A few months ago, I was told a spot had opened up in my co-worker's backpacking group that would be exploring the Enchantments over three days and two nights at the end of June. She asked if I wanted to come along, but I was hesitant since at that point I hadn't really done much hiking yet and had never been backpacking in my life. However, I soon realized those were ridiculous reasons to turn down the opportunity, since who knew when it would come around again. Permits for summer camping are hard to come by, and day hikes to the area don't cover much ground (unless you're a serious trail runner with quads of steel). So, I caved a few hours later and said I was in, and then spent the next several weeks gathering gear, looking at pictures, and preparing. Or so I thought. I took a few hikes with some of what I'd carry plus a 10-pound weight, but that was nowhere near what I actually experienced while making my way up those mountains. The week of the trip, I loaded everything except water into my backpack, and went up and down the stairs in my building, climbing 50 stories in total. I was sure I'd die. In the end, once the CamelBak reservoir was filled, my pack weighed almost 37 pounds, and I pretty much needed everything in it. Well, I guess I didn't really need a hammock and wine, but would I want them? Definitely.

All this adds up to 37 pounds

We gathered at 5:30 am on the morning of June 25th, hitting the road close to 6:00 am. I think everyone was expecting that maybe we'd get lost on the trail at some point, but we actually got off track much sooner, on the way to the Snow Lakes trailhead. Apparently Google Maps thinks it's located at the end of a windy, sketchy, pothole-filled forest road, when in fact it's in Leavenworth off a well-maintained parking lot on Icicle Road. Thank goodness for old-fashioned maps. So, after that confusion, we ended up getting a bit of a late start, finally hitting the trail at 10:30 am.

The "before" shot: Mitch, Bree, Andrea, me, Tara, Cody, Bryan and Lexi. Photo from Bree.

I knew the way up would not be easy, but I didn't realize it would be quite that hard with all the gear. The entire route to the campsite was 8.8 miles with 4,000+ feet of elevation gain, and a lot of that comes from switchbacks at the beginning. The fact that we got a late start also meant that we were hiking in close to 80-degree temperatures for parts of it. Let's just say we took a lot of breaks. Parts of the trail were shaded, but others were in direct sun for long stretches. We had our first goat encounter right when we got to Nada Lake, which is at about 5,000 feet elevation. There was a decent sized group of them, including a baby, but I didn't have my camera handy, so I wasn't able to take a good picture, even though they were right off the trail. After Nada Lake, we reached the Snow Lakes at 5,400 elevation (though I think it's a 700-foot climb from Nada). Overall, I think it took us about seven and a half hours to make it from the trailhead to Upper Snow Lake, which is where we set up camp, ate dinner (my first time eating dehydrated food was a success), and went to bed pretty early. In fact, it wasn't even too dark when I turned off my light. I was glad I brought my own tent, even though it was kind of heavy and that meant someone else had to carry her own, as well. I like having my own space, especially when I'm with people I don't know very well, and it was a good place to escape to.

Our camp home (minus one tent). Photo from Bree.

The next morning when we got up, the water on the lake was perfectly calm, creating some really amazing reflections. I spent time taking pictures before making breakfast and getting my backpack ready for our day hike into the Core Zone of the Enchantments.

Ready for the Core. Photo from Bree.

The climb into the Core Zone was something else. Although it was only 5.2 miles round-trip, it felt like a lot more, and much of it involved scrambling over boulders using both hands and feet. Thank goodness we weren't doing this with full gear, because I'm pretty sure I would have fallen to my death. I'm afraid of heights, and there were a few places where I felt extremely nervous. I think I was a bit dehydrated on the way up, even though I was trying to drink a lot of water (with Nuun in it), however any fatigue went away as soon as we hit the first destination: Lake Viviane. Unfortunately, my camera setting got bumped at some point, so my pictures here didn't turn out well, so these are the best of them (plus one I attempted to fix). Also, it's hard to show just how towering Prusik Peak is.

The horseshoe-shaped Leprechaun Lake is just a hop, skip and a jump from Lake Viviane, and that's where we decided to have lunch, test out the water, and relax in the sun for a while. The water was freezing and I'm a wimp, so I only ventured in up to my knees, but others went in all the way.

The group decided to split up at this lake, and so it ended up being the final stop into the Core for half of the people. While some headed back to camp, the rest of us ventured farther into the Lower Enchantments. Thank goodness I was among them, because everything that came next was like a J.R.R. Tolkien dream. Literally just past Leprechaun Lake is an awesome little waterfall, where we decided to refill our water supply. We then continued on through a flat meadow and then went up a short climb to itty bitty Sprite Lake, which is essentially a runoff for the larger Perfection Lake.

We crossed over some rickety logs to get to the other side of the lake where the trail continued on up to Perfection Lake. One side of the lake is bordered by mountain peaks, including Little Annapurna, while the other is right at the level of the meadow, creating some spillover where the trail is. These grassy areas were my favorite parts of the hikes, walking along crystal-clear, blue lakes and surrounded by granite peaks. I felt like Frodo Baggins walking along trails made of worn-down dirt and stepping stones.

From Perfection Lake, despite the mutant mosquitoes everywhere, we decided to continue on to Inspiration Lake up at 7,190 feet. We had to make our way up a small snowfield on the way up, and when we got there, the lake (which was so unbelievably clear) still had some ice in it.

If only we could have gone farther, but we had to turn around to make our way back to camp. The mosquitoes were making us feel a little less than enchanted by this point, anyway. If I was glad not to have my full gear on the way into the Core, I was ten times more thankful on the way down. This is where my fear of heights really kicked into gear, as there were several points were I felt like I was looking down cliffs toward my eventual death. Luckily, that did not happen. I clung to rock walls, went down some portions on my butt, and took it slowly. Another girl was also slow due to an injured knee, so I just stuck behind her. I also took a lot of photos on the way back through.

When we got back to camp, my feet were so sore and I could hardly sit, let alone stand. Thank goodness I brought that hammock and wine, right?! We made our dinners and then some of us tried to stay up to see the stars, but the bugs were really bad and we were also tired from the day's adventure. I went into my tent and read for a while, cozied up in my 23-degree sleeping bag, even though it was probably at least 60 degrees outside.

The next morning, we had to get up early because my ride home needed to get back to Seattle by 2pm. It was pretty hectic trying to get all of my stuff packed and it didn't seem much lighter, if at all, than it was on the way in. Once we left the campsite, I stuck near the back or middle of the group most of the way down. My feet had blisters by this point, and I just wanted to be careful going back down the trail, especially since it was so rocky and steep. And a lot of good that did me, because I fell twice. (But not that bad! Just a scraped up knee.) When we were coming down along Nada Lake we finally (FINALLY!) had a very close encounter with a mountain goat mama and her baby. I'm glad I whipped my good camera out to take photos of these guys. My grandparents have had a goat head on their wall my entire life (which I've always felt sad for), and I think they'll like these pictures.

Frankly, it felt like we were going as fast as possible the rest of the way down. We took two breaks (one of my to patch up my knee and one for snacks), and that's it. I think we had left the campsite at 8:30am, and we made it to the cars by 11:45am. It's a wonder I only slipped the two times! I was keeping up pretty well, but I was dead by the time we got to the trailhead. It was 90 degrees in Leavenworth, and the last part of the trail had virtually no shade. But we did it!

The "after" shot. Photo from Tara.

In total, we hiked about 23 miles over the three days, covering more than 5,800 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Phew! In the end, I had over 100 mosquito/bug bites (about 60 on my back alone), with several swollen to at least one-inch diameter. My ears were swollen (as you can see above), my eye was swollen, my feet were raw, and I was so dirty from all of the dust on the trail. I looked and felt completely miserable, but it was worth it. Especially after editing all of these pictures over the last couple weeks, I've realized that maybe hiking the Enchantments is a bit like what they say about childbirth: while it's happening, you vow to never to do it again, but after the pain subsides, you can't wait to go back.


It's been a while since my last update here, and I thought it would be good to check in after reaching a new milestone: turning the big 3-0. Despite the fact that I've felt this age for a while (I often had to remember that I was, in fact, 29), actually getting to that age caused me a bit of stress over the last few months. It seems like kind of a big deal! However, at the same time, I'm in a much better place than I was a year ago:

  • I have a few circles of friends that I see regularly, whether at weekly trivia nights, softball games, or some other activity. I met some really awesome people in the last year, and am so glad for that.
  • As a result, I felt confident inviting people to my birthday party for the first time in a long time. And they actually came! (More on that later.)
  • I deleted both Tinder and OK Cupid from my phone after some successful dates, so we'll see what happens there.
  • I officially started school and have a plan toward progressing in my career.
  • Work seems better, and I have a great team (though, it is going through some transition at the moment). Plus, I'm doing better at that whole work/life (and school) balance thing, though I feel too busy 90% of the time.

I spent my actual birthday by taking the day off work and heading to the mountains with my parents. I had brought up the idea of a hike a few weeks before, and my dad remembered that Snow Lake (the one near Alpental) is supposed to be a great hike, and it's not too far away. 

What better place to turn 30? 

What better place to turn 30? 

The day was absolutely gorgeous—much better than it was supposed to be. Perfect hiking weather, for sure. My dad loaded up his pack with all of his backpacking gear to see if he could do it (he could, with a lot of perspiration), and while I could have used this as preparation for the Enchantments, I didn't want to unnecessarily kill myself. It wasn't a hard hike, but the reward was beautiful nonetheless. There's a point where you reach the top of the ridge, and are greeted by a view of the green-blue lake from above, and it was awesome. Reaching that point made the rest of the trek down to the water go so quickly. We made our way down the rest of the trail, pulled out the lunch snacks, and took dozens of pictures before heading back up.

Once we got back from the hike, we were short on time to make dinner reservations at Palisade. I drove home, got ready and met them there. Dinner was...slow. And my dad complained, which made things a bit awkward, though well-intentioned. At least the booze and food were good, and coincidentally they sat us at the same table where we spent my 21st birthday, as well.

Mom and I heart champagne

Mom and I heart champagne

So, turning 30, I figured I might as well do something with friends, as well. At first I had no idea what, but I knew I didn't want to travel too far from home and I liked the idea of karaoke. There aren't many places to do that, so I settled on Waterwheel, one of the divey-est of awesome dive bars. There are also a ton of breweries in the area that I hadn't been to yet, so I also took this as an opportunity to try Reuben's Brews and their new outdoor patio. I'm so glad so many people came! Kickball/softball/trivia friends and Getty-related friends, all in one place! There was plenty of beer, ping pong, corn hole and, of course, karaoke. I was having such a good time that I really didn't take any pictures, but I gathered a few from other people.

And now...it's time to do 30!

Tree Trip 2.0

Now that it's actually springtime, the weather has become quite wet. What happened to those unseasonably-warm, crystal-clear days? My sister and I planned to go on a hike to Talapus Lake last Sunday, but of course that was when it literally poured all day, resulting in more rain in 24 hours than we'd had in more than SIX YEARS. So, that didn't happen, obviously. The forecast looked a bit better for this past weekend, though, so we decided to try again, and thankfully the weather was mostly in our favor.

This was a surprisingly easy 6-mile hike, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially given the fact that it was threatening to rain the whole time. That was also probably why we hardly saw any people at all, which was a nice change from my experience at Annette Lake. I'm glad I didn't bring my pup, because she would have ended up extremely muddy. We reached Talapus Lake in no time at all, and quickly decided to continue on to Olallie Lake, as well. The latter made the hike worth it, for sure; we would have been a bit disappointed if all we'd seen was Talapus. I might have damaged my car on the way back to the freeway (I hit a pothole wrong and heard a definite scraping sound underneath), but it was still good to get out in nature and the fresh air, while spending time with my sister before she's gone for a year. We used to go out in the woods behind the house where we grew up on what we called "Tree Trips," so this was kind of like that on steroids!

I didn't get a picture of it, but I was also trying out my new Deuter daypack on this hike. The shoulder straps on my older Camelbak bothered me a lot on the Annette Lake hike, and there was zero room left in when I had Ellie's stuff in there, too. This new bag isn't that much bigger, but is better suited to what I need. It has more of a backpacking look to it and one big compartment that can be better utilized than the awkward ones on my Camelbak. It also has a front zipper to access anything at the bottom of the bag, which is handy. And...it's so pretty that I almost didn't want to put it on the ground.

Hopefully this hiking trend will continue further into the spring and summer, even though I know it will be harder once I start school in May. The Annie Dillard quote in the header of this blog is, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives," and I'm trying to be more mindful of that. I could binge on House of Cards from my bed, or I could relax in a hammock next to an alpine lake. I could browse for random housewares online, or I could take my camera (read: iPhone) to a trail and snap some pictures worth sharing. Which is going to be more rewarding? Sure, lazy days can be great and necessary (as an introvert, I know this), but at the same time there's so much to see, even just in Washington. I have a lot of places on my to-do list already, so now I just need to find the time (and decent weather).

In other weekend news, I spent Friday night at Smashputt, went on a first date Saturday evening, and played pinochle with a few friends at Prost! after the hike on Sunday. A pretty solid weekend, if you ask me.

Hello, Springtime!

The weather this winter in the Pacific Northwest (and much of the West) has been nothing short of incredible—as long as you're more a fan of sun and warm temps than any mountain snow whatsoever. And apparently I am. Mentally, I feel so much more at peace with everything right now than I probably would be if I were stuck under the usual grey cloud-cover while walking along streets that never seem to dry. (I feel weird using the phrase "at peace," because it sounds like something my free-spirited sister would say, but I don't know how else to describe it.) Instead, the last several weekends have been consistently clear-skyed, unseasonably warm, and full of promise for what I hope will be an equally nice spring. In fact, it's hard to believe that it's not spring already, since the flowers and trees are already blooming.

This weekend the forecast was for more 60-degree days, so all I wanted to do was be outside as much as possible. I'd been wanting to go for a hike for a while, since so many pictures I'd seen showed that the trails were relatively clear of snow and ice, and I finally decided to do Annette Lake on Saturday.

I didn't try too hard to find anyone else who might want to go, since I thought it would be good to take my dog and let us go at our own pace. I'm glad I did that, because it was nice to just be out there in nature, not trying to make conversation along the way. It was a freaking gorgeous day, and warm enough to wear just a sweatshirt for most of the trek (including at the destination). Ellie walked the first mile or so, and then (as expected) I carried her the rest of the three miles to the lake. We had lunch there, took some selfies, and then started back since there were a lot of groups arriving. I was so impressed that Ellie walked almost the entire way down! I carried her for half a mile, and that's it. She got lots of attention along the way from dozens of people who stopped to say hi to her. Life's rough for a cute, tiny dog. Overall, the hike was really great, and I'm looking forward to doing it again this spring or summer after the lake thaws out.

Continuing the outdoors trend, Sunday was all about softball. I honestly didn't do very well today, but we played for about three hours, and then got food and drinks after. And, I'll admit, I felt like such a spaz today that on my way home I stopped at Big 5 to get a bat and some balls, and had my own little practice at Ballard Playfield. Hopefully I'll do a bit better next time. It really is fun and I'm starting to learn, but it's been so long since I've thrown a ball, let alone tried to catch one in a glove. Practice makes perfect?

Next weekend isn't supposed to be quite as nice, but I think I'll try to do another hike, this time with my sister, and I'm pretty sure softball will be involved again, as well. Lather, rinse, repeat. No complaints.