Submitted by Michael Dyer
Members of the Essex Alpine Club (est. approximately 15 years ago) ventured beyond their usual haunts in the Whites and Greens of New England to explore the spectacular Enchantment Lakes region of the North Cascades Mountains in Washington State. Club potentates Mike Stroman, Roger Tyler and Mike Dyer boarded a plane bound for Portland, Oregon on September 14th; there they were met by recent initiate, and now Poobah of the Alpine Club’s West Coast chapter, Joe Dyer. After outfitting and serious calorie loading at Joe’s place (thanks to Rosemary Dyer, Grand Momma of the West Coast Club Auxiliary), we struck north or Leavenworth, Washington, viewing wondrous sites along the way, including the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls, the Bonneville Dam, and Mr. Stroman changing his pants on the roadside. Finally on Tuesday morning, we hiked into the Cascades
wilderness, camping the first night under foggy skies at Colchuck Lake, elevation 5,570 feet. The next day we ascended to Asgard Pass (insert your own off-color pun here), gaining 2,200 feet elevation in three quarters of a mile. This, admittedly, was a bit of a slog for four 50-somethings not used to carrying large backpacks around.
Here, at 7,800 feet, we saw the highest of thirty or so alpine lakes, which cascade one into the next over about five miles and 2,500 feet elevation; it would be downhill the rest of the way! We had also set foot in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, where we immediately came across two obliviously tame mountain goats, the first of many we saw. We four intrepid adventurers set up camp for two nights on Perfection Lake, noting that the local chamber of commerce must have been responsible for the place names in those parts (“Inspiration, Enchantment, Leprechaun, Tranquil, Crystal, Sprite”, etc.). We would have held evening meetings as required by Club by-laws, but for the prohibition on campfires in the Wilderness. There being not much to do after sunset but stand around and shiver, we quaffed ritual libations (according in this instance with the aforementioned by-laws), and turned in. The next day was for hiking around the Enchantments basin without big loads on our backs and marveling at the craggy mountains, rock formations, lakes, streams, larch, and snow; yes, we were enchanted. Suffice it to say that we got a full understanding as to why this place is on the bucket lists of many northwesterners, though most folks elsewhere have never heard of it. On the fourth day, we saw that it had been good, and hiked out, 10.5 miles on the map and more than a mile own elevation-wise, by many beautiful lakes and through some great evergreen forest. Over burgers and beer, we formally convened a Club meeting and voted unanimously to do something in a similar vein next year.
The Essex Alpine Club is choosy about its membership, but open to well-qualified candidates, regardless of whether they use internally or externally framed backpacks. Interested persons may make informal inquiries if they can locate a Club officer. Our fitness test is the ascent of Millstone Mountain (or is it “Hill”?) and crawling into the Bear’s Den, and there is a secret initiation rite that we haven’t figured out yet. Happy climbing, friends!