The Enchantments. Oh, what a place.

I had seen a few photos online, but it's one of those wilderness areas that's a bit of a unicorn. You need permits to get up here, and they're not easy to come by. On top of that, the hike in isn't exactly a piece of cake, with a whopping 2,200 feet of gain over 3/4 of a mile, if you take the Aasgard Pass route. When a few of my friends snagged a pack of core permits for late August and asked if I wanted to join, I immediately said yes, because I knew it might be years before I'd get the chance to do this again. We counted down the days until we got deep into Washington's Stuart range, and though I had been backpacking in Wyoming and Idaho in the weeks leading up to this, I knew this would be the highlight of my summer camping trips.

The Enchantments boast spectacular mountain views and offer you a range of alpine lakes to shoot (or swim in, if you're ballsy enough), but last week, nearby wildfires transformed the landscape into something that looked like it was straight out of Lord of the Rings.

The midday skies were an indescribable shade of dusty red, and and at a few points the smell of smoke was almost unbearable. The winds kicked up at night, yet most mornings were fairly clear. We had a few resident mountain goats near our camp, and though I had seen them before in Montana, zipping open my tent and finding one munching on the grass ten feet away was a very new experience for me. And no, I didn't pee there, though I'm sure some other previous campers might have. Never heard about mountain goats and their love affair with urine? Read more here.

While fires are a part of the forest life cycle, this summer has been especially bad. From careless humans to lightening, it seems like every state and province out west has been battling blazes nonstop. While I try to do everything I can to educate others about LNT (especially with regard to fires and where one should or should not pitch a tent), there's only so much I can do. I can't wave a wand and put out a fire. I feel guilty for being in awe of what the fires have done to the sky, but damn. Some of the sunsets I've seen this summer are absolutely mind blowing:

I brought my full camera kit, and I snapped a few photos I really liked, but this wasn't one of those trips where I fired away. Lately I’ve been finding more inspiration with the little details of the places I photograph, and even though my video skills are a bit shaky, it’s been pushing me to do more on a creative level. On our first morning I was looking for a composition at Colchuck Lake, and after finding a foreground I liked, I turned around to grab my 16-35mm. It was then that I noticed a dragonfly perched on a log floating in the water, which was far more fascinating than any mountain landscape in front of me. The movement from its wings created tiny ripples on the glassy surface of the lake, which was reflecting the pink clouds above. Sunrise at Colchuck would happen again. This would not. I was able to pop my 70-200mm on and switch back to my wide to shoot both, but if I had to choose between the two, I would have skipped the photo I came for and gone for the fleeting moment. After I fired off about a dozen shots of the dragonfly, it took a few more steps up the log and flew off.

#outdoors #camping #backpacking #hiking #mountains