Lake Colchuck – September 2010 – First family backpacking trip
This was J-Hawk and Rosabell first backpack trip. For a four and two year old, this was a huge challenge. The trail started at the Stuart Lake TH and we hiked five miles and 2200 feet of elevation gain to get to the lake/camp site.
J-Hawk and Rosabell slept in the KOA Kabin, Jonathan and I went into town (Leavenworth) and waited outside the Leavenworth Ranger Station awaiting the Enchantments morning lottery.
Usually I would have permits in hand, but didn’t plan to return to the ‘Chants this year. However, weather is always most reliable in the Central Cascades during the end of the summer. So after an hour’s wait, our names were drawn for the Lake Colchuck access permit.
After securing our permits, we picked up everyone and drove to the Lake Stuart/Colchuck trailhead. By ten o’clock, we had started down the trail for our three day back packing trip. We were making very good pace and after an hour and a half (2 miles) we had made it to the Mountaineers Bridge. After crossing the bridge, we made our way to the small clearing off to the right and had lunch. The kids were so excited to be going out into the woods to sleep in sleeping bags. Sitting down to eat lunch made everything seem so real. After finishing PB&Js and water, everyone threw on their packs to continue toward the lake.
After lunch would be considered part two of a three part day. This part of the day seemed to be really tough for Rosabell. For starters, the elevation began to get very intense, for a two year old, and the general tred of the trail was not built for a little one. She managed to trip over many rocks and fall in between steps. This led to many tears and scrapes. Her motivation and will began to fade. However, after Shaun and J-Hawk took off, Jonathan and I spent a lot of time encouraging Rosabell to push through her emotions and keep trying. It took about an hour and a half to hike a half mile. However, by 2:30 we had reached the point on the trail where it splits to go to Lake Colchuck.
After a thirty minute rest and snack break, we started to head out again. We only had 2.5 miles left to go but it was already 3:00. We made our way across another huge bridge. Everyone’s spirits were up as we hiked over a few streams and past a few small tarns. After another somewhat flat mile we began to climb. I was getting concerned that pace would prevent us from getting a decent camp spot. After a small break, we decided to split up because Rosabell was slowing down considerably. We only had a mile and a half left, but it would be the toughest leg of the hike and Rosabell was tired from hiking all day as it was.
This was part three of the day. Shaun, Rosabell and myself continued down the trail as Jonathan and J-Hawk took off at much faster rate. We would be split up for the next two hours as each team continued to climb a steep ridge that made way to Lake Colchuck on the other side. As we continued to slowly climb this ridge the temperatures began to drastically drop. Team Rosabell stopped frequently to add more layers to ourselves. After an hour of hiking, the day had taken a toll on Rosabell. She had succumb to too many scrapes and falls and those tiny little legs had had enough of the Colchuck trail. We stopped on a switchback on this ridge in a mostly wooded area for a short rest. Rosabell was just standing there on the edge of the trail looking upward at the rocks higher up when she lost her balance and fell backwards. She was falling off the edge of the trail head over feet. She tumbled for about eight feet before stopping as Shaun jumped down into the shrubs to get her. She had scrapes all over and was scared. He carried her back up to the trail and I bandaged and soothed her. After this traumatic event, she really didn’t hike much. We tried to coax her along for a few minutes and realized that it just wasn’t going to happen.
Shaun decided that he would carry her for a while. I was shocked. He was already carrying a forty pound backpack and offered to throw a thirty pound kid on his shoulders. I was amazed. After getting Rosabell situated on Shaun’s shoulders. We took off at a very fast pace. It was getting cold and it was already six o’clock. We needed to get to camp to get food, rest, and warmth. We really didn’t want to be setting up a tent in the dark. I continued to radio over to Jonathan and J-Hawk. They were in the vicinity of camp spots but all were taken. We finally reached the top of the ridge and began to follow along the paths toward all the camp spots. Around seven, Jonathan radioed in saying that they found a camp spot and where to find them.
Team Rosabell finally made it to camp and I was so happy to see J-Hawk again. He had been a trooper today. He carried a ten pound pack for five miles up elevation that he had never climbed before. He was so happy to see Rosabell coming over to camp. While Jonathan and Shaun set up the tents, J-Hawk and Rosabell began to build a “fort”.
After tents were set up, we all climbed into our tents and ate dinner. It was getting really cold outside. Macaroni and Cheese was on the menu as well as fruit snacks. The kids thought this was the greatest. Mac & Cheese and snuggling with mom was their favorite. Everyone found their sleeping spot and within the hour everyone was passed out.
It poured throughout the night. This was not on the forecast at all. Oh well. We will just make the best out of it and we were prepared if it were to rain. We woke up at seven and the thermometer read fifteen degrees. It was overcast and gray everywhere. We slowly peeled ourselves out of our sleeping bags and I dressed the kids as Jonathan went out to make breakfast.
I don’t remember what we ate for breakfast that morning, but I distinctly remember how much the kids loved making hot chocolate and coffee that morning. That moment of all of us circled around the “stove” drinking our hot drinks is symbolic of our family. It’s finding the great in what would normally be miserable to many. After warm drinks, we all made our way to the small unnamed lake we camped by. The kids threw rocks and Shaun went boulder hopping around the lake. We decided to take a trip to see Lake Colchuck.
After a quarter mile, we came into views of the lake. We also passed by many people’s campsites. The kids thought it was so neat to see so many people out hiking/camping where they were. People were just as amazed to see them out in this weather too. I pointed out Aasgard Pass and Dragontail Peak to J-Hawk. He was captivated because a peak had the name Dragon in it. J-Hawk was very disappointed that we were not going to hike up it today. I told him I would let him when he was ten and he seemed fine with that answer.
On the other hand, Rosabell was no longer tolerating this dreary weather and wanted to just go back to the tent. We hung out at Lake Colchuck for a few more minutes and decided to go back to camp. On our way back, we discussed the possibility of cutting our trip down to two days. When we arrived at the tents again, we informed the kids that we would be packing up now and heading back. J-Hawk was really disappointed. We told him that the forecast wasn’t correct for the area and it wasn’t safe to spend another very cold night out here. He understood and asked if we could do this again. I told him we would, but we would wait until next spring to do this again.
As we packed our tents and gear, J-Hawk and Rosabell perfected their “fort.” Not once did they complain about the temperature or weather. They were just happy to run around and collect up “parts” for their fort. I talked with them about the different trees and rocks in the region. They made the most out of a two day backpack trip.
We set out to descend the trail almost twenty four hours after we had started. The trip back was pretty uneventful other than Shaun practically carried Rosabell on his shoulders the entire way. He mostly did this so we wouldn’t spend so much time on the trail. It was either go really slow, or throw a kid on your back and go fast. Shaun amazed me this entire trip and he never once complained about Rosabell.
We stopped for lunch close to where Rosabell had taken her eight foot tumble. Jonathan made burritos (mexican flavor and PB&J flavor). Some people on their way out to the lake were amazed to see us coming down from the lake and asked us if it had snowed on us. We told them no, but I later found out that it had snowed that night, we were just a few hundred feet lower than the snow.
After seven hours of hiking, we made our way out the woods and back to the car. I was so proud of J-Hawk. He had just hiked ten miles and 2200 feet of elevation gain in two days while carrying his own backpack filled with his sleeping bag, sleeping pad, snacks, water, and headlamp. What a little hiker! We tossed our packs into the back and changed the kids into their pajamas. The forest service road from the trail head to Icicle Creek Rd. is approximately eight miles of somewhat bumpiness. By the time we made it down to the paved road, the kids were passed out. What a weekend! We decided to fore go staying in Leavenworth that evening and just go home.
I learned a lot in this backpack trip with my kids. They are resilient and it was good for my son to learn that you can push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of and not to let your emotions get the best of you. I can’t wait for next Spring.