If you told me I have one week to live, and that I had to spend it hiking with loved ones and shooting lots of photos, it wouldn’t take me long to tell you where I’d want to spend it.
I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to hike, fish, hunt, camp, and backpack across many breathtaking vistas of the Rocky Mountain West. But one has stood head and shoulders above the rest: The Enchantment Lakes in the middle of Washington state. Affectionately known as The Enchantments, they are a series of craggy peaks and alpine lakes (“tarns” actually) nestled high in the Stuart Range of the Cascade Mountains. Explorers to the area quickly took to mythological names for a landscape whose beauty, is quite frankly, out of this world.
Yeah--the water really looks like that.
Long before I took photography seriously, my bride and I enjoyed a great backpacking trip through The Enchantments with another couple we were privileged to call friends. While the technical image quality of these images is far below my standards and skill abilities today, a visceral warmth rekindles within me every time I look at them. Such an experience is what I want my wedding clients to feel years later when they look at the work I deliver to them.
For going on 35 years now, the U.S. Forest Service has instituted a permit system to limit the number of people in the specially managed zone at any one time. Dogs are not permitted and no campfires in the management zone are authorized.
There are no highways or shortcuts to The Enchantments. One must brave 4,000+ elevation changes and glaciers to reach this hidden gem. Crampons or at least Yaktrax and a pair of trekking poles are a must have.
Speaking of yaks. Well, mountain goats, actually.
Mountain goats frolic amongst the glaciers and meadows. Its quite an experience hiking through thick forest and then reaching small patches of open grassland on top of the world.
A marmot defends his turf.
The main trail of The Enchantments meanders throughout the tarns and lakes in the upper basin.
A look up at Aasagard Pass, one of the two entry/exit points to The Enchantment Lakes Wilderness.
Looking down from Aasagard: The elusive Glacier Peak can be observed off in the distance, one of Washington states five technically active volcanoes that cannot be seen from a major roadway.
There you have it--a look down from the top of the world, and memories to look back on for a lifetime. I hope to someday go back and take a more proper camera and tripod. Then, I’ll bring home images that are quite frankly, enchanting.