Inspiration Lake

Backpacking the Enchantments: Day 3 through the Core to Aasgard Pass

Without spoiling too much, this was hands down the best day. We hiked through the Enchantments core zone as we headed towards Aasgard Pass.

Up by 6:30 AM, the gang began the mundane process of packing up camp while also trying to cook breakfast and also trying to filter water – all without coffee. So yeah, you can easily envision us all on the Struggle Bus.

Snow Lakes at Sunrise
Snow Lakes at Sunrise

I was the last to get everything packed up, par the course for these things. But I also had to get my foot wrapped, and I was the only person who didn’t split up gear portions.

Trekking into the Enchantments

Getting into the core this time was surprisingly easy—the fact we did it the day before and knew what was coming helped us immensely. Plus, we barely stopped. Shouts to all seven of us for being troopers.

When we hit Lake Viviane, we said hello, and kept going as there would be plenty of other lakes to cool off in.

The beauty of the Enchantments core zone, minus the natural beauty, is relatively flat. This allowed us to make good time, and in no time had passed Leprechaun Lake.

Into the Enchantments Core Zone

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw

We chose to stop for a lunch break at Perfection Lake (accurately named), where half of the group jumped in while the rest lounged and grubbed. It was a spectacular view with Little Annapurna off in the distance, towering over the dark blue lake and a small glacier waterfall to our right.

After 45 minutes, we loaded our packs back up and continued forward. The goal? Inspiration Lake sits just below Aasgard Pass.

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw

The gang passed by a group of goats relaxing on the snow, only yards from a handful of tents. But, again, these things fear no one or nothing.

Another lake on our right appeared with high granite walls seemingly jutting out of the sides of the water. We had to traverse the only memorable snowy section to get above this lake – but it was pretty manageable. Walking past each lake, we were blown away by the beauty of the enchantment’s core zone.

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw

Once up the slope, we hardly had any more uphill left before hitting Inspiration Lake. If our legs could smile, they would have been grinning. From here, we walked next to a small stream that reminded me of a minor marshland.

Then, finally, we hit it. Inspiration Lake.

Day three with heavy packs was done as we unpacked at the most incredible camping spot I’ve ever encountered.

Inspiration Lake

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw inspiration lake
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw

But the day wasn’t done. Not even close

Ben, Adam, and I wanted to see how high up the opposite ridge we could go. I tried to hit Dragontail Peak, but we didn’t take the correct route, so I adapted and went as high as possible.

First, we had to pass the lake, which we did on the left. Then the incline began, first on rocks and snow. (I had microspikes and an ice ax, so I was ready for anything.)

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw
Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw

This was where I left Ben and Adam.

Adam didn’t have microspikes and understandably felt uncomfortable going where I was.

So, I headed across a short flat ridge and began going up at about a 45-degree angle towards a rocky area. Looking back, I wish I had kept going up and stayed in the snow, as crossing the boulder area was miserable.

As I crossed, hopping from one large rock to another, one of those large rocks was not as stable as I believed. It went crashing down, and I, on top of it, did as well.

My left arm/shoulder (which I’ve had trouble with before) was slightly dislocated, trying to hold myself up, and I scraped the hell out of my right leg and thigh. Adrenaline soaring now, I immediately fixed my shoulder and looked around, worried I was able to start a rock slide.

Luckily, that didn’t happen (considering I’m writing this), but I took a few minutes to compose myself before heading onward—this time, much more conscious about what rocks I was stepping on.

Finally, I reached the farthest point of my adventure, surrounded by jagged peaks and looking down on the lake we would call home that evening. I couldn’t even make out the tents.

I estimate I was at approximately 8,000 feet, a daunting number just days before we started at 1,300 feet.

Rejoining Ben and Adam wasn’t any less stressful as the way I went down required even more boulders, and I was at about a ten on the nervous scale. However, once I hit the snow, my body relaxed, and I knew I was good to go.

Right before that, though, a double rainbow appeared, which was the most magical part of the trip.

Not knowing where Ben or Adam was, I yelled DOUBLE RAINBOW about five times and snapped about a million pictures. It was super cool.

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw rainbow

Eventually, I met up with them as we headed down the mountain. Once we arrived at the campsite, I was utterly exhausted. The mental and physical toll of crossing the boulders finally hit, and I had nothing left. Plus, it was approaching dinner time, so I was starving too.

Once I was fed – Sophie helped cook me dinner – I was a new man.

No longer hangry, Ben, Adam, Sean, Amanda, and I headed up another ridge, this time the one behind our campsite, to see the sunset over the Cascades. I, at first, didn’t want to move, but I’m glad they convinced me to go, as the scene was to die for.

Related: Hiking Aasgard Pass

If you haven’t been into the Cascades, it’s hard to describe, but think of row after row of jagged peaks as far as the eye can see. Then, toss in a setting sun, and the view becomes enchanting.

Sunset on the Cascades

Enchantments Core Zone backpacking hiking washington pnw

I sat there in awe as the sun passed behind clouds and finally found a home behind the multitude of peaks in the distance. Before it set for good, it turned a dark shade of red, giving us the best end to the day we could have imagined. Our perch high above the valley also gave us our first view of Aasgard Pass and the steep terrain we’d have to endure the following day. To put it bluntly, we weren’t too excited about the next day’s task.

To offer a quick peek, Aasgard Pass sits at 7,800 feet. The bottom, Colchuck Lake, sits about 5,600 feet. So the way up and the way down is less than a mile.

You do the math.

Two thousand two hundred feet in less than a mile. Oh, boy, were we in for a challenge.

But that’s for tomorrow.

Today went off with zero hitches and may have been the best day in the backcountry I’ve ever had. We saw amazing sights, overcame mental and physical hurdles, and had a fantastic day in the enchantments core zone.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

You can follow along the journey on Facebook and Instagram or shoot me any questions and comments about places to go. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get notified when new posts come out!