- Distance: 19 miles? I think it’s technically 18, but I know we went further with all the excitedly running in circles that we did
- Elevation: 4400ft, 7800ft highest point (all the way up Aasgard, then all downhill from there!)
- Weather: 20’s and sunny up to maybe 30’s and sunny? I miss running in cold crisp weather
- Commute from Seattle: Just over two hours with no traffic if you don’t drive like a granny
- Did I Trip:
A stubbed toe, but no genuine wipeouts! Ha! Get at me!Nevermind, I forgot I tripped 3 feet from the trailhead
So we met at the trailhead. I had an unfairly good night of sleep in the back seat of my car, which doesn’t quite fit a person but with some fidgeting and a willingness to sleep in a 3d diagonal position, you’ll be fine. I guess I’m getting used to it. Sorry mom. You should know I laughed inside when your immediate reaction to me buying an xterra was “please don’t sleep in it.”
We hit the trail a little after 7. Anyone who knows me knows that my calves are being problematic right now, and they were terrible on the way up to Colchuck. I forgot aspirin. They swelled up pretty quickly, the bastards. I am too impatient for this crap. Luckily Cooper was okay just hiking, and so we trekked up to the lake. We passed a group that had gotten stuck out overnight (one was wearing shorts!) but was in good spirits. We asked if they needed food or water, they declined. They probably just wanted to get the hell off the trail. I get that, I remember ripping Tony a new one because he wanted to make coffee at 6am when we had just spent a night rapping down Cutthroat.
At the lake, we ran down to the boulders by the water to get the obligatory pictures of Dragontail over Colchuck. There was one pesky cloud in the way, but everything else was sunny. We ran into a few groups who had spent the night, all of whom said microspikes would be a necessity. I was torn – 50% of me said ha, bullshit, and 50% of me said EVE WHY’D YOU LEAVE THE SPIKES IN THE CAR. Cooper brought his yaktrax, we decided we’d split one and one if it came down to it. I mean, at the very least we’d end up with a good story about a
dangerous hilarious slip with one yaktrak.
Getting to the top was like reaching the freaking gates of heaven. My calves had loosened up halfway up Aasgard. When we stepped out into the sunlight at the foot of Dragontail and saw the turquoise Isolation Lake below Little Annapurna sparkling surrounded by fresh snow we starting running in every direction, like that dog that was supposed to ignore all the toys but instead went crazy and couldn’t decide which one he wanted to pick up. Crisscrossing paths, leaving footprints in fresh snow, hopping from rock to rock like the floor is lava and taking pictures with numb stiff fingers and tripping over surprise rock wells and snowdrifts with frozen eyelashes laughing with that feeling of wonder like a kid seeing snow for the first time. Pure fucking joy. I downed some goldfish and drank straight from the camelback since the hose was completely frozen. Who even cares?!? Look where we are!! Shit, I’ve been here before and I’m still being blown away! I’m not defined by my eight million hours a week with zero pay desk job, or how well I do hair and makeup in the morning, or whether I filtered my life on Facebook enough so no one thinks I ever deal with anything shitty. The past month had been brutal, but here I was. This is why I’m here. Because I like pretty things that are hard to get to. Like the highly esteemed Lloyd Banks of G Unit once said, “I ain’t here to save the world, just roll up a blunt.” Except it isn’t a blunt, it’s just the escapism of disappearing to mountains. Sorry guys, I guess I’m saying it took me 24 years to realize I’m a selfish bastard.*
We ran across a small divide between two lakes, and scrambled down some slabs off trail across from Little Annapurna. Microspikes be damned. I was disappointed at the lack of larches, but fresh snow against sparkling water made up for it. I got a picture of Cooper jumping across a river (okay, I might have made him do it a few times, but let’s be real, it’s awesome). We snacked on a rock looking at the back of McClellan, watching tiny hikers following the trail in the distance. There were more larches on this side, yellow against the snow, lit up in the sun. We dropped down to the trail and followed it down to the Inspiration Lake. I thought the Enchantments consisted of like 4 lakes. Every lake we got to I was convinced was the last but it just kept coming. Inspiration Lake was amazing. The larches were growing in density, and my mind was just exploding. Trail runs are awesome because it’s such a cool feeling, you move so quickly that everything is a flash and even 30 minutes later it feels like it was a dream. Were we just by Dragontail? And now we’re looking at this? It’s like having your mind blown while high on endorphins for 8 hours straight.
We snapped more pictures running through trails of larches around Inspiration Lake and Leprechaun Lake. I barley recognized them. I tried to find where Tony and I had camped, but it must have been off the usual trail, or I’m just an idiot. I snapped more pics of my shoes. We came across a few guys who had jumped into the freezing cold water. I strongly considered joining, because who doesn’t want to jump in an alpine lake on such a beautiful day just for the sake if it. After 30 seconds, logic kicked in, and I realized it’d take a solid 10 minutes of wrestling with leggings with my bare ass sitting on snow covered in near freezing water to get leggings back on, so I’m gonna go ahead and veto that idea and revisit it later. We carried on, cruising over flat trail, greeting the few campers we saw, trail trampled enough that microspikes were not necessary. There were a few icy sections, but nothing that was a game changer. I don’t think we even had a true wipeout.
The larches went on forever, and I have zero complaints about that. It was a Tuesday, I could have been at my desk writing vlookups and macros and shit and instead here I was in the sun remembering why I liked running and why I moved to Seattle to begin with and wondering how I had managed to have such a freaking lazy September when all of this exists. Yeah, I know, cheese curds are delicious, and so are ice cream and hot pockets and mac n cheese but they don’t trump mountains. We ran across more slabs, more snow, more larches, still amazing. There was a flaw, though. We didn’t see any goats. I swear, wildlife avoids me.
At Lake Viviane I laughed reminiscing on my misery with Tony when we crested the ridge back in April and realized how much further we had to go. This time around, it was the opposite. All downhill from here! We pounded down some slabs (which, it turns out, I thoroughly enjoy running – why doesn’t that translate to rock climbing?!) and found the trail down to Snow Lake, snapping pictures of the last of the larches. Snow Lake was very low, with neat patterns of the water level in the soil. Cooper didn’t ask for a snack, he just…. decided. We popped out to overlook the lake and he sat down and declared “I am having a snack, right here.” Okay! I whipped out the goldfish.
We cut across the soil to the end of the lake. It was absurdly soft and springy and fun to run, though I know we broke some LNT principles. Shhh. We’re sorry. In a few hundred years when the lake fills up again it’ll wash away our footprints. Oh wait, there will be no lake at that point. Relax, the snow will take care of the footprints. I picked up a bunch of Gu wrappers and paper towels and stuff others had left behind, so it kind of cancels out, right?
Cooper let me set the pace (yay!) which makes sense since we all know he can outrun me. I came upon my second wind somewhere around the north end of Nada Lake, and it was all easy jogging from there. We passed a couple who had tried Prusik only to find it too icy to climb, which settled my disappointment at not getting around to it this summer. There was a rock slide across the trail at one point that made it tougher to follow (I get into the classic “zone out and run” state of being on trails and forget to pay attention) but we snapped back to clarity and found it quickly, and from there it was a matter of however many switchbacks it took to get back down to the Snow Lakes trailhead. The fall foliage along the trail was still pretty, and I couldn’t help but snap a few photos of climbers on Outer Space, an awesome 5.9 climb with a bomber 5th and 6th pitch that I will someday lead.
We started whooping at each switchback when we could see the parking lot (with my shiny yellow xterra standing out from a mile away as usual) and soon enough we had crossed Snow Creek. Like 50ft left to the car! “I’M GONNA RUN THE LAST UPHILL” I announced since we had been jogging nonstop for the past 7 or 8 miles. Utter determination. “EVEN THOUGH MY SHOE JUST CAME UNTIED.” Cooper laughed. “All the way to the car!!” “How funny would it be if I tripped over my shoelace just feet from the parking lot?” And with that said, I tripped over my shoelace, a mere 3 feet from the parking lot.
I tied my shoe, and ran into a guy asking if we had seen his friends. We had to think about that one for a bit, we had passed so many people. We decided that yes, we had. And then we ran the last 10 feet to the car. Success!!
We had a stretch break and looked up the valley, where nearly all of the ground we had covered was out of sight. I may whine about the hype around the Enchantments, but I gotta say, it’s a pretty sweet place. Just pick up the trash when you’re there. Go beyond LNT, because there’s enough crap up there you can definitely walk out with more than what you took in. And to all the runners, stop dropping your Gu packets. The bright colored tabs on top clash with the larches.