Ingalls Pass and Headlight Basin
is one of my favorite October larch hikes. The peak is usually about the
middle of the month. That was last week but the weather did not cooperate.
With no precipitation forecast for Saturday I took my chances on the larch
not being too far past the peak. I was somewhat concerned on the drive over
as thick fog began at Hyak and continued on past Cle Elum. The Teanaway valley
was clear. As usual, I saw deer on the drive in. This time two groups totaling
7 deer. I arrived at the trailhead at 8:30 and was very surprised to see
only two other cars in the lot. By 8:45 I was on the trail. It was a little
cold with mostly overcast skies. A little sun was shining through. The trail
to Ingalls Pass is gently graded the whole way. The creek by the trailhead
was flowing fast as the recent rains put an end to the low flow of late summer.
Within half a mile there was a little snow on the ground. It was surprising
to see it so low. The snow below 5700' was minor. As I climbed higher, Esmerelda
Peaks came into view. The north side had a healthy snow cover. The south
side of Fortune Peak has a more modest layer of snow. Once past the turn
off to Longs Pass the route was out of the trees and mostly bare. Snow returned
and deepened the last 600' or so up to the pass. At the most there was 4-6
inches on the ground. Nearing the pass I saw no south side larch at all and
I feared that the high winds had blown most of the needles off already. At
the pass my fears proved unfounded. Many of the larch were past their peak
but many were just peaking.
The wind was much stronger at the pass. It was a little
cold as it blew across the snow. After a short break for taking photos I headed
down to Headlight Basin. Mt. Stuart had much less snow than I expected. The
route to the basin was all on snow but someone had put in some nice steps
and it was easy enough even on the steep hill side. The sky was mostly overcast
now and the lighting was OK but not great for larch photos. My trip from the
pass to the lake took a long time. I slowly make my way while taking many
dozens of photos. There is usually only one weekend per year for my larch
trip and I wanted to make the most of it. Last October I came to the basin
on a clear sunny day. With the snow it was much different. In some ways I
liked it better with the golden larch set against the white snow. I managed
to get off trail many times but had no trouble finding my way. The distant
trail below Ingalls Peak was easily seen against the snowy background. I
have had a bit of a cold this week and I planned to turn back if it became
too cold but this close to the lake I had to keep going. Foot prints ended
before the last climb to the lake. I guess my predecessors must have scrambled
straight up. If hikers do not know the route up they can completely miss the
lake. For that reason I was careful to stick to the real route even where
it was sketchy. I expected more hikers would be coming along soon. The lake
itself looked very wintery. Most of the area around the lake was snow covered.
A nice chilly wind was blowing through as well. High above the lake I spotted
one tent. That was the first sign of humans since I left the trailhead although
I never saw its occupants. The lake with Mt. Stuart behind made for a nice
picture. I had lunch and managed to spend 30 minutes at the lake before needing
to get moving to warm up.
I dropped down to the low point in the trail where I
met the first hikers of the day. They were planning on climbing Ingalls. I
hope they had headlamps as its doubtful they could get up the mountain and
out before dark. Soon more hikers came along. In total 5 parties came in
as I hiked back to the pass. That's still not bad for a dry day in larch season.
I took even longer heading out. The basin is beautiful this time of year
and I was in no hurry to leave it. I felt like I must have photographed at
least half the trees in the basin. Occasionally the sun would poke through
and I would scramble to get a few quick larch photos with brilliant back lighting.
All to soon the sun would disappear once again. All good things must end
and I finally made the last push back to the pass. Several more groups had
stopped here to enjoy the freshly snow clad peaks and the larch below. I
did likewise. I finally pulled myself away and headed on down. The trip down
was quick and I was back in no time. Well maybe it took 90 minutes but it
seemed all to fast.
As I drove out I noticed just how brilliant the deciduous
tree colors are along the North Fork Teanaway road. From DeRoux Campgrounds
to Beverly CG and around the Stafford Creek road were the best. I drive this
road nearly every fall but never took the time to see the non larch colors.
They were so good I stopped several times to take more photos. I set a record
this day as all totaled I took 160 photos. For a minimal amount of effort
this trip has some of the best fall colors around. I'm sure I will be back
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Photo Page 2
Near The Pass
Esmerelda & Rainier
Ingalls Pass Larch
Peak & Past