That Leavenworth trail near you
By Marlene Farrell
I love the trail running options near Leavenworth! Without driving more than 10 miles I recently went on three trail runs that were brand new to me and exemplified the range of options available to us spoiled trail runners. We are so blessed compared to city dwellers who need to plan long, weekend expeditions in order to have a wild and scenic run.
The first run, in mid-July, was a 23-mile loop in the Icicle basin with only 2,400 feet of elevation gain. You might wonder how it’s possible to find such a flat trail amid the granite crags. This is a loop that follows creeks – Jack
Creek, Meadow Creek, French Creek and Icicle Creek. At every trail junction my friends and I stayed low, skipping the options to climb to lakes or passes. Our goal was to run free of snow and we did. It was a very runnable route and we would have made a speedy time if someone could have preceded us with a machete and hacked away the four miles of dense brush along Meadow Creek. After taking a Benadryl to cure the hundreds of vegetation-pricked welts on my legs, I enjoyed crashing through the bushes and picking up the pace whenever I could see my feet. We lost count of the number of creek crossings, but at each one my shoes got stripped of mud and my feet and ankles received a refreshing bath. We never had a view on high, but the meadows rewarded us with a painter’s palette of wildflower hues. I would do this run again, but only with equally entertaining company.
My second run, to Colchuck Lake, was not exactly new to me. However, it’s always been a way point for the epic run through the Enchantments, and not the destination itself. So this time, when I ran the eight mile round-trip to
Colchuck with two fit teenagers (who had never been there themselves), I could appreciate the journey that climbed, but not too steeply. And I could bask in the view of the lake, a dazzling turquoise splendor. My eyes picked a path through the rocks up to Aasgard Pass, but my feet did not twitch to get going. My gaze returned to Colchuck. We swam briefly in its chilled waters. The lake uncluttered my mind and that feeling stayed with me down the trail, transitioning me back to the ordinary.
My most recent new venture was running up Wedge Mountatin, a prominent Leavenworth mountain. Its lower flanks are crisscrossed with dilapidated roads while its upper reaches are covered in granite boulders, silvered fire debris and abundant wildflowers. I chose to start at the intersection of Mountain Home Road and USFS Road 7305 to save myself excessive miles and to save my car from nasty ruts. As it was, I ran about 15 miles round-trip and gained just under 4,000 feet of elevation. The first six miles follows the old road, curving up the mountainside. The pitch gradually
increases, so I found a slow and steady “gear” and kept cruising, glad for a full camelback of water and views at the switchbacks. The final push to the top is along a surprisingly well-maintained trail. The trail’s steepness forced me to mostly abandon running in favor of fast hiking, with a jog thrown in here and there at the brief flat spots. I reached the rocky top that is actually one high point on a long ridge (the true summit is further south and requires more scrambling than I felt like doing that day). The suddenness of nothing above me made me hug the rocks as I peered over the edge. The land drops away, precipitous, for what seems to be 1,000 feet. Three skinny lakes strung together like freshwater pearls astonished me. I was looking down upon Nada and Snow Lakes! The view of the Lower Enchantment Lakes was obscured by the Temple, but the splendid panorama of the Snow Creek basin was enough to make my trip worthwhile. The descent was fantastic as the terrain became easier and easier. However, I was glad that my quads had weathered a good number of long downhill runs already this year.
Now I’m scheming for more. Some beloved runs I want to do again, like the Enchantments and Fourth of July to Icicle Ridge. Others I have never done, but drool over when looking at maps, like a loop via Trout Lake, Windy Pass and Lake Caroline (I just nabbed that one as I write this!), and a point-to-point run from Stevens Pass to Leavenworth. When a trail fix becomes increasingly urgent and my thoughts circle back to it all day long, it is time to wake up early (4 a.m. is a great time), grab a friend, and hit the trail.
Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth writer and long-distance runner who has qualified twice for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. She also helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.