THE ENCHANTMENTS, WA - DAY 3 & 4

DAY 3 - Enchanted High Alpine Valley

6 miles.  2,000 ft elevation gain

-Chef Corso

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What’s great about backcountry camping with not a lot of miles to cover every day is you can wake up when you wake up, have some coffee/tea and find your way through the day. There are times when you’ll need to be on a daily schedule, but this was not one of those trips.

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BREAKFAST - ON THE MENU

Morningstar Breakfast Scramble

9 ingredients -10 min -1.3 lbs

This is a great breakfast for later in your trip as all items hold well for a few days and the freshness of a zucchini and red pepper is a great treat.

It was time to move and see something today.  Our plan was to head up into the High Apline basin and explore.  We set out to make it up the hill and into the meat of the Core Zone.  Hugging Snow Lake, crossing beautiful run off river and then we headed up for a few thousand feet.  This was relatively intense and not a specific path most of the way. Large roots, rock scramble but all with a view of the lake below and the river as it descends from the alpine. 

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It eventually topped out and flattened out with a small lake at the top, before increasing again and scrambling even higher.

A few more minutes and we made it. THIS WAS IT! Snow melt lakes, buddling Larch trees and endless pools of some of the prettiest terrain you will see.  All at around 7,000 feet! Towering over this basin is Prusik Peak which, I have to admit is pretty epic looking.

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We stopped for a quick snack….and a yoga sesh.

LUNCH - ON THE MENU

Morocaan Cous Cous and some of the last of the Meat, Cheese, Bread situation.

8 ing - 10 min - 2.2lbs

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A mountain goat family guided the way down to return to our tent.  

 
 

Luck was on our side as it started sprinkling just as we arrived back at camp.  Then turned into a pour for around 3-4 hours.

We took the opportunity to play some cards, read a bit and chill.  

Cooking in the rain isn’t that fun, but sometimes it’s necessary.

We waited until most of it had subsided and teamed up to cook up our meal as quickly as possible.

One person prepped, one person got the water boiling.

ON THE MENU -DINNER

Sesame Shitake Ramen

9 ingredients - 15 min - 2.8lbs

&

Berry Marshmallow Fondue with Brownie Brittle

4 ingredients - 5 min - 1 lbs

This tasted amazing against the cooler damp night.

Don’t forget the campy chopsticks!

NO PIC…it was kinda dark.

At this point in the trip, I wish tomorrow wasn’t our last day…even with the rain. It’s been really nice to check out and see some amazing things with some great friends.


Day 4 - The Trek Out - Valley, Asguard, Colchuck and out

10ish miles.  3,000 ft elevation gain, followed by the better part of 6,000 ft down.

Our last day. 

The plan: Hike out.

We started with the idea that it would be around 10 miles and probably a good solid day of hiking.

Well….we underestimated things a bit.

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This day turned into one of the hardest and longest days of hiking I’ve ever done.

BREAKFAST - ON THE MENU

Tropical Oatmeal w Macadamia Nuts

I threw in some hemp hearts in for some added protein.

5 ingredients - 7 min - 1.5 lbs

10am:  Camp packed up.  We’re off. I was hoping to get a slightly earlier start but the group was steady in packing up.

We acceded our previous route up to the basin and started our way through the whole Core Zone.  This overall wasn’t a large amount of elevation, but involved some light snow routes and weaving through the trail.  It’s truly an amazing area. What’s amazing is that one side is so lush while the other is pretty barren with mostly just large rock outcrops.  

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About halfway through the basin, I took a wrong turn down another well establish path and went up the wrong ridge.  I was waiting for my group to catch up but nothing. So I trudged on thinking this was the right way until I got to the top.  I was looking for Asguard pass and well….that wasn’t it.  

It was the safest and smartest move to go back the way I came and try to find the group.  It took a bit to track them down as they were looking for me as well. Overall, about an hour of mild panic for everyone and crisis averted.  Let this be a lesson to everyone (and again myself) to not get TOO far ahead or behind the group. The strength is in the group.

New SMALL lens lens for my camera

New SMALL lens lens for my camera

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After we reconnected, we trudged on.  

We all thought we were getting close to Asgaurd at this point, but it was another few hours until we reached the apex to this view.

Top of Asgard Pass

Top of Asgard Pass

 
 

Wow, what a view.  That’s 2k+ feet down in less than a mile and Colchuck Lake at the bottom.  It is truly a sight and some of the most jagged angry peaks in the Northwest.  

ON THE MENU - Snacks

Not much time for a meal.  Need to keep movin

Bars, Shotblocks, last of the jerky and landjagers

At this point, it was 5ish oclock.  We new we had anywhere from 3-5 miles ahead of us.  We are now in the mode of finishing by dark.

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For folks with knee problems, Asguard is pretty terrible.  It’s almost straight down, sketchy in some places and you really have to watch your footing or you are going to go on a dangerous, painful tumble.  The positive, is Colchuck Lake slowly gets bigger as you decend feet after feet dramatically quickly.

We made our way down, pumped some water from the river as we were getting very low and kept going.  Gotta keep moving.

Next was the boulder field of Cochuck.  Another mildly sketchy area.

Passing campers setting up their camp at the end of THEIR long day was mildly disconcerning.  Mainly, because we knew we had hours ahead of us.

The decent from Colchuck is around 3-4000ft which is no slouch.  A lot of exposed roots, boulders on the well defined trail.

Sorry, no pictures. We had to keep movin.

Then twiliight hit.  

At this point, I was starting to get a little concerned.  Will we make it to the car by DARK. I hope so. Gotta keep going.

As day shifted to night, we dawned our headlamps, which do a really great job.  If they work.

Always remember to pack extra batteries.  If we hadn’t this might have been a longer and sadder story.

We kept going.  We kept going. As night fully fell.  

This is first time I have ever hiked in the full dark. 

What an interesting experience.  You hear sounds, you see different things and your view is only on the few steps in front on you.

We were thinking we were getting very close to the end.  We crossed paths with a couple heading up and they unfortunately broke our hope with a “you’re only 1.5 miles to the parking lot.”  Really!? After this long day. (deep breath….deep breath)

Gotta keep going.

It’s really amazing what your body and mind can do when there isn’t another option.  For us, there wasn’t another option to stop. No option to rest and wait until tomorrow.  We needed to finish this thing and get to our car.  

We finished the hike in pitch black and growing worry if we were on the right trail.  Had I made a wrong turn that I didn’t see? Is this really right? Again it’s dark and it’s really hard to confirm your thoughts.  

In the final steps, we yelled out to Monkey Treats and Chickpea Chick that were waiting for us by the car.  Big hugs all around. We made it. WE MADE IT! And we made it safe…

…All of us were dead. We just hiked for 13 hrs.

We all slammed down our bags at my car.  Remember those bevies and snacks I stashed?

They were waiting for us.

Cracked some Negra Modelos, coconut water and a bottle of cava with salty tortilla chips.  O man, what a flavor. Tasted soooooo goood. 

We made it.  We did it. We did it together.
The first thing we did when we got to cell service was message our SAFE GROUPS that we were ok.  With the late hour they themselves were getting a little worried.

Unfortunately, we needed to drive back to Seattle this night.

Got home at 3am and immediately crashed for who knows how long.

Turns out I hiked 16 miles over a bunch of elevation ups and downs and we hiked for a total of 13 hours finishing at 11pm.  Woosch.

Amazing trip, amazing friends, amazing food and a long butt kicking to make it all worth it.


OVERALL THOUGHTS and THINGS TO DO NEXT TIME

PACKING - each of our packs was pretty dialed.  Not much extra equipment.

WATER PUMP - Always bring two pumps or some sort of back up.  Our primary option broke. If we didn’t have a back up we would have had to boil boil boil which would have taken down our fuel for cooking.

GROUP - Stay together.  We had a few times were we got a little too far apart for comfort.

SAFE GROUP - Always tell 2 different people where you are going.  Exactly what you are doing, where you are going and when you will be back.  We got into a little hairy situation this trip and it’s really important to tell folks what your plan is and follow up with them to tell them you’re ok.  It could really help in the time where it’s really important.

FOOD - quantities were spot on.  We were all full and the snack packs were helpful for everyone.

BATTERIES- Always bring extra for headlamps or any other equip you have.


IN THE BUSHES THOUGHTS

- Chickpea Chick

I just spent 4 days backpacking through the glorious Enchantments of Washington state. The hiking was burly, unforgiving and absolutely worth every mile. Being totally out of shape for this hike, the fact that with each additional 1,000 feet of elevation gain (as we hiked from Snow Lake to the Core Zone, over Aasgard Pass and down to Colchuck) the views opened up onto endless water features that poured over glacially carved stone and carved their way through Alpine meadows... yeah, that helped a lot. Or watching mountain goat families bounding from one rock face to another. Or gazing through my own dripping sweat over turquoise lakes shimmering in the sun... yes, that was also encouraging. 
It was what I imagine Heaven will be like, minus the aching body and 40lbs. backpack. 

But anyone who has been backpacking knows that the scenery is a bonus, icing on the cake. What really makes a trip (at least for me anyways) are the people with whom you trek, the food that fuels you up the trail, and seeing what you're made of when the miles wear on. 

Covering these miles with dear friends, one of whom was Chef Corso, MontyBoca Extraordinaire, elevated the experience ten-fold. Knowing that there'd be Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Artichoke Hearts and Cuban Black Bean soup with Plantain Chips at the end of day one? Ummm yes, please! Man, did that taste good after hauling our butts up 4,500 feet over 7 miles. 
Or waking up on Day 2 and sipping coffee over Snow Lake and then hearing Chef Corso ask me, "Hey, want to whip up some Dirtbag Eggs Benedict?" Yes! yes. and YES! 

This is how our trip went... each day an easy, gourmet menu laid out before us as we frolicked throughout The Enchantments. I didn't touch a protein bar until the last day on one of the last miles of the trip, only once we had made our way through 3 amazing meals per day and were getting down to the bottom of our food stores. Haha with every overly dense, flavorless bite I missed that fresh Kale Salad ... or Chili Lime Popcorn ... or Veggie Wonton Noodle Bowls... or the... well, you get the idea. 
Be forewarned: This is what happens when one experiences elevated meals. It's tough to go back to trail mix and bars. 

Here's a SHOUT OUT to Monkey Treets, Belosho and Chef Corso for being the best backpacking buddies a lady could ask for, and for teaching me how to cook and eat worlds better while backpacking. 

As a total Nomad this summer and fall, I now feel super inspired to cook and eat MontyBoca meals while on the road, on the trail, or even in a friend's backyard! I've now witnessed how simple and fast these meals are to prepare, how much healthier and tastier they are than typical on-the-road-alternatives. So much so that when I returned home from The Enchantments, I went straight to REI to purchase some key cooking utensils - a pot, a small cutting board, and a few containers for oils and spices. Hhhhmmm now I just need to choose my next MontyBoca recipe....?!!!

 
Steve Corson