cache was created. Jonny Cat to Jonny Cache.
Now that one is going to stick around awhile.
Over the past 10 years myself and many of my friends have shown gratitude on social media with an abundance of pictures of families, social outings, and travel. Like everyone, this is why we participate. As social media evolves, with these daily examples of life, it is clear we are beyond blessed and thankful, and show this each and every day of the week.
Many times I felt the struggle of guarded feelings of jealousy and being envious.
It is March 16, 2020, Washington State. Up the road, just east of Seattle is Kirkland. Life Center of Kirkland, had the first casualties from COVID-19 the past month. The virus is spreading from China, to Italy, most of Europe and the United States.
Within a month or less time, we moved from denial to acceptance. We have sent our kids home from school for six weeks, closed public places, and started to shelter in place. We collectively looked at facts as evidence and then became people who sought hope in our medical community and governing powers, more than seeking our own self recognition.
Hope can be fleeting, however. Hope is and will be challenging. It is a hard to maintain and even harder place to live. When hope dwindles you easily begin to drive down a road of despair. Just that fast.
When you loose hope together and willingly, despair consumes you.
Today it flipped for me. As my husband and I walked a few miles through the surrounding neighborhoods, the lesson I saw was many people standing outside in their front yards looking for us to say hello or to stop. Keep in mind it is chilly here in Washington State, 35 degrees and breezy and clear. Yet I never saw so many people outdoors, cleaning the garage, working in the yard, playing with their dogs, walking.
“I am good,” I say, “how about you” with a smile, not looking away and down at my phone like I would have done on any other given day. Today my glance lingered, my smile lasted a bit longer. Then it was apparent. I added a word of encouragement keeping my social distance.
No one wants to feel isolated and despair lives in isolation. Hope thrives when we are together even if it is at a distance. We need a reassuring smile to see we are still going on but, remember we have done it to ourselves when we feed into despair.
As I walked I continued to think hope will be the big idea and safety net today, especially in light with what’s around us. Observe, listen and above all else remain positive. We are learning a new way to navigate life and cope with fleeting hope for a short time.
When you become tired and weary let others lift you and don’t drive down that road of despair and take others with you. I was headed there when I stepped out my front door feeling alone today. Help each other, reach out from a distance. We are in this together.
Take that step.
Meet Candace. This week Candace and I met to go over our itinerary we are submitting for the Wonderland Trail. We have a few others who may hop on and off the trail along the way but mostly it will be just Candace and myself and then the potential of meeting close to 100 more folks that we have no idea who they are and they don’t even know who they are yet. In other words, it is a random lottery fest to see who gets the coveted permit within the desired window of time. Mt. Rainier National Park holds the statistics on the lottery with only a small percentage being issued ahead of time and most all handed out after appearing at the door of a ranger station ready to go.
I am sure I put too much thought into it but, the most popular and currently used book is Tami Asars, “Hiking the Wonderland Trail”. Since Tami Asars book is currently so popular, we picked the more leisurely 13 day trek and settled on submitting our permits for both counter-clockwise and clockwise, mid August, beginning at Mowich, a less desirable starting point.
Timing is everything and the later the better. Reason one we decided on mid August is, the snow pack is much higher this year and will more than likely put us a week or two later in the season.
Mowich is also less desirable for the following reason. Mowich Lake drive-in campground is an eleven mile dirt hole drive through potholes and mud until you arrive at your even more dusty location.
After you leave your vehicle there for over a week, no telling what could happen. You may not be able to find it with all the dust. There is also no running water and pit toilets. The one desirable thing about Mowich is the beautiful crystal blue serene lake.
In the end, since the probability of being pulled out of a lottery for any itinerary published in Tami’s book is slim to none, coupled with the most desirable time to do the Wonderland being late July and August, I really thought through our strategy over and over again in my head in the middle of the night.
The window to submit is March 15th-30th this year. Here is where we started after meeting and then here is where we discussed again Tuesday and landed…
Here is my thinking why starting at Frying Pan Creek is most desirable….
First, the trailhead is in a good spot for one of the most challenging portions of the trip.
This trailhead leads to Summerland and the highest point of the Wonderland, Panhandle Gap. Panhandle Gap is usually always snow covered and there is a 2900′ elevation gain from the TH to the gap. The nice part about this is, we will stay at Indian Bar one night, then Nickel Creek day two. Our next cache is at Longmire, adjacent to our stay at either Paradise River or Cougar Rock or The National Park Inn.
2900′ elevation gain with two days of food sounds really desirable to me. It gives us a burger and a beverage at Longmire with our trip ending at Sunrise for another burger and adult celebration beverage.
After day hiking for years, I think Frying Pan Creek is most certainly the ticket!
I am using the Wonderland Guides Trail Planner to play around with several scenarios. It has online tools and easy guides to adjust days.
The best book currently available is Tami Asars Hiking the Wonderland Trail
A few weeks ago my friend Carrie and I ran into three ladies who had hiked the Wonderland Trail successfully a few years ago.
Since we were hut mates for the evening, Carrie, mostly picked their brains for the entire evening. Their food looked delicious and they talked about how many things they had dehydrated and dumped into ziplock baggies.
Ziplock baggies is key here because on the Wonderland it is pack it in and pack it out. You might find yourself with trash for days if you take the store brand sealable cooking pouch bags. Also if you’ve ever actually sampled those, they are hit and miss with taste with some of the desserts being overly sweet and lacking fresh taste.
When we returned after our stay at the hut, these recipes magically appeared in my email box.
I’ve also decided to dive into the world of dehydration. I should be able to do this with my oven that has low and convection settings.
Also important to note, a wonderful website TrailCooking.com
I’m doing the happy dance!
Seated left to right: Carrie, Lisa, Shannon, Susan, Catherine
#3 Burroughs Three at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park
Burroughs Three– Strenuous- highest point 7,828 ft with elevation gain of 2,500 ft. Distance round trip is usually around 10 miles because we do a bit of exploring at the top and stop and have lunch. This is a taxing hike if you haven’t been running or hiking on a regular basis. It can also get hot but usually there is a cool breeze so bring layers.
Each summer I cannot wait to head up to the Burroughs. Burroughs is a set of three mountains in front of the big mountain, Mt. Rainier. From each mountain, named one, two and three, you get a fire lookout view of the grandest of all.
Although hiking to Burroughs two is generally the stopping point for most people, if you venture up to three it is really spectacular. I took two videos this past summer of my multiple trips this past summer. I took two other couples up there that really wanted to go. Click here for Video ONE taken in August with frequent hiking friend Tami and her husband Paul. Click here for Video TWO taken in September with another hiking friend Luellyn and her husband Chris. I used a GoPro handheld stick for these. Drones are not allowed in the park. I think I’ve been here with almost all my hiking people, Delia, Carrie, Audrey my husband Scott. Spectacular!
#1 Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground is by far my favorite day hike in the park.
A great part of this hike is on the Wonderland Trail. I’ve started at three points to make it a day hike between 12-14 miles.
Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground is at minimum 12 miles and several thousand ft in elevation gain, along with several pushes up and over a ridge that puts you in sloping meadows carpeted with huckleberries and laced by little creeks: a precursor to your final destination. Continue on, arriving at a trail junction in Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, two and a half miles from where you joined the Wonderland Trail.
From this junction there are plenty of options for exploration. Take the trail branching to the left to visit Mirror Lake, or continue straight on and arrive at the ranger’s cabin in about a quarter mile. From the patrol cabin that dates back to the 30’s, rest up and imagine So-To-Lick also know as Indian Henry living up here, hosting explorers and guiding them up the enormous mountain looming overhead. It was said he had three wives and many thought he came to this location because he had a secretly hidden gold mine. Mostly it was to hunt.
Longmire Start– Strenuous Route– 14 miles, 3,200 elevation gain. This by far was one of the hardest hikes I have been on in a day. This particular day I was with my longtime friend Diane. The forecast was for in the upper 90’s in Puyallup and we thought we would escape the heat and head to the mountain. I had shorts and tank top on, bug spray, lunch and a couple of water bottles. Good enough! As the elevation and climb started, I began to really heat up, then pour sweat that attracted hundreds of thirsty mosquitos.
After repeatedly having Diane spray my back and head to no avail I was pretty much eaten alive. We continue on, not taking any breaks so the bugs couldn’t swarm and with working at that intensity in the heat, I decidedly and thankfully drank all my water.
After reaching Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, it was good thing I remembered a small little lake behind the patrol cabin about another mile north called Mirror Lake or I might have ended up drinking unfiltered water ripe with mosquito larva. I yanked off my boots, jump in and swim around with the salamanders for an immediate shock of relief. It probably saved my bacon as well. Walking back with wet clothes was a rather nice way to end the trip.
Kautz Creek Start– Strenuous Route– 11 miles, 3,800 elevation gain. This particular hike Diane and me have done quite a few times but the day I attempted to showcase the beauty to my friend Tammi, her husband Paul and my Krysta and her husband Corey was misery.
The day we picked it was raining. You would think we would all be used to it but this rain was relentless and hard. It was early spring so I just stripped down to a tank top and base layer leggings and wrapped all my clothes tightly in a plastic garbage bag and stuffed them in my backpack.
The rain just cascaded down the steep steps going up the Kautz trail making the steps washed out and even steeper. By the time we made it to the patrol cabin there was another group of 6-8 standing at the porch, all in big heavy ponchos. We wedged our way in and had a nice chat with them since they were doing the Wonderland and had young teens with them from Puyallup.
After lunch and rethinking my trip up and all the water, I eventually put on every layer I had carried up, buttoned up, zipped up and covering every body part, I high-tailed it down the hill.
We never did see the mountain that day.
Westside Road Tahoma Creek Start Route– 12 miles, 2,502 elevation gain. Strenuous but by far my favorite route. The last two years it has become rather sketchy and unsafe along the unmaintained portion of the Tahoma Creek due to repeated flooding and washouts.. What makes this one my favorite is the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge that you get to walk across.
Many times I get asked what is my favorite snowshoes. My favorite snowshoes, I’ve owned for twenty years. They are MSR Evo. They are tough and are on the small side so easy enough to walk in. There are floatation fins that can attach if you are breaking trail.
Washington State is notorious for avalanches due to our topography and wet climate. Always carry the 10 essentials, bring waterproof poncho, handwarmers, microspikes, snowshoes, shovel, probe, and transceiver, chains for snow parks. Familiarize yourself with Northwest Avalanche Center where you’ll find there are many great videos on snow safety in the back country and stop by ranger stations for trail reports before heading out.
I found this nifty package at our local REI that contains the plastic shovel, probe and transceiver.
One of my favorite places to snowshoe is located in Ashford, WA. The Mt. Tahoma Trails Association is a hut to hut cross country ski or snowshoe trail. My first snowshoe this year was late, January 18th. I wore MyZone so I could figure my calorie output. For the day, with a 20 pound weighted pack and snowshoes 3,000 calories. Garmin recorded a 14 mile trip with 1,800 elevation gain to 4,200 ft. More on why I wear both to train in the gear section and nutrition section. Washington Trails Association Trip Report
I hope to get up to Paradise at Mt. Rainier on Wednesday and snowshoe from Narada Falls to Reflection Lakes.