Ingalls Lake

Originally I had planned a larch backpacking trip this weekend. Changes left me alone and I decided to join Gary and Paul for another day trip to Ingalls Lake instead. Forecast was mostly sunny and very cold. Cold as in high teens overnight and high twentys during the day. We met at Eastgate P&R at 6:30 am and headed east. It was cloudy in Seattle and the clouds remained all the way up the NF Teanaway Road to the Ingalls trailhead. Not what we were expecting. We planned on backlit larch trees and blue sky. We had white sky and a few snow flakes.

We were on the trail at 8:35 am. There were "only" 23 cars in the lot when we started. It was cold but with the clouds it was not as cold as expected. Still, within a mile up the trail my baseball cap was exchanged or a wool hat. Light gloves were replaced with heavy fingerless mitts. There are some red berry leaves down low but with no sun they were dull. We passed the Longs Pass junction and headed higher. Inevitably we ran into a few other groups heading up.

We reached Ingalls Pass a little after 10:00. The larch trees start right at the pass. The real action is across the ridge in Headlight Basin. At the pass I realized my camera was taking black photos. I had this problem with my dslr early in the year but not since. Thousands of larch and no camera! My worst nightmare. I played with it, warmed it, changed settings, and managed to get it to work most of the time. I had more than thirty ruined black shots but managed to coax 230 good shots out of it. It was frustrating but not a disaster.

Although there was snow a few weeks earlier there was almost none left. A few small patches near the pass and some short icy spots on the trail just across the pass. After that there was no snow left. A short hike through rocks brought us to the upper basin. Larch are a mix of a few past prime, many at peak, and a number from green to light yellow. Looking down to the lower basin many trees are still green. Two years ago Gary and I took the high route to the lake then the low trail back to the pass. This year the best bet was to stay high.

Paul had been to Ingalls Pass but never at larch time. He was in for a treat. The white sky blocked sun from lighting up the larch trees. On the other hand it did bring out some nice colors though a little muted. Our hope was to take our time photographing larch trees for our enjoyment and to waste enough time that we might still be around to see some afternoon sunshine. The goal was not to have to sit around waiting for sun while we froze.

There were a number of tents visible. We spotted a group of a dozen Mountaineer Naturalists hikers Gary had mentioned were going to be on the trail. Those folks were loudly discussing other folks who had a campfire burning though numerous signs forbid it. There is precious little wood in this high meadow. We were not pleased either. Short detours brought us to some excellent groves of larch trees. Enough were at their peak to provide a great display. In about a week the overall display should be at its best.

We found another old fire pit and then the outhouse. About then a group of a dozen scramblers passed us heading up Fortune and South Ingalls. Seemed like a waste to spend the day up high when the best views were down in the basin. Soon we were back on route heading for Ingalls Lake. many more folks were now on the trail. It seemed like the trail to Mt. Si with folks everywhere. We reached the lake just after 12:00 pm. We put on what clothing was left in our packs and had lunch. The clouds were still thick but at least high enough to be above Mt. Stuart.

After lunch we headed around the lake to the right. Up and over the rock and down to the shore again. Gary and I had come through here in 2007 but did not have time to explore. This time we went all the way to the far end of the lake. We had a nice view over to Goat Pass and the west ridge of Mt. Stuart. Looking back I counted about 50 people around the lake including us. It was nice to be well away from most all of them.

As we came back around to the trail we could see over 20 folks leaving the lake at one time. From our vantage point they were spread out on the trail below the lake. We had a different idea. We headed back at a slow pace hoping that just maybe there would be a sliver of sunlight on the larch trees in the upper basin. It was near 3:00 pm when we reached the larch forest and the sky was still white. It looked like patience would not pay off this time.

Gary noticed a small blue patch. It seemed to grow. A few minutes later there was a thin ray of sunlight. A few larch were lit up. A little later there was some more sun. All at once half the sky cleared. It happened within just a few minutes. Those who left the lake and hiked straight back missed the real show. Big stands of larch went form dull yellow to blazing orange. We probably took half our photos in a 20 minute time frame. Patience did pay off in a big way. In the sun the temperature seemed to go from frigid to just plain cold. From mid winter back to late fall. The larch trees were not as close to peak as we had in 2007 but they were plenty good.

The sun does not climb far above the ridge top this time of year. It was now almost ready to drop back below the ridge. It was time to go. We hiked back to the pass in the cold shade and across the pass picked up the sun once again. It was almost 4:30 when we left Ingalls Pass, some 8 hours since we started. We enjoyed the sun part way down then dropped back into winter again. The parking lot is wedged under the bulk of Esmerelda Peaks and I doubt it get more than a few hours of sunshine this time of year. A little before 6:00 pm we reached the end of the trail. There were only 13 cars left in the lot but almost that many parked well down the road.

We had dinner in Cle Elum and by 8:00 pm the feared traffic jam on the one open lane of west bound I-90 never materialized. We sailed though at the speed limit. I was home by 9:30 pm. We had high hopes for sun and peaking larch this day. We then were a little disappointed by the thick clouds. In the end we had the sun we expected and plenty of golden larch. The larch season is short and we were very pleased with our day in the mountains.

First Color
Larch At Ingalls Pass
Gary Through Needles
White Sky Above Pass
Shaded Larch
Golden Larch
Off Trail Wandering
A Patch Of Blue
Larch & Evergreens
Grassy Meadow
Gary At Work
Larch & Stuart Ridge
Larch Below
More Red
Ingalls Lake & Mt. Stuart
North End Of Lake
Shimmering Lake
Ingalls Lake
Backlit Red
Looking Towards Pass
All Colors
Mt. Stuart
Gary & Larch
Rainbow Of Larch
Rock & Larch
Small Larch Clump
Improving Light
Rock, Larch, & Snow
Paul Poses
Sun Breaks Through
Gary & Paul
Larch Needles
Stuart & Bright Larch
Larch Against Blue Sky
Larch Afire
South Ingalls Peak
Dark Background
Best Light Of The Day
Paul Posing Again
Light & Shade
S. Ingalls Above Larch
Green & Gold
Dark, Gold, & Blue
Gary Near Pass
Last Larch
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009