My friend Ryan Meline has been good enough to share his experience hiking the Enchantments here in Washington State. Thank you, Ryan.
It started with a lottery. If you’re lucky enough to score a permit, they grant you passage into some of the most amazing terrain in Washington.
We decided we were not that lucky, so we put two names in the hat.
"Congratulations! You were successful in securing a reservation for a wilderness permit in the Core Enchantment Zone of the ENCHANTMENT PERMIT AREA LOTTERY.” This is the email we received for one of our entries, which lets you bring up to 7 buddies with you. Also the poorly named "core enchantment permit area" lets you camp anywhere within the different enchantment zones, not just the core, so I recommend applying for that one. If you’re a gambler, you can try your luck at the ranger station the day of and see if there are any unclaimed permits available. They have to limit the number of people per day camping there, because I think they are trying to keep it a secret. I would. Names like Aasgard pass, Argonaut Peak and Dragon tail, really set the stage, and there will be many moments during the trip you swear you are wandering through Tolkien’s imagination. It’s that beautiful.
Five of us, loaded our 40 - 50 lb packs up and headed for four days into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Central Cascades. We decided to start at the lower enchantments and work our way up to the upper Enchantments. I highly recommend this route, leaving through Aasgard Pass, rather than the other way around. Its much more climactic this route and Asgard is not for the feint of heart climbing 2,000 feet in 3/4 a mile. This was also my first time hiking with a heavier pack so I thought it better to ease into the workout. We split up some of the weight of the tents and cooking equipment (there are no open fires allowed in the Enchantments) but it’s still a good amount of weight to carry for 4 days.
The first part of the hike is the tamest with many switchbacks, some of them through the charred remains of a forrest fire. But soon you are nestled between two ridges with a stream as your guide. We camped the first night at the Snow Lakes, it was Labor Day weekend so we had incredible weather and would be swimming in these chilly, but invigorating lakes and streams throughout our adventure. The following day we shared some of our breakfast with some Camp Robbers / Gray Jays, went for a morning swim, and hit the trail.
For this next leg we basically followed the cascading waterfalls most of the day, so there were countless spots where we stopped, to take a dip, and even try out a waterfall jacuzzi. Its good to take your time here, as there will be relentless climbing during this trip. These cliff faces are as beautiful as they are high.
We camped at inspiration lake the next night, but could have gone a little more slowly, as we were pretty close to our final campsite in the upper enchantments. We purposefully wanted to spend one night up top so we could take some spur trails and hang around the meandering pools with the goats all day.
The highlight of a trip full of highlights was the short hike/scramble up to the peak of little Annapurna. We watched the sunset from up here and could see every mountain peak within a few hundred miles. I won’t try to describe how amazing this experience was, you’ll just have do it yourself.
By the time we were finished we had gone from the trailhead at 1300 ft, to the summit at 8440ft. And over 22 miles of hiking. It was such an amazing trip between the terrain, the perfect weather, and the friends. I’m definitely going back.