Carne Mountain

Day 1
Gary was free for a larch hike. Thursday looked to be the best weather of the week. We needed sunshine to really light up the golden larch needles. I had a work problem to solve and then a zoom meeting until 7:00 pm. The problem was solved at the last minute and I was free to finish packing by 7:30 pm. We decided on an overnight trip to Carne Basin. The weather was very iffy for a loop trip along the Carne High Route. We figured to spend our time in the best spot. We met at 6:00 am in North Seattle for the long 3 hour drive to the Phelps Creek Trailhead. It is the time of year for driving in the dark on the way out and also on the way back. It also means over twelve hours of darkness and a long night in the tent. We prepared for a sub-freezing night. It was a good thing. Partway along the dirt section of the Chiwawa River Road, a loud grinding noise wailed from my car. No trouble lights came appeared on the dashboard. We pulled over near Rock Creek. When I turned off the fan the noise stopped. That was a good sign. It was 27 degrees outside and a fan for heat and to keep condensation off the windows were needed. Since the engine seemed to be fine we chose to continue on. More experimenting and the noise eventually stopped.

There is one pretty bad rocky spot a few miles short of the Phelps Creek turnoff. I don't recall it from earlier visits. The last 2.4 miles of the Phelps Creek Road is as bad as ever but with some slick mud since recent rains. Not a problem for my Outlander. We arrived at the trailhead at 9:07 to find nine other cars. One had a frosted windshield. Not too bad for larch season even on a Thursday morning. Driving uphill to the trailhead the temperature warmed up to 31 degrees. We packed up and were on the trail at 9:20 am. It was supposed to be about half cloudy but The sky was blue. The forecast was wrong but in our favor. Sunlit larch trees all day in the basin. Views out to Buck Mountain and the high ridge around it were excellent. Larch trees could be seen high up below the ridge. The first half dozen of way too many photos began.

A flat start on the Phelps Creek Trail changes quickly when the Carne Mountain Trailhead off steeply uphill. The steepness never really abates until the basin is reached. The route gains 2700' from 3400' to 6100' in about 2.7 miles. The lower half was logged out, some of it appearing to be quite recent. Two weeks ago we brought regular summer equipment to Benchmark Mountain plus three quarts of water each. We did not know if we would find any water on that route. This time we knew there was water and only took one quart each. We more than made up for it with winter camping gear. My four season Akto is a lot warmer than my tarptent. We brought high top boots too. Crossing Stevens Pass we saw fresh snow down to near pass level. Not much but it was white. With heavier boots and packs and a steep trail, we were a bit slower than usual. Since it was only 2.7 miles up that was not a problem. On the second half of the trail, we counted 17 longs down. Most were easy stepovers but a few were much larger. None were a problem.

Nearing the basin the trail comes out of the forest and onto mostly open slopes. The first golden larch trees could be seen high above. We had some more views of the peaks near Buck Mountain, though from a few thousand feet higher. To our surprise, we did pass two other groups heading up. We reached the basin at about 11:20 am. The first campsite on the left was open and we took it. We set up camp and had lunch. All around were golden larch trees right at their peak. Only a few with some green and a few with dropped needles. We could hardly have been closer to the peak. The sun was now high enough to really light up the trees. We had no plan so just headed up the trail. For the rest of the day, we did lots of photo taking and not much hiking. The larch forest is as thick here as anywhere I have been. We continued to a smaller meadow higher up and to the trail junction with the Old Gib Trail. The main trail goes left and we went right on the Old Gib Trail. It quickly climbs to a saddle. We passed some folks in the basin and another person up here.

We chose to climb a bootpath up the ridge on the right. This brought us to a flatter ridge below the high point with lots of small and very large golden larch trees. We went on to the high point and took a long break. We could now see south to Mt. Stuart and the Stuart Range plus many more peaks of the Cascade Mountains. Mt. David was to the south with glaciated Clark Mountain south of Buck. North of Buck were Fortress, Chiwawa, Red, Bonanza, and more peaks. To the northeast and east were peaks of the Entiat. A really great viewpoint with nobody else nearby. Carne Mountain was across the basin and we could see folks atop it. Below was a sea of golden larch trees in Carne Basin. We arrived on top at 12:56 pm and left at 1:54 pm. With our tents below we did not need to head down early like most of the folks we saw.

We dropped down to the junction and took the main trail up. The trail is lined by larch trees most of the way to the ridge top. The colors were just outstanding all day long. A few folks passed us heading for the summit of Carne and others passed us going down. One person recognized me. Gary Brill is also on NWHikers and we met at a social the website hosted. Rare but fun when someone recognizes me on the trail. The ridge top is the boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. The wilderness sign is surrounded by golden needles as it is affixed to larch tree. Really nice views from the summit. We soon headed up the ridge to the summit of Carne Mountain. We had hoped that a late arrival might mean some solitude. Several groups did pass us heading down. At the top, 4 folks were still there. Two were over 70 years of age leaving Gary not the oldest. When they headed down they were moving pretty fast. A good sign for those of us now over 60. We did have some solitude as the others still had 3600' of elevation to lose to reach their cars and needed to leave.

We did not get down to the ridge top main trail until 4:02 pm. Darkness is now at about 6:30 pm. It probably reached the mid to high 30s in the basin this day. The ground in the basin was frozen and white with frost even at noon but direct sunshine had melted much of it. The entire two days we had almost no wind. That was a saving grace as cold as it was. A little below the ridge top we found a spot with open views out to the peaks and down into the basin. The trees were really on fire with bright yellow and orange colors. in the foreground were western anemones. They start out as normal flowers then the tops become frizzy long strands the wave in the wind. This day they shone like hundreds of small light bulbs. The bright white anemones, then bright larches, were set against golden larch with no sunlight on them. They appeared drab at best. Earlier they seemed to be set afire. Our spot was so good we sat down for 15 minutes. Below us, in the meadow, we could see two tents. They were the only other ones in the basin though the next day we found one tent just beyond it.

We slowly meandered our way back to the basin and our camp. We cooked dinner and then went for another walk without packs in the lower basin. It was dark enough for headlamps when we made it back to camp. It was dark by 6:45 pm. I managed to stay out until 8:12 pm. The stars were really impressive at 6100' far from any city lights. The forecast low was 28 degrees Friday morning. It turned out to be just a bit colder.

View From Trailhead
Fist Larch
Buck Mountain
View From Camp
Carne Basin
Jim In Camp
Heading Out
Bundled Up
Gold Against Blue
Gary & Larch
Upper Meadow
Green & Gold
Dark Blue Sky
Shadow In Forest
Buck Over Larch Wall
Golden Forest
Gary At Work
Frosted Trail
Dull Colored Larch
Gary Ascending Ridge
Big Larch On Ridge
Clark To Buck
Clark Mountain
Mt. David
Spider Meadow
Starting Down
Carne Mt.Summit
Dull & Sunlit Larch
Fortress Framed
Buck & Basin
Buck Over Ridge
Nicely Lit Up Larch
Wilderness Sign
Old Lookout Site
Glacier Peak
Carne Ridge
Maude & Larch
Starting Down Ridge
Well Lit Up
Break With A View
Spectacular Colors!
Heading For Basin
Jim Descending
Sunset Is Coming
Almost In Basin
Sunless Larch
Sunset From Basin
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Day 2

Trips - 2021