Iron Bear Peak

     This has been an especially difficult year to get in a larch hike. With Ingalls Lake and the Chiwawa drainage closed due to fires there are few short day trips left to find larch. To top it off, this weekend was the opening of general hunting season and the forecast was for rain. I managed to convince Suzanne to come along by using only a few overly optimistic descriptions of the trip. I had planned on doing the Miller Loop over Miller, along the ridge, then back on trail over Iron Bear Peak and back to the start. It was raining at North Bend, the pass, Easton, and Cle Elum. Time for a change of plans.

     To stay as far east as possible and reach the larch as soon as possible I reconfigured our trip to start at the Iron Creek trailhead off of Highway 97. The trail starts at 3600' and there are some larch before the trailhead. I was very surprised to see that these trees were still green. Only a few had a little orange emerging. The usual hunters camps dotted the valley.

     We got started in a light drizzle with gentle winds. That changed part way to the pass as the rain increased and blew sideways in the high winds. Only a week ago I was sweating in 75 degree temperatures on Mt. Pugh. At the pass the wind was about 25 mph gusting to 40. My jacket never came off this day. The larch down the Bear Creek valley were still mostly green. I really expected they would have changed by mid October. The last chance to see golden larch was beyond Iron Bear Peak.

     We encountered several groups of hunters and they all reported no luck. The good news was that above 4500' the precipitation was in the form of snow and not rain. Above 5000' the ground was covered with a few inches of fresh snow. For the first time ever I chose not to stop at the summit of Iron Bear. There were no views and the wind was at near hurricane levels. Back in the forest the wind was almost nonexistent. The larch begin about where the County Line Trail is met. At 5400' the larch were just a little short of their peak. These larch with a little snow clinging and clouds all around had an ethereal quality. Not great lighting but very special none the less. This is a very gently graded (motorcycle) trail and the trip back was quick and easy.

     The rain and snow subsided for the trip down. We did not see any other hunters or hikers either. The wind was still blowing a bit at the pass but not nearly as much as on the way up. Clouds covered the valley of Bear Creek until we reached the pass. At that point I could see back into the valley. If the snow stays away the larch should turn in a week or more likely two. I didn't get the sunny larch hike of the last two years but it was fun to get out in the snow again. At least some larch at the higher elevations had turned color. 

     Based on other reports I have read I was quite surprised to see that the larch had not reached there peak in this area, even at 5400'. Weather allowing, this could be an easy hike to see larch for the next few weekends.

Fall Colors
Sadie And The Clouds

Fresh Snow
In The Clouds
Larch Needles
More Larch
Lone Larch
Snow On Larch
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

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