Ingalls Lake

October is the time to head east to see golden larch trees. Needle trees that have those needles turn golden then fall off. The window then the color turns and the needles have not fallen is short. Often only a week or so. High winds and snow shut the door on larch viewing. A weekend backpacking trip is best. This weekend was shaping up to be sunny on Saturday and rainy and/or snowy on Sunday. I, along with many others, headed out on Saturday. Janet and Gary joined me. We met in Bellevue at 7:00 am and headed east. On a headlamp hike up Granite Mt. a week earlier I dropped my hat and did not find it. Two days earlier on a headlamp hike to Mt. Washington I set my hat on my car in the dark and drove away. Two lost hats in 8 days. On the drive east we stopped at Exit 38 and low and behold there was my hat in the middle of the road. Soaking wet and run over many times I had it back. Off to a good start.

We headed up the  NF Teanaway Road to the end. We grabbed one of the last parking spaces at 8:50 am. More cars a few minutes later parked along the road. I counted 34 cars in the lot. It was 31 degrees at the end of pavement but had warmed up as we ascended and was 36 degrees when we started out. Reports from the past week talked about snow, some larch colors, and no larch colors. In short, we did not know what to expect. The fact I had seen some golden larch the week before a few valleys east and above 6000' gave me hope.

The sky was blue and it warmed as we ascended. When we moved out of forest and into the sunshine it was warmer still. Gloves stayed on but no jackets needed. There is some leaf color lower down. Not great but not too bad either. A few folks passed us and we passed some others. Not all that crowded with all the cars in the lot. As we neared Ingalls Pass there was a little snow and some golden larch. At the pass we had great views out to Ingalls Peaks and Mt. Stuart. they had just enough fresh snow to highlight them. I was pleasantly surprised to see that more than half the trees were near their peak. Below in Headlight Basin the trees were more green still.

We took some photos and headed around to the upper basin. The rocky trail had a little compressed snow and was a bit slick. The snow melted out significantly by the afternoon. Trees in the upper basin were a little farther along than I at first thought. A mix of golden yellow and green. They should peak within another week. We took a few short stops off the trail, finding some better color. The sunshine lit up the trees and the snow provided some great highlights. The trees were a little short of peaking but other conditions were nearly ideal. The crowds began to build as more and larger groups passed by.

We came to the most popular campsite and found five tents there. The thick ice on cars in the lot testified to how cold it was the night before. The small tarn was partly iced over. Our pace was slow as the morning light was sure to be the best of the day. At the end of the meadow we picked up the pace heading around to Ingalls Lake. This side gets more sun and there was almost no snow. The route drops down a bit then climbs to the lake. We came over the lip and found... a whole lot of people. A flat spot on the sloping slab provided a good lunch spot. There were dozens of groups all around. Far more than I have ever seen at the lake before.

They just kept arriving. More folks every few minutes. It never stopped. The view of the lake with Mt. Stuart behind was excellent. The west ridge of Stuart had even more snow. We finished lunch and Gary and I headed off to scramble around the right side of the lake. Ingunn, JK, and Dani arrived just in time to keep Janet company. It did not take long to reach the other end of the lake. We left the crowds behind. Janet later said she counted over 70 people at the lake. Amazing in October. Gary and I saw two people around the lake. Near solitude on a very busy day. I was surprised to find patches of lupine still in full bloom. After about a half hour we headed back.

Janet had started down while we were gone and so we took off to catch up. The line of hikers heading back seemed to be unending. We managed to get around half a dozen groups though the narrow trail made it difficult. Back at the creek we found Janet enjoying the sun and larch trees. While at the lake some dark clouds moved over us but began to break up on the way back. The lighting was not as good and we did get some more good photos but a lot fewer than on the way in. We stopped just before the pass to enjoy the peaking larch and a group passed by. A never ending group. Must have been 20 people without a break. A few dozen others at the pass also began to head down.

We ended up at the end of the longest hiker train I have ever seen. On open slopes I counted 19 hikers but many more were just out of sight. It's not possible to get around 30+ people on a narrow trail so passing was out of the question. They were not hiking fast and more groups caught up with us. Soon there were a couple dozen hikers behind us. Gary and I chose to stop and let them pass. Being in a line of 40+ people is worse than a day at the mall. We had some peace and quiet before more groups caught up with us. Again we let them pass to get some peace and quiet. This process worked fine and only delayed us by a few minutes.

The views out were still good and the trail is a pleasant one to descend. We were down before 4:30 pm. The line to the single outhouse was as long as you would expect. Driving down the road was amazing. I counted an even 60 cars along both sides of the road. A wide vehicle would have had trouble fitting through. With about 34 cars in the lot that made about 94 cars. With an average of at least 2-3 people per car that is one big crowd. As it turned out there were multiple organized groups at the wilderness limit of 12 or above it. There were at least 6 or 7 dogs on the "no dogs allowed" trail. It was a zoo.

Even with the crowds and rule breaking it was a great day. Sun, a little snow, and golden larch is a recipe that is hard to beat. Getting away at the lake helped too. The crowd did not ruin the day for us. We had a great time. I may head to less known spots next year at larch time but Ingalls delivered once again.

Parking Lot

Fortune Peak

Fall Leaf Color
East Esmerelda Peak
Frosted Leaves
More Color
West Esmerelda Peaks
Ice Crystals
Lone Harebell
Mt. Rainier
South Ingalls Peak
Larch At Ingalls Pass
Blue Sky & Larch
Larch & Ingalls Creek
Snow Highlights Stuart
Deep Blue Sky
Lots Of Colors
Snowy Peaks
Gary & Janet At Pass
Lone Larch
Framed By Larch
Ingalls Peaks
Larch & Stuart
Light & Shade
Looking Back To Pass
Green To Gold
Gary On The Rocks
Tall Larch Forest
Beautiful Day
Larch On The Rocks
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2011