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!