Our Hike to Colchuck Lake

Light breaks through the fog.
Light breaks through the fog.

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This bird was quite aggresive in his approach to get food.
This bird was quite aggresive in his approach to get food.

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Last Look
Last Look

Colchuck Lake and Stewart Range-2
On Saturday, October 18, 2014 we hiked to Colchuck Lake, located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I discovered that I had packed my old hiking boots, and hoped I would be able to hike without hurting my feet. From Leavenworth, we drove to the Bridgecreek Campground, turned left, then drove until we reached the trailhead where there was a large parking lot with a restroom. The rain from the previous day had diminished to barely a mist and there was a lot of fog. In the beginning, the trail seemed easy enough, but that portion was deceiving. It very soon started climbing, and then was up and down pretty much the entire way, 4.1 miles, to be exact. (Low point of the hike is at 3360 ft. and climbs to 5570 ft) We saw lots of hikers, and most of them were carrying packs on their back. We soon learned that this week-end was the last week-end to camp there, and it was outside the quota season (June 15-Oct. 15) where overnight visitors must obtain a permit through the Ranger Station Lottery, or the Wenatchee River Ranger Station through recreation.gov. We hiked pretty slowly comparing to the younger more agile hikers, which was almost everyone. I kept reminding myself that it was not a race, Gayle got pretty frustrated toward the end, which was the most challenging part of the trail. It was very taxing on our legs as the hike was like climbing steps…only the steps were rocks, or a mixture of dirt and rocks. We stopped to rest at one location, and I found a tree limb that served as a walking stick. Later Gayle found one too, and that helped some. The hikers coming back from the lake were especially encouraging. We would ask, “How much farther?” “You are almost there, just 15 more minutes!” Suddenly we had a surge of energy, but when others would say the same thing for the next hour, Gayle’s hopes turned to “Oh no, not another hill!” I must say that he was a good sport considering his schedule working grave shift. It’s hard to transition to the opposite schedule on the weekends, and he was just tired, but said he would do the hike.
We were rewarded with the view of the cascading waters of East Fork Mountaineer Creek, as we walked on a footbridge overhead. Light from the sun began to burn through the fog which allowed me to take a fantastic picture from the bridge. If, for some reason I had only gotten that picture and had to turn back, I would have felt blessed.
Traveling on, we arrived 4 hours after starting. We stood high above the water, and the panoramic view of Colchuck Lake revealed a beautiful scene. The water had an intense turquoise color with a backdrop of mountains and two glaciers on the uppermost regions. Rocks served as our chairs, and sat down to eat the lunch we had packed. We ate and took in the view. A bird flew near us and sat on an extended branch that was about five feet from Gayle. Twice he zoomed in close, veering off to the side at the last second. Gayle threw his potato chip to the ground, and the bird quickly came back, picked it up in its beak, then flew off to a nearby tree and left us to eat in peace. A hungry chipmunk came close and was rewarded as well. After lunch I took some pictures, and then our visit was cut short by Gayle who insisted that we begin the hike back. How I was envious of those who were camping there!

We thought the trip back would be easier. Hah! In some ways it was harder. Unfortunately, going downhill made my toes squish into the top of the boots unless I curled my toes under. I got relief only when going uphill. It was a race against time, as Gayle was concerned about us getting back before daylight had gone. Now it was our turn to encourage fellow hikers on their way up. Gayle was clocking our progress, and knew exactly how long we had been traveling when we met each questioning hiker. We did return none too soon as nightfall was settling in. It took us just 15 minutes short of 4 hours to hike back.

Next time we go I would do things a little differently. Bring my BEST hiking boots, my walking stick, start earlier in the morning, and camp overnight. At the end of the day I was very sore, had five severely bruised toes, and Gayle was very sore as well. Eventually I did lose a toenail on one big toe, and the other is still black 5 months later. Was it worth it? I’m smiling as I say, “Oh, yes. I am so glad that we got all the way… There is just something very special about having to hike to see a beautiful place.”

 

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