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Lake Valhalla


Spending the week at Lake Wenatchee has been largely uneventful. Work sucked me in and the days have been a blur. But the Cascades offer incredible mountain ranges and high mountain lakes – so much to explore!

I did some research and selected the location for our backpacking adventure this weekend – Lake Valhalla and Lichtenberg Mountain, about 30 miles West of Lake Wenatchee. Aside from the landscape being very beautiful, I intentionally selected this location because of its relatively low elevation at 5,000 feet. The snow line has been holding at roughly 6,000 feet. It’s a longer hike in to the lake, six miles, but with no snow to deal with it should seem like a nice comfortable change of pace that we deserve. 100% type I fun.

How wrong I was. The snow level was much lower, and what was intended to be a quick, fun and easy hike turned into a complete slog and quite dangerous. The only word to describe it is “treacherous” with a fall assessment in several places as high consequence / high probability. With the trail obliterated, we got lost numerous times in the snow and had to use our “trail sense” to find it again. We met some girls going the other direction who were panicked and lost, and begged us to walk with them for a ways to help them find the trail again.

Treacherous snow hollows everywhere

But when we got to the lake we had a wow moment where all of the slog was suddenly worth it. The lake was still mostly frozen over and glowed a pool blue color, Mt. Lichtenberg loomed impressively over it like a protective older brother. It was chilly and beautiful. It may be a hot, sunny 4th of July weekend for most people out there, but it’s amazing that we can still find these wintery chill places in the mountains to escape to.

Lake Valhalla

When we got in to camp we were absolutely beat up! We set up camp, ate an early dinner, and crawled into our sleeping bags with the intention of just resting our backs. I woke up 2.5 hours later with drool on my pillow, and it was 7:30! So tired.

Drying wet clothes on a tree branch

We ate a second dinner (like hobbits) to get our heat up for the cold night, split a Tylenol PM for all of the body aches, and then went to bed early while it was still daylight.

Feeding crumbs to some Camp Robber birds

I have never slept so well in the wilderness during freezing temps! I was so warm and comfortable in my cozy sleeping bag, the Tylenol PM wrapping me up in a haze of pleasant, lucid dreams… I think this inadvertent discovery was the missing piece in the holy grail of comfortable sleep in the wilderness. The trinity is now complete – spicy noodles, a hand warmer down the front of my shirt against my skin, and a half of a Tylenol PM before bed. I’ll test this theory out again soon to see if it holds true.

We spent a lazy morning in hammocks overlooking the lake, drinking hot coffee and marveling at how we had the entire place to ourselves. The sun was shining a bit more, and the ice on the lake looked thin and fragile. In a few days more it will probably all have disappeared.

I think that expectation vs. reality is the biggest factor in disappointment. I expected and planned for an active – but not very difficult – weekend that would be a nice break from what we regularly put our bodies through. I thought it would be comfortable. And when it wasn’t I was pretty disappointed, almost to the point of tears.

Brad kept saying how much fun he was having and what an amazing place it was to spend the weekend. I realized that in any other circumstances I would have been having the time of my life, relishing the mental and physical challenges of it all. So I worked on my mind and perspective during the long miles back through the snow to where Cuddlebus was waiting for us.

Finally, dry trail!

We always feel a greater sense of accomplishment when the journey is hard. It gives us access to experiences that not everyone gets to have. If it were easy then everyone would be doing it. The comforts and rewards afterward feel and taste better when they are earned. That hot shower I had in the bus in the trailhead parking lot may have been the best I’ve ever had. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brad that excited about a bowl of rigatoni and pasta sauce…

Now we get to rest and enjoy some snuggles in the comfort of our soft bed, and get excited about tomorrow. Tomorrow is moving day! We are headed back to Tonasket, way up in the northern part of Washington near the Canadian border. We first came to Tonasket several months ago when we started on our apocalypse avoidance tour, and have wanted to come back with more time to explore the area more. Plus, there’s this little authentic Salvadoran restaurant that serves pupusas. I know where we are having lunch tomorrow!

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