Patagonia Lake State Park

After my first three days attempting to thru-hike the Arizona Trail, I decided to get off the trail and re-group.  I spent two days exploring the campground at Patagonia Lake State Park with my aunt.  During this time, I washed my clothes in a bucket, went through my pack and tossed out any unnecessary items, and continued to communicate with my hiking partner in hopes that we would get back on the trail soon.  During one afternoon, my aunt and I went to the marina to see about renting kayaks to tour around the lake.  A very nice gentleman running the marina offered to take us on a quick pontoon boat ride to tour the lake since the wind was too fierce for a kayak trip.

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My aunt and I touring Patagonia Lake, Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia, AZ

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Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia, AZ

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Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia, AZ

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Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia, AZ

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Primitive campsite on the shoreline of Patagonia Lake, Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia, AZ

The lake and State Park were beautiful with lots of little primitive campsites tucked away which are only accessible by boat.  The two days I spent at Patagonia Lake with my aunt after the first three days hiking the AZT were perfect.  I believe that things happen for a reason, and even though I was feeling pretty low having to get off the trail so soon, the time spent at the lake was very special.

Planning my First Thru-hike: The Arizona Trail

AZT guide book

Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail by Matthew J. Nelson

I am so excited, nervous, eager, anxious, scared, and happy to announce that I’m planning to thru-hike the Arizona Trail (AZT) this year!  I have all the feels right now about this journey I’m about to take.  The AZT is a roughly 800 mile pedestrian, biker, and equestrian trail that runs from the border of Mexico to Utah through the state of Arizona.  I plan to hike the entire length of the trail South to North starting from the Mexican border on March 27, 2017.  As you can imagine, this is going to be a daunting task.

Since our move to Washington over four years ago, my husband and I have found our place in a wonderful circle of new friends.  That circle includes many adventurous people with goals and accomplishments I didn’t even know existed, much less thought were possible.  I’m so thankful to be surrounded by so many like minded individuals who have encouraged me to reach higher than I thought I ever could.  When I combine my old friends with these new ones, it creates a tribe like no other!  With the support of my friends and family, I feel confident that in early June I will walk in Utah on my own two feet.

As I prepare for this journey across Arizona, I am going to be using my blog as a platform to discuss all things AZT!  This means the format of my blog may change a bit, but will still focus on photography during my hiking and backpacking adventures.  Only now my hikes will be expanded outside of the PNW.  I hope my followers appreciate the changes I make along the way, and continue to support TamarasCameras.

Since making the decision to hike the AZT and sharing my plan with friends and family, I have received many different responses.  I am asking that people please refrain from using the following phrases:

  1.  “You’re such a bad-ass!” – While I really enjoying being called a bad-ass, I haven’t done anything bad-assery yet.  At this point I have spent way too much money on backpacking gear, sat in front of the computer and AZT guide book for way too many hours, and ignored the basic duties of a housewife leaving piles of dishes and laundry throughout the apartment.  These things do not give me the title of bad-ass.
  2. “I’m so proud of you.” – Including all of the reasons above, there is nothing to be proud of yet.  If I do make those steps into Utah after walking 800 miles, I’ll let that be a moment of pride.  Until then, just wish me luck.
  3. “You’re crazy!” – Ok, this one is true.

I look forward to sharing my adventures with you as I trek across the Arizona desert this spring.  Forgive me as I fumble through the process of planning for and attempting my first thru-hike.  I have sooooooo many things to learn, and look forward to any and all positive criticisms and advice shared.  Happy trails!

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Guthook Hikes app – Arizona Trail screenshot

The Lower Enchantments – Car Camping and Day Hiking: Part 2

After spending one day of hiking in the Enchantments, my husband and I knew we’d be back soon – little did we know it would be the following weekend!  With an extended weekend on the calendar for the Labor Day holiday, we knew it was the perfect time to get out and explore the Alpine Lakes Wilderness further.  We knew there would be challenges with getting a good camping spot during a holiday weekend, but created a plan to beat the crowds.

On Thursday morning I left Seattle on my own at 7:00 am with the car loaded full of camping and backpacking gear.  The plan was for me to go ahead of my husband and find a great camping spot along Icicle Road.  Then, he would take the train to Leavenworth the following day where I’d pick him up.  As planned, I arrived early enough to claim a beautiful camping spot in Lower Johnny Creek Campground just alongside Icicle River.  As I setup camp, the weather threatened rain but luckily it stayed dry throughout the morning.

That afternoon I took a trip into Leavenworth for lunch, grocery shopping, and a stop at the USFS Ranger Station for questions about hiking trails and backpacking permits.  We were hoping to possibly grab one of the first-come, first-serve permits for one night in the Enchantments during our trip.  After discussion with the park ranger, my husband and I decided it wasn’t worth driving back into Leavenworth so early in the morning for a very small chance of getting a permit.

As I headed back to the campground for the evening, dark clouds increasingly filled the sky.  I arrived at camp just soon enough to tie a tarp up over our spot before it began to rain.  After dinner, I spent the evening reading while enjoying the peaceful sound tapping of the rain on the tarp  above me.  As soon as it got dark, I climbed into my tent where I continued to read into the night.  I enjoyed the solitude of solo camping for the second time now.  The sound of the rain lulled me to sleep that night as I lay in my tent alone.

It continued to rain into the following morning.  I stayed in my tent as long as I could stand it, and finally climbed out and hurried to the car.  I decided to spend the day exploring Leavenworth as I waited for my husband to arrive on the train.  As I began my walk around town, I was greeted by  a mountain goat in a fenced area near the Enzian Falls Putting Greens.

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Mountain Goat, Leavenworth, WA

I always love exploring new trails, so I couldn’t resist a visit to the Waterfront Park along the Wenatchee River.  I spent part of the day hiking around the trails and reading during dry spouts in the weather.

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Bear Warning Sign, Waterfront Park, Leavenworth, WA

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Waterfront Park, Leavenworth, WA

After making my way to the end of the park and back taking various trails, I found a great spot in the rocks along the riverside.  I enjoyed watching a family fishing across the river, and noticed several fish jumping in all directions.

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Fish jumping in the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park, Leavenworth, WA

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Fish jumping in the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park, Leavenworth, WA

Of course while I was in Leavenworth I had to have a pretzel and a pint of cider.  I may have also spent a little time shopping at the various stores in town.

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Pretzel and a cider, Leavenworth Sausage Garden, Leavenworth, WA

While I certainly enjoyed my time alone, I was happy to pick my husband up at the train station that night.  The two of us stayed in Leavenworth long enough to have dinner before heading to our home in the forest for the next three nights.

The following morning, my husband and I woke up to a beautiful, sunny Saturday excited to go hiking in the Enchantments once again.  Since we hiked to Lake Stuart the previous weekend, we decided to explore a different valley in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  Our destination for the day was Eightmile Lake in hopes of finding a slightly less crowded trail than the more popular areas of the surrounding National Forest.

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Eightmile Lake, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Eightmile Lake:  6.6 miles round trip / 1300′ elevation gain

The trail to Eightmile Lake starts its’ upward climb right away.  This section of the trail is the toughest having the steepest climb, so it was nice to get it out of the way early in the hike.  The sounds of the rushing waters from Eightmile Creek can be heard as the trail snakes along beside it.  After the first mile the trail becomes easier, gradually gaining elevation with the assistance of several long switchbacks.  At times we were surrounded by pink flowers that speckled the forested landscape.

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Eightmile Lake Trail, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Even though the weather was nice in the valley, things changed as we climbed up in elevation towards the mountaintops.  The higher we climbed, rain became less of a threat and more of a reality.  We welcomed the cool rainy mist on our bodies warmed from the hike.  As we neared Little Eightmile Lake it appeared like a small, marshy pond from a distance.  This was a nice little spot to rest as we were lucky enough to have a small break in the rain.

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Little Eightmile Lake, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

The last half mile of the trail towards the lake was my favorite.  We picked our way through a large boulder field with the sounds of pika calls in every direction.  We were lucky enough to see a pika, and even pointed it out to a family passing by who were excited to see one for the first time.  Unfortunately, the weather kept me from taking my camera out, so the only picture is in my memory.  As Eightmile Lake finally came into view, the weather tried its’ best to hide it from us.  The weather was only successful in enhancing our experience as we stood beside the lake in the pouring rain watching the clouds dance with the sun.

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Eightmile Lake, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

As we rested and enjoyed the views around us, our once warm bodies were now chilled by the rain.  The frigid air urged us to move on not allowing us much time to linger.  After exploring the edges of the lake, the rain continued to increase pushing us to head back down the valley.  We quickly began our journey towards the trail-head.  We left the rain behind us as we neared the parking lot down below.  While the clouds still hugged the mountaintops behind us, the valley was filled with sunshine just as we had left it that morning.

It was nice to return to the comforts of our camp including dry clothes, warm food, and cold beverages.  After dinner, we enjoyed the warmth of a roaring fire and small glimpses of starry skies between passing clouds.  Late in the evening, we climbed into our tent and fell asleep to the sounds of Icicle Creek rushing by.

We awoke to another sun filled sky, excited with the anticipation of hiking to Colchuck Lake.  I was so thrilled to finally see the lake in person that I had only seen in pictures.  We made our way down the familiar forest road climbing up into the valley once more.  Just as expected, cars lined the side of the road over a mile from the trail-head.  This would add two more miles to our already 8 mile hike.

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Road to Colchuck Lake parking lot, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Colchuck Lake:  8 miles round trip / 2280′ elevation gain

The first two miles of the trail were familiar from our hike to Lake Stuart the previous weekend.  We hit unfamiliar territory as we made a left at the trail junction towards Colchuck Lake, climbing up to explore a new valley of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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Trail sign, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Just like the day before, the higher we climbed the clouds increased and quickly turned into rain.  I’m not going to lie – this trail tested me!  As soon as it breaks away, the trail crosses Mountaineer Creek.  The log crossing was my first challenge, as it was a bit of a stretch for my short legs to reach.  Once we crossed the creek, the combination of the pouring rain while navigating the talus slope gave me a bit of anxiety.  This was the first time I almost turned around and quit the hike.  After resting in a dry spot under a tree near the creek, I was able to push forward and continue to make my way up towards Colchuck Lake.

At first the trail gradually makes its’ way up, but it wasn’t long before it became more and more steep and the rain continued to increase.  The higher we climbed, the trail became steeper, rockier, and wetter – a combination I am not very fond of.  I questioned my abilities several times during this stretch of the trail, almost turning around again and again.  It seemed like every time I reached what seemed like the final stretch, someone was there to tell me “it’s just a little farther.”  When Colchuck Lake finally came into view, the feelings of anxiety washed away as I took in the surrounding beauty.  I had made it!

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Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

The frigid air forced us to move along quickly and once again, we weren’t able to spend much time exploring.  I was mentally and physically exhausted, using the last bit of energy I had to make my way back down the steep, rocky, and wet trail.  Just like the previous day, the closer we got to the parking lot, the lighter the rain became.  By the time we reached the end of our long journey, the valley skies were clear and sunny just as we had left it.  The drive back down towards our campsite was bittersweet, as I knew that was our last adventure in the wilderness for the weekend.

Our last night alongside Icicle Creek was peaceful as we reminisced on the adventures we had just experienced in the Enchantments.  The following day my husband and I left knowing this would not be our last journey into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

As we made our way back over Stevens Pass towards Seattle, we stopped at the Deception Falls National Recreation Area for a picnic lunch and a short hike.  This was a great little spot to stop and stretch our legs while hiking along the Tye River and Deception Creek.

Deception Falls:  <1 mile round trip / 50′ elevation gain

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Deception Falls Trail, Deception Falls National Recreation Area, WA

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Deception Falls Trail, Deception Falls National Recreation Area, WA

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Deception Falls Trail, Deception Falls National Recreation Area, WA

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Deception Creek, Deception Falls National Recreation Area, WA

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Deception Falls, Deception Falls, National Recreation Area, WA

 

Wildlife Wednesday 09/07/2016

Last week I spent several days in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for the first time.  As an amatuer wildlife photographer, I have dreamed about my first mountain goat sighting in the wilderness.  After reading several recent trip reports from many of the hiking trails in the area, I was certain this would be my time.  Unfortunately, after hiking over 25 miles in 3 days I still did not see any mountain goats in the wild.  This friendly goat, however, posed for me near the Enzian Falls Putting Green while visiting Leavenworth during the same trip.

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Mountain goat, Leavenworth, WA