Car camping at the Ida Creek Campgrounds (go here – Car Camping at Ida Creek Campgrounds – to read about that) in the Leavenworth area after our backpacking trip into the Enchantments (go here – Backpacking the Enchantments – to read more about our Enchantments trip) so we could enjoy another day of hiking before making the long drive home, Eight Mile Lakes was our destination. Getting there was an easy drive up a well-maintained gravel road. The morning sun lighting the fall colors along the way was a special treat!
Ready to make the 6.6 mile hike up another trail, we paused long enough at the trailhead to snap this photo.
The trail made a steady climb and often we passed through open areas with impressive looking pines.
We stopped to refill our hydration units with fresh water from Eight Mile Creek.
We passed some impressively sized boulders along the way.
And crossed a few streams.
Reaching the first of the two Eight Mile Lakes, called Little Eight Mile Lake, we continued around this lake to make the final climb to the upper Eight Mile Lake.
The last stretch was steep and took us through an area recently burned by forest fire.
It seemed worth our effort to make the climb to Big Eight Mile Lake as it was truly a beauty. We stopped for a picnic lunch on the shore and basked in the afternoon sunshine before turning around and heading back to the trailhead.
It had been a long hike with approximately 1,300′ of elevation gain, so Snickers bars made the perfect high-energy quick snack to help us power back down to the parking lot.
If you’ve been following the blog posts about our backpacking trip into the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, you already know that it was not the fact that the Government was in the middle of its 2013 shutdown that kept us from entering the inner core of the Enchantments but an early snowfall with lingering cold temperatures that caused a buildup of ice on the rebar steps over giant granite slabs that prevented us from going any further than the Lower and Upper Snow Lakes. If you missed that story, go here –https://60before60.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/63-snow-lakes/ – and you’ll be caught up in a flash. Meanwhile, we had the week off and enough food and gear with us for that week, so what did we do? We packed up and decided to move on.
Enjoying the views along the trail as we make our way back down to the trailhead.
And it was like any other day on the trail – absolutely beautiful!
Having fun along the trail . . .
The fall colors in the thick understory were a welcome treat to the eyes as we entered a lower elevation forest previously lost to a forest fire.
Even though the Government shutdown was still in progress and all Government campgrounds were closed, as it turned out, the management of some of the campgrounds in the National Forests is contracted out to private companies, so there were several in the Leavenworth area that were open for business. Car camping this time rather than backpacking, here’s our campsite at Ida Creek.
Camping near Nada Lake during our backpacking trip into the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (go here – https://60before60.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/62-backpacking-the-enchantments-snow-lakes-trail-to-nada-lake/ – to read about our hike to Nada Lake), isn’t this quite the view to enjoy while sipping the morning cup of coffee? With a view like this, it was almost easy to disregard the fact that even though the sun was shining, it was only 27 degrees F and our little tent had frost on top of its rainfly. We knew it was going to be cold during the night the day before when we packed in, so came prepared with plenty of warm layers of polar fleece clothing. I had even brought a few of those packets of Hot Hands hand warmers and tossed a couple into the bottom of my sleeping bag before turning in for the night. I slept very comfortably, and was glad I had warm feet.
Not long after we had finished our morning coffee and breakfast, we began to see more hikers heading in, and others packing out. The weather forecast had indicated that the conditions would be improving after that first day of snow and cold, and it appeared that even though the Government was in the middle of a shut down, word was getting out that the Alpine Lakes Wilderness was not one of those Government areas that was closed. This was a National wilderness area, and while the toilet building at the trailhead was padlocked and had a sign on its door that it was closed due to the Government shutdown, the parking lot at the trailhead was open, there were no barricades anywhere, there were no armed guards like some people were saying were guarding some of the National Parks and Monuments, and this Wilderness was open for business.
Some of the hikers stopped by our camp as they passed by Nada Lake to take a short break and enjoy the view and shared with us what they knew about the trail conditions near Snow Lakes. The two Snow Lakes were about 1,400′ higher in elevation than where we were at Nada Lake, and as we had feared, it was reported that the snow there was at least six to to eight inches deep. Some of the hikers were heading back down to the trailhead because snow and ice was built up to such a degree on the rebar steps on the huge granite slabs that must be crossed, making entry into the inner core area of Enchantments impossible. Our original plan was to pack up our camp after breakfast and move to one of the campsites at Lower Snow Lakes so we would be in a better position for day hikes into the inner core area, but the idea of camping on snow and not being able to go any further didn’t sound very appealing. Instead, we changed our plans and decided to simply keep our lovely campsite there at Nada Lake and day hike up and back to the Snow Lakes instead. Here’s a view looking back at Nada Lake as we started up the trail Snow Lakes.
This photo is from one of my favorite sections of the trail. As I mentioned before, the Snow Lakes are about 1,400′ higher in elevation than Nada Lake, so as we continued to climb along the trail, we continued to find more and more snow. This photo was taken about where it became necessary to put our ice trekkers on our boots for better traction along the ice covered talus. I particularly enjoyed this part of the trail as I stood next to this snow topped boulder. The snow its roof, it reminded me of a little house.
Because of the recent low temperatures, Upper Snow Lake was frozen over. Its water was so low, with a big bathtub ring, it seemed more like a puddle to me, and I was glad that we had kept our campsite down at Nada Lake. I felt we had the better reflective view for coffee and knew the temperature wasn’t as cold where we had camped, but how about that mountain peak behind Upper Snow lake? I thought it quite impressive!
We had brought a picnic lunch with us on this hike and sat on the shore of the Lower Snow Lake on a boulder warmed by the afternoon sun as we ate our lunch.
After lunch we explored around the two Snow Lakes a bit before making our way back down the snowy trail to our camp at Nada Lake.
Seems we often come to a stream with not quite a bridge over it when we are out hiking, and this trail was no exception. Here, Kent Doughty offers me his hand as I step down to the log that has become this stream crossing yet is nearly completely submerged. Thank you sweetheart!
Right up until the moment that we put on our backpacks in the parking lot by the trailhead, we felt fortunate to be able to go on this particular backpacking trip, yet not quite sure that we could do it. First off, the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is a very unique and fragile environment. To protect it, the U.S. Forest Service limits the number of backpackers allowed into the area at any given time by holding an annual lottery for permits. In order to obtain our permit, we submitted our application last February indicating the dates we desired, and did not find out until March if our permit was accepted. Also, at just over 4,000′ elevation gain over the six miles from the trailhead to where our permit allowed us to camp our first night out, this was the steepest and longest backpacking trip we had ever done. Our backpacks were heavier than usual as it had snowed the night before and weather forecasts predicted the temperature to drop to 27 degrees our first night out. We carried extra layers of warm clothes and more food than we usually packed for a week in the backcountry. We left the parking lot prepared for the snow that had already fallen and the low temperatures, planning on a tough day of hiking. Because the trailhead is about a four-hour drive from our home, the night before we headed to son Brian’s home as he lives just under an hour’s drive from the trail so we could begin our hike as early as possible. Here Maybee, Brian’s trusty dog, bids us her good-bye as we head out the door.
Then, it just so happened that the 2013 Government shutdown began the day before the date of our permitted trip, and with all National Parks closed, we didn’t even know for sure if we would be allowed on the trail. It wasn’t like we could simply call the parks office and ask them because, after all, their offices were closed and all unessential employees had been furloughed. We had stopped at the parks office in Leavenworth on our way to Brian’s the night before, and discovered a note taped to their window indicating that if people had printed out their permits, they should leave them on the dashboard of their vehicles and go on their trip. The Government websites had all been taken off-line a few days before, so if you had not printed your permit before the Government shutdown, it sounded like it was just too bad. Fortunately, we had printed our permit the weekend before we left home!
It had snowed the day before at the higher elevations, and because of the Government shutdown, getting accurate weather information and current snow levels and trail conditions was impossible, unless you ran into someone in the parking lot or something that had just come out of the area. We were lucky, and found a guy that had spent the night in his van because some of the campgrounds were also closed due to the Government shutdown when we arrived at the trailhead early that morning. He told us that he had been on a different trail near the area that was at about the same elevation and that in some places he had found himself plowing through shoulder high snow. He had also heard that Aasgard Pass was closed due to there being three-foot drifts of snow. Aasgard Pass is another, even steeper but shorter, way of entering the Enchantments – but seriously, if you know me at all, you would pretty much figure that any pass with a name that sounds even remotely like “Aasgard” (regardless of how it might be spelled!) is a route that I would avoid, and we had planned our route along the Snow Lakes Trail and planned to camp at Nada Lake the first night. We headed out from the trailhead expecting to run into snow at higher elevations near Nada Lake, and set off ready for a long, steep day of hiking.
First off, we crossed Icicle Creek.
Then the trail started to climb. One switchback after another, up, up, up we hiked. By then, the fog had cleared and it was a beautiful blue-sky kind of day.
We had lots of talus slopes to cross. Long, steep talus slopes, so were forever glad that they were not covered with ice and snow.
Four thousand feet of elevation gain over six miles of trail makes for a long hike – especially considering that for this trip, my pack weighed in at somewhere over forty pounds. Whew, I needed a little break here before continuing on.
The views were beautiful along the trail. Great views always seem to make it a little easier for me – especially on long, steep trails. I think this is a view of the famous Aasgard Pass. Just look at all that fresh snow! I couldn’t imagine my climbing that one with this pack!
After awhile, we had gained enough elevation that we started hitting snow and ice on those talus slopes. Fortunately, I had brought my trekking pole and had ice trekkers handy in my pack if the going got slippery.
Yep, before long, the trail was completely covered with snow, and it was cold. Time to pull out the neck gator, hat and warm gloves.
Finally! We reached Nada Lake and found a spot that was relatively snow free in which to set up camp.
Not a bad view of Nada Lake from camp as we sipped hot chocolate and ate a vegetable soup for dinner.
Vegetation along the trail was still wet from all the rain the day before, and the streams were running high. Stream crossings for the day turned out to be quite easy and with proper bridges though. This make-shift bridge of small logs that we encountered not long after we started out was not even much of a challenge.
The trail, often took us high above the shore of Lake Chelan and then dipped down right to the waters edge as we continued on to Stehekin. There really barely a couple feet in elevation difference between the beginning and ending of this hike, but there were certainly many, many ups and downs along the way.
The views were great the entire day.
And then we reached Stehekin!
Stehekin is quite a remarkable little town. Really just an “unincorporated” community, there are only about 75 full-time residents. There is no road access to Stehekin. The only way in and out of Stehekin is to take a boat, a float plane or hike in – or some combination or those options like we did (boat and hike).
Downtown Stehekin, now we’ve been there – done that.
We arrived in plenty of time to check out the town, eat our lunch, have tea and coffee and rest and relax before it was time for us to catch the ferry back to the town of Chelan.
The boat, the Lady of the Lake II, arrived and we dug our tickets out of our packs so we could complete our trip.
It was a four and a half boat ride from the Stehekin at the northern most end of Lake Chelan to the town of Chelan at the southern most end of the lake, and oh so beautiful. As we headed south, the clouds (which, by the way, never did rain on us as during our final hike to Stehekin), lifted to expose beautiful snow-capped peaks. By the time we reached Chelan, the sky was clear.
We tossed our heavy backpacks in the back of the car once we got off the boat at Chelan and made the one-hour drive back to son Brian’s to spend the night, then hit the road in the morning to complete the five and a half hour drive back home. What an exceptional adventure this was!
The best description for this day of hiking is, quite simply, WET. It rained all day. In spite of good rain gear – rain pants, gortex coats, rain hats, rain covers for our backpacks, extra waterproofing added to our boots, it rained almost all day, and we got soaked. Our tent got wet. Our sleeping bags got wet. Our feet got soaked. It was raining. This was the day we needed to hike north from Moore Point (see Hike #42 – Backpacking Lake Chelan – Chelan to Moore Point, Old Orchard Camp) to a camp at Flick Creek in order to continue on our backpacking trip to the remote village of Stehekin at the northern most end of Lake Chelan. Here we are all packed up and tucked into our rain gear, big smiles on our faces as we were determined to make it a grand day of hiking in spite of the rain.
What started out as a slight mist in the early morning hours, turned into a steady rain as we continued along the trail.
We hiked on, past more trees charred from the fires of previous years as the view of Lake Chelan teased us through the never ending mist.
It was soggy. The foliage was heavy, weighted down by the rain and drooped over the trail, dripping wet on us even as the rain clouds began to lift. I’m pretty much as wet as this dogwood tree.
Finally, the Flick Creek Camp came into view, and we could see that it had a covered shelter. This being the only official camp site at the Flick Creek Camp, as we approached, we hoped that we would be the first backpackers to arrive. If other campers were already hunkered down in that shelter, we would be faced with having to keep on hiking north – all the way to Stehekin – as this was the only campgrounds between Moore Point and Stehekin. It looked even more inviting as we got closer. We were hopeful. We were wet!
Yes! No one was there! We could get out of the rain, hang our wet stuff up and hope that it would be dry enough to get a good nights sleep before hiking on to Stehekin.
By the time we had changed into dry clothing and hung all our wet gear up on the odd assortment of nails in the shelter, the clouds started to lift again. And, just like that, the rain stopped.
Kent always brings plenty of rope along on our backpacking trips, and good thing, because in no time we had a line stretched between two trees and had hung out our wet sleeping bags and other gear. We had a couple of hours remaining before dark, and with the gentle breeze that was blowing, by the end of the day, our gear was dry.
Just look at some of the beautiful mountain views we enjoyed from our camp once the sky cleared. Absolutely stunning!
Sitting at the end of the dock at the Flick Creek Camp, what a wonderful way to end the day!
Near dark, a family of backpackers came hiking in. Three teenage girls, a boy not much older and their mom, hungry, soaked and loaded down with their packs. They asked if we could please share our space. While the Flick Creek was really only for “one”, how could we possibly have sent them on down the trail? There was plenty of room for them! Since we had our tent set up under the shelter and it had stopped raining, we helped them identify a couple of areas that were fairly level where they could put up their tents. In no time, they were set up and cooking their dinner. They, too, were on their way to Stehekin. What a wonderful backpacking trip this was!
On a backpacking trip to the remote village of Stehekin at the far north end of Lake Chelan, once we were set up at the Old Orchard Camp, we wanted to explore the area a bit more before packing up and heading on. Up until a few years ago, one could hike the entire distance from the town of Chelan to Stehekin, but floods had wiped out portions of the trail and a major bridge between Chelan and Moore Point, making it impossible to hike now. Hikers currently must rely on the ferry to drop them off somewhere north of the washed out area, and that was what we had done (see Hike #42 – Backpacking Lake Chelan – Chelan to Moore Point, Old Orchard Camp). We decided to hike along the Lakeshore Trail south toward the washed out area through a forest that had also been ravaged by wild fires a few years before (oh the power of Nature!). We had peek-a-boo views of the beautiful lake where we had just traveled by ferry as we looked through the tall, charred stumps.
The underbrush is growing back thick and lush since the fires, so there was an abundance of beautiful wild flowers in bloom.
After several miles of hiking along this trail, we were met by several groups of AmeriCorps workers, no doubt hiking back to their base camp at Moore Point. After a long, hot day of pulling noxious weeds from along the trail and property borders, you could tell they were glad to be heading back to camp. They looked tired. We hiked for several miles before turning around and hiking the distance back to camp ourselves.
We had been wanting to visit the little town of Stehekin (population less than 75!) for a long time, so even the planning of this trip was fun. Stehekin is located on the northwest end of one of the deepest fjords in North America, Lake Chelan, and is quite remote. There are only a couple of ways to get to Stehekin. One, a four and a half hour ferry ride on the Lady of the Lake from the town of Chelan, and the other – a very long hike. We opted for a combination of the two, but first, because the drive from our home to the town of Chelan was over five hours, we first drove to son Brian’s in Rock Island (about a four hour drive from home), spent the night and then continued on to Chelan to catch the ferry the next morning.
Here I am, aboard the Lady of the Lake II.
The Lady of the Lake is a foot-passenger only ferry, not to be confused with the type of ferries that might sail through the San Juan Islands or on up to Alaska. This is a much smaller boat, and it makes stops at several beaches along the way between Chelan and Stehekin. It gets as close to the rocky beach as it safely can, and passengers that want off wait as a crewmember lowers a walkway.
Moore Point was our stop, and it felt rather like walking the plank as we got off. We were the only passengers to get off at that stop, and once safely ashore, we watched as the crewmember pulled up the ramp and the boat backed away to continue on to Stehekin.
Once at Moore Point, we quickly discovered that a group of AmeriCorp workers had pretty much taken over the camp there, so we hit the trail in search of a place to set up our camp.
We hiked on to the Old Orchard Camp.
At the remains of an old homestead by the Old Orchard Camp, several lilac bushes remained, and there were many swallow tail butterflies flitting about the flowers.
Later on the beach, there were swarms of them.
There were lots of bugs, so by dinner time, our bug nets came out.
Because we were going to be on the trail for several days, we had dehydrated our own shrimp and vegetables to lighten the load in our backpacks. Cooked up with some brown rice, garlic and olive oil, turned out, this was one of the best backpacking dinners we’ve ever had.
More photos of our adventure on the Lady of the Lake from Chelan to Moore Point, Old Orchard Camp.
The drive up the narrow, steeply rutted Horselake Road, twisting sharply as it climbed up the very edge of Sage Hill made it feel like quite an adventure just to reach the trailhead. Right from the beginning of this hike, the views of the Wenatchee Valley below were wonderful, getting even better as the trail continued to take us even higher.
Scars remain from the wildfires that ravaged these hills in 2010 and again last fall. Often seeming harshly obvious by the contrast of the bright and cheery arrow leaf balsam root blooms next to the bare, charred remains of what was once a field of sage brush. Sometimes even our footsteps stirred up the charred aroma left over from those fires.
As mentioned before, the views, great from the start continued to get even better the higher we hiked. He’s pointing out Icicle Ridge in Leavenworth where we had hiked just two days before (see Hike #33 – Icicle Ridge) in this photo.