We drove into Washington to find the perfect trail. After seven hours in the car (albeit, it was a beautiful drive) and some rather rough roads (to put it mildly. I felt like I should have been in a 4-wheeler commercial) we arrived at the trailhead and began our six hour hike into the heart of the Wenatchee Forest. After a few hours in dense tree cover, we emerged to find a beautiful meadow surrounded by towering mountains and waterfalls fed by snow runoff. It could have been the heart of the French Alps, and I might not have known the difference. The Appalachians I have known almost all my life, but these mountains were something else -- so magnificent that I was quite small in comparison. I felt like Thoreau in awe of Walden.
A few more hours beneath heavy packs led us over several river crossings (some more treacherous than others -- especially with the late-day snow melt swamping them) and straight into a snow basin -- where we spent the night. We were surrounded on all sides by mountains, feeling protected in the bowl of snow and rock that cradled us. Marmots whistled from the granite and the wind raged all night long, but we were so exhausted that we were sleeping by sunset.
The next morning we left our tents and gear in the basin and went on a day hike up the trail. The "short day hike" turned into a lengthy excursion, but was not lacking in beauty. The higher we climbed, the steeper the trail became, and the expanses were sweeping. But the trail was rough, littered with loose gravel, and we had to choose our footsteps carefully. Two of our companions turned back halfway, exhausted by the trying trail. My own heart rate monitor claimed I was at my peak, but I wanted to push onward. There were still sights to see.
At the top of the knob we paused to take in the view, catching our breath and struck silent in awe. Then, with wily grins, we plotted our next course of action. The only way on was up, and the only way up was through snow and ice. We strapped on our crampons, dug the tines into the white abyss, and climbed steadily higher. It took us almost two hours to reach the top, and a mere fifteen minutes to reach the bottom again. After taking in the absolutely stunning views -- I believe I started gasping, "is this real? Am I looking at a postcard?" -- we took the quickest route back to the start: on our butts. The quick, exhilarating glissade was more art than science, and when we returned back to camp we had frozen bums and flushed cheeks and stories to tell.
We earned our rest for the night and when morning came, we bundled up camp, once more strapped on our packs, and regretfully left our wonderland behind. Back to the real world again, leaving behind our journey into this beautiful fantasy. If only such escapes could be longer lived!