Colchuck Lake || The Hike That Made Me Feel Like A Badass
Excuse my French, but guys. This moment has be a whole long time coming. If you’ve been following me for the past few years, you know that I’ve been doing lots of hiking all over the place, but what you probably didn’t know is that many times I’ve STRUGGLED on trails. I’m talking stopping every 30 seconds to catch my breath, knees cracking the whole way, almost in tears kind of a struggle. This year, I decided to put my physical fitness at a higher priority because I knew I wanted to enjoy my hikes, and crush even bigger ones, so since the beginning of March I’ve been working hard at increasing my strength and endurance in the gym! In May, as the snow in the alpine began to melt, I started tackling some bigger trails. I summited Mt. Spokane from the road closure (8-9 miles), did 7 miles on Memorial Day, and felt surprisingly good after each longer adventure. At first, I thought, “these trails must not be as hard as I remember them, they felt kind of easy!” And, “there’s no way I’m in better shape, because last time I did this it was HARD. Why don’t I feel dead after this?” And then, it dawned on me that a few months of consistency in the gym might have ACTUALLY put in a position to be a better hiker. GO FIGURE!
I hiked to Colchuck Lake a few years ago and that time I did it, it absolutely wrecked me. Full on wreckage. Major hiking hangover the next day. Ever since then, I’ve wanted redemption on this trail; to conquer it with ease and feel really good about my ability in the outdoors. Me and Colchuck have had some unfinished business for a while now. This year, one of my hiking goals was to explore more of the Cascades, and after feeling really solid on some harder hikes in May, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could kick Colchuck’s ass too.
So of course, I got a hold of Laura to see if she was down, because if there’s one friend I have that will say yes to just about anything, it’s her. She was a little hesitant but decided to take on the challenge with me, and so the plan was set to hike Colchuck on June 1st!
A couple weeks leading up to our hike, I started watching trail reports, Facebook hiking groups, and Instagram like a hawk for trail conditions. Once I had the green light for a snow free trail, and a free weekend, we decided to make it happen! We left Ellensburg early in the morning to hit the trail, and we were trekking along just before 9 AM.
What happened on this hike confused both of us. By this point, I should have just accepted that I was getting into better shape, but of course, we were shocked every time we passed a group, or didn’t stop for a break, or realized that our lungs weren’t feeling shredded and working over time. Even at 5,000 feet elevation, when we both live a lot lower than that! We breezed through the lower section, crossed Mountaineer Creek to start the climb, and kept a good, consistent pace all the way up the steep trek to the top. We only stopped to put on sunscreen and take in some killer views! I felt strong, able, and really good almost the whole way. The only time I felt like I was struggling was right at the end, but it’s because I was hungry and my stomach was growling, and when I’m hungry, I gotta eat RIGHT NOW. (I ignored it because I knew we were so close to the end and just silently died all the way to the finish line.) We made it to the lake before noon, I crushed a wrap and 4 different snacks for lunch (my body burns calories like CRAZY), and we soaked in all the mountain goodness for a good few hours. We saw mountain goats, watched backcountry skiers hike up and ski down the Colchuck glacier, and stuck our feet in the super chilly water. It was the sweetest afternoon in the mountains.
After hanging out at the top for a while (and snagging some photos of Laura doing some nice, deep lunges, because that’s her personal brand), we breezed back to the parking lot, drove in to Leavenworth, devoured a burger and fries (if you don't eat this after a hike WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING?!), and drove back to Ellensburg. The whole way home we talked about how stoked we were for crushing the hike, and how excited we were to keep hiking bigger and bigger things and ACTUALLY enjoy them. We go to Glacier for 4th of July weekend and now I’m even more pumped for it!
All I needed was the sweet redemption of Colchuck Lake to skyrocket my confidence on the trails and keep me motivated to keep working out and improving my fitness. All of my life, I’ve never been good at anything that involves any sort of physical ability. My coordination is absolutely terrible (my dad recently told me that he remembers me just flinching away from the volleyball when he would come to my middle school games), I sucked at sports, I hate running, and I never in a million years had any desire to go to a gym or be “in shape”. When I started hiking a few years ago, I felt like I maybe finally found something I could do to be active, but I still wasn’t very good at it. It took me a couple years of dying and being in pain on trails to realize that if I really wanted to do this, that I was going to have to put in the work to get better and make it more enjoyable. And now that I have, I can say with 100% confidence that it has absolutely been worth it, and I’m so excited to finally fit into a category of being active that I’m actually good at. Turns out that all it took was my love for photography and the mountains to push me into it!
If you’re like me, and physical fitness doesn’t come naturally to you, I’d strongly recommend trying hiking out. The fact that my feet can take me places that most people might never see in person for their entire life just blows my mind! It’s great exercise, and you’re usually rewarded with some beautiful views, and the satisfaction of completing something you didn’t think you could do when it’s over. I always say that I never understood what people meant when they got a “runner’s high”, but when I’m on trail and I feel that second wind kick in to propel me onward, the hiker’s high is so, so real. I can’t imagine trading that endorphin rush for anything in the world.
Below is a very small collection of photos from our time at the lake! I can’t say this will be my last time here, as this trail holds a special memory for me now: the hike that made me feel like a badass.