In the eye of Eightmile
By Amber King
The water droplets on the windshield were the size of marbles. They plopped hard, impeding my vision, making it very difficult to see out the window as my friend, Dan Sulak, and I headed up Icicle Creek. We had just finished a training session for work, and I was able to convince him that an afternoon trail run up Eightmile Lake was a going to be a great adventure. When he looked up at the dark, ominous clouds building over the area we were about to run and said, ‘What if it rains?’, I retorted with ‘It’s part of the adventure!’ He was game. Yes!
I had tried the run the week before but had sprained my ankle half-way up the trail. Now that I had a trail running partner, different shoes and a sense of adventure – it was time for redemption on this 6.6-mile, in-and-out trail. I was looking forward to the picturesque beauty along the way and spending time at this mysterious Eightmile Lake I had heard about.
When we got to the trailhead, the rain drops had become smaller, but they were still coming down. We looked at each other and laughed. Most of the drive, when the rain was roaring down on us, we both kept quiet and didn’t make mention of the weather as we headed up higher on Eightmile Creek road. Coming to the trailhead and making eye contact brought the comedy of the situation to the surface. Looking at the clock, we decided that we would wait five more minutes to see if the rain would stop. It would be a telltale sign of whether we would proceed with our mission.
As the minutes passed, the sky cleared and we were blessed with a ray of sunshine. Throwing on my running pack, I considered bringing a sweater but then ditched the idea. Stepping outside of the car, the air was moist and stagnant. We both knew that — despite the cooler temperature now — this humidity was going to make us sweat.
After making a couple of jokes about being in the ‘eye’ of the storm, and quite possibly getting stuck in torrential downpour on the trail, we kept an open, positive mind and began to head up the trail.
The first section of trail was as beautiful as I had remembered it. Huge, towering Ponderosa pines dotted the fields of lush, green undergrowth. These were hued with purple and yellow lupine and balsam root.
I had originally thought that this trail leveled out for quite some time, but I was wrong. Passing a few contour lines on the map, it kept moving up. It was the kind of uphill angle that wasn’t steep but still challenging to maintain for a long period of time.
Along the way we passed over rocky patches, big roots, mud and tiny streams. The trail kept you interested and motivated to see what was around the next bend.
After a few miles, a small lake called Little Eightmile came into view. Dan and I took the time to hang out and take a few photos before heading up to our turnaround point.
We knew that we weren’t far from our destination. In fact, we were only 0.5 miles away! Yay! So we kept running. The trail kept climbing until we reached our prized viewing area.
Ending at gorgeous Eightmile Lake in the middle of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we caught our breaths as we looked up at the huge mountain towering above. After the long, hot and sweaty climb, the dark blue water looked inviting. We had talked a little about jumping in, but given the early season, neither or us were feeling brave enough.
Hanging out at this lake was quite a relaxing experience. Far from every-day problems, you are able to experience a calm serenity looking out over these cold dark waters. I know that next time I come up, I may have to bring a fishing rod and perhaps a small boat to take in this place a little differently.
The run back was quick and easy. The steady uphill terrain on the way in made for a hop-and-skip descent on the way out. As we got close to the car, the clouds rolled back in and it began to rain. I think that we were meant to do this trail today as we had hit it just right.
The Eightmile Creek trail is another must do to add to the extensive list of excellent trails in the Leavenworth and Wenatchee areas. It is perfect for a quick after-work hike or run. It also is a picturesque and beautiful place to have a late afternoon lunch or an early dinner. Take the time to get up Icicle Creek and check it out. You won’t regret it.
Route Beta – Eightmile Lake Trail
Trail name: Eightmile Creek
Mileage: 6.6 (in and out)
Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
Trail map reference: Begin at the Eightmile Lake Trailhead
Parking permits required: Northwest Forest Pass
Pros: Beautiful views, wildflowers, gorgeous lakes
Cons: Busy on the weekends, can be hot during summer days
Note: Bears and cougars in the area
Directions from Wenatchee
1. Follow Highway 2 west towards Leavenworth/Seattle for approximately 18 miles.
2. Once you get into the town of Leavenworth, drive through it. At the end of town (before Tumwater Canyon), you will see Icicle Road. Take a left there.
3. Follow Icicle Road for 8.4 miles.
4. You will drive past Eightmile Campground. Right after the campground, take a left onto Eightmile Road (Forest Service Road 7600).
5. Follow this road all the way to the end. Park at the Eightmile Lake Trailhead.
Get out there and enjoy your trail run for the week! Don’t hesitate, get up there and see what it’s like for yourself.
Amber King is an avid trail runner who recently moved to Chelan County from Colorado. When she isn’t off exploring, she works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Entiat.