Google "Running" and your search results will include thousands of photos of people pounding down city streets and jogging along county roads. However, this is only part of the joy of the sport. Beyond the manicured tracks and paved roads are miles of dusty, rocky and rooted trails calling your name. While you might not get a marathon PR on the steep ascents and rugged terrain, trail running guarantees an adventure.
And that's just what I got this past Saturday.
Waking at 2:30am, I met up with three friends and headed to Leavenworth to run the Enchantment Lakes Trail. This 20 mile loop includes over 5,000ft of elevation gain, technical descents and some of the prettiest sights in the Northwest.
Because the trail starts and ends at two different locations, we first parked a car at the Icicle Creek parking lot, then drove a second car around to the Colchuck Lake trailhead. The sun was now fully out. After a quick pre-run photo, our group took off on the 20 mile trail.
The first four miles of the trial included steep inclines, but the path was wide and easy to navigate. A total joy. We stopped for photos at a few stream crossings, and snapped some jumping shots when we got to Colchuck lake.
Running on trails is all about variety, with scenery and terrain changing by the moment. The Enchantments delivered in every way.
As I carved up the trail, I used different parts of my feet, varying the strain on my muscles. The path continually changed between rock and soil, offering a refreshing break from the homogeneity of a paved road.
Six miles in, we walked and hiked Asgard Pass, a monstrous climb that reaches 7,700ft in just over a half mile. At the top, our group put on long sleeve shirts to fend off the cold alpine air. Pockets of snow clung to the sharp spires of rock around us. Goats were everywhere, the weather was perfect and the beauty of the upper Enchantment Lakes was unwavering.
After a few more photos and a quick snack, we took off again at a steady run. I was happy to be in such a beautiful place, but also looked forward to heading down to a lower (and warmer) elevation.
The hardest part of the trail run wasn't the climbing, but the descents. At around 14 miles, the trail narrows and weaves back and forth, adjacent to a stream that connects a chain of lakes. The roots and rocks make it impossible to run, while the steep descent and my momentum made slowing down even harder.
I stumbled a few times, but luckily never wiped out completely (or at least no one saw).
After a lunch break (and brief 5 minute nap) at Lower Snow Lake, our group finished the run down the hot and unending switchbacks by Icicle Creek.
In total, the run took us about 7 1/2 hours. It was an adventure capped with pizza and beer in Leavenworth. A perfect day. Details of our Enchantments run can be found here.