Colchuck Lake, Washington

In August/September of 2018, Peter and I traveled to Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town in the Cascade Mountains on the outskirts of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The town is as popular for its hiking and outdoor activities as it is for its Bavarian architecture, beer, and sausages.

Every year Leavenworth is host to the Oktoberfest which is a scaled-down version of the real Oktoberfest held in Munich, Germany. Peter and I planned to visit Leavenworth for this celebration in 2016 but a couple of days prior, we made the decision to send Dexter to that big p-a-r-k in the sky and weren’t exactly game for celebrating.

Title 18 of the Leavenworth Development Standards states: “The purpose of this chapter is to assist all involved in the design of new buildings, structures, walkways, plazas, lighting, or other miscellaneous items identified herein or the alteration of existing buildings, structures, walkways, plazas, lighting, or other miscellaneous items identified herein in order to develop and promote Leavenworth’s Old World Alpine Bavarian village theme.”

Every building in Leavenworth, whether it be a Wells Fargo Bank, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Hampton Inn, or otherwise must abide by the development standards. It was really odd to see American businesses, like McDonald’s in Bavarian architecture.

Leavenworth hugs Highway 2, following the twists and turns of the Wenatchee River. There is one main shopping/eating/drinking street (“Front Street”) that is one block off of Highway 2 and runs parallel to Highway 2 for a few blocks. It is a condensed space with cars and tourists lining the streets. I found it difficult to capture the feel of the main street in photographs.

Below are a few photos I snapped over the course of our visit.

We arrived mid-afternoon on Friday. Our first stop was to Munchen Haus for a beer and pretzel. We’d read many articles about the lack of authenticity of food in Leavenworth. It was somewhat obvious to us that all restaurants sold the same Sysco sausages. We popped into a couple of other beer halls before settling in early that night.

We woke at 5:45am on Saturday morning to allow us enough time (45 minutes) to drive to the Stuart and Colchuck Lake trailheads parking lot AND secure a parking spot. It is hard to piece this puzzle together because this trip was so long ago but my watch tells me that our hike started at 7am on-the-dot. I am having flashbacks of that hike as I type this post.

The hike to Colchuck Lake is 8 mi / 12.9 km roundtrip, however, my watch clocked us in for 12 miles (I’ve accounted for watch distance overstating) for the day. We didn’t do much walking after the hike so I do not know what to believe. It was a long hike with a lot of elevation gain and it was hard.

In my “normal” life, this hike would have been easy, however, I’d been traveling almost non-stop for four months prior to our arrival at the trailhead and there with little to no exercise during that travel period. I wouldn’t describe myself out-of-shape on the day of our hike but I certainly was not at my normal fitness level.

I honestly do not recall a single flat section of that hike. It was incline after incline after incline. The last 30 minutes of the hike was very steep and rocky. Imagine climbing up a rock stairway for 30 minutes after already hiking uphill for 2.5 hours.

I take back my statement about not recalling a flat section. Below is photo proof of the only flat section – a log bridge that crosses Mountaineer Creek at the 1.5-mile mark.

Crossing the boulder field after the log bridge was easier than it looks though there were some treacherous spots where I found myself on all fours for balance.

Beyond the boulder field is where I felt that the hike “really started”. The incline. Oh the incline. The rocks and boulders. Oh the rocks and boulders. The switchbacks. Oh the switchbacks.

Five minutes from the lake I stopped and told Peter I was not sure if I could continue. I had no idea how close or far we were from the lake. I was knackered. My quads, glutes, and calves were on fire! And at some point during the ascent, I tripped over a rock and was not sure if my toenail was still attached. (As of the time of writing, my injured toenail is about 70 percent grown out.)

Peter called me a baby and so we continued on even though I was certain the blister on my other big toe was larger than the toe itself. Just short of the lake we passed a campsite with tents and hammocks and people drinking beer and I cursed at them in my head.

We rounded the corner and there it was in all its glory: Colchuck Lake.

The sun was beating down on us and it was warm despite the snow around us. We sat on the granite slab facing the lake to give our legs some rest and fuel our bellies with expired energy bars.

I was in a daze when I saw a mama goat and her baby scaling the granite slab in front of me. My phone was in my bag so I started frantically digging for it and somehow I managed to capture this shot. This photo is the raw image – it is not filtered or edited.

We spent about 45 minutes at Colchuck Lake exploring the shoreline and talking ourselves into starting our descent. The water is an unbelievable deep turquoise color.

We watched as groups of hikers continued their hikes following the lakeshore to the other side of the lake and then up the steep “shortcut” to The Enchantments.

The descent was long and almost as difficult as the ascent. This is the thing with hiking – once you reach your destination, you’re only 50 percent done with your hike. Fatigue and hunger usually set in during the descent and all I want to do is get back to the car.

The total hiking time for us (not including our time at the lake) was just over four hours. We arrived back at the trailhead at 12:11 pm and collapsed in the car. We then proceeded to take a wrong turn out of the car park delaying our return to Leavenworth by 40 minutes or more. Forty minutes may not seem like a long time but it is an eternity after a hike such as this one with very little food in our stomachs. All I wanted was a Sysco sausage and beer!

This hike, as difficult as it was, is my new favorite hike. The reward of the lake is hard to beat, especially with the added bonus of the goat safari. Peter and I have talked about how we would do things differently if we were to do this hike again. First, we’d pack more substantial food like a sandwich. Second, we’d stay in Leavenworth the night before the hike but then drive back to Seattle immediately following the hike instead of staying in Leavenworth for an additional night.

1 comment on “Colchuck Lake, Washington

  1. Awesome pictures!

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