The picture on the banner of my blog depicts Little Annapurna, a wonderful peak in the Enchantment Range in the Alpine Lake Wilderness Area in central Washington State. Last August I went on a five-day hike to the Enchantments with my son Benjamin, my brother-in-laws Mark Bernoski, Greg Bernoski, and Jim Brush, my nephew Jake Bernoski and our French exchange student Alberic de Lacheze-Murel. Upon first meeting Alberic, my brother-in-law Mark Bernoski asked Alberic to pronounce his name three times. After the third pronunciation, Mark announced, “We’ll just call you Al.”
The Enchantments are simply stunning, but getting to them is a serious shag. On the first day, we left the Snow Lakes trailhead at about 8 a.m. and after about 8 miles and 45oo feet of elevation gain, we reached Snow Lake. From there it is about 2 miles and an additional 1500 feet of elevation gain before you reach the first of the Enchantment Lakes, Lake Vivian. But upon seeing it for the first time, I pretty quickly forget what a grueling trip it was to get there; it is simply stunning.
Towering over Lake Vivian is Prusik Peak.
And Lake Vivian is just the first of seven amazing lakes in the Enchantments; we ascended past Leprechaun Lake, Sprite Lake, Perfection Lake, Inspiration Lake, Isolation Lake, and Tranquil Lake.
The upper area of the Enchantments is simply amazing.
While the days on the trip were great, the nights were another matter. As I told you in an earlier post, my air mattress decided to give up the ghost on this trip. To make matters worse, it got far colder at night then I thought it would. My old sleeping bag was simply not up to the test. I knew I needed a new warm bag for hiking this spring and summer and I set to work finding a sleeping bag made by members of our extended American family. Turns out I didn’t need to look very far.
Feathered Friends is located in my home town, Seattle Washington. Feathered friends makes down sleeping bags, down coats, down comforters and other down stuff at their manufacturing facility a couple blocks from their retail store located at 119 Yale Avenue North here in Seattle. According to Henry Schneider of Feathered Friends, the firm was founded in 1972 by Carol and Peter Hickner, both of whom are still at the helm. In the early days, Carol and Peter concentrated on down comforters. Today, Feathered Friends is renowned for their Expedition sleeping bags, parkas, pants and down suits. Feathered Friends jackets and sleeping bags are often praised by outdoor magazines such as Backpacker Magazine.
I am a bit of a fair weather hiker, so I have my eye on the Feathered Friends’ Swallow 20 degree bag. It has 5 inch loft down and weighs around 2 lbs. It costs $369 and is handcrafted by Americans who live and work in my home town. Now if I wanted to buy a comparable sleeping bag that wasn’t made in the States, I could buy a Northface Blue Kazoo for around $259. The Northface Blue Kazoo is made by people who probably make a fraction of the hourly rate of the Feathered Friends employees who will be making my Swallow bag. The difference in price between the Swallow and the Blue Kazoo, when amortized over the ten-year period I intend on using my Swallow, works out to about $11 a year, or less than a dollar a month. When I think about it that way, it is an easy decision for me to opt for the Swallow. My toughest choice is not whether to buy it, but what color I should choose. I think I am going with Lava, although black is always in the running. If you are in the market for a new sleeping bag, I urge you to make it a great bag manufactured by members of our extended American family that work in my home town at Feathered Friends. Now get shopping!