Ingalls Lake

Friday was looking like a beautiful October day. The weekend looked to be rain and wind. Gwen convinced me to take a day off and head to the Teanaway for a last larch hike. I had a great trip to the Enchantments two weeks earlier. We found many larch trees at their golden peaks. Some were still green. A second larch trip would be a treat. A report the day before showed the trees to be just beyond their prime. No time to waste. We met in Issaquah at 6:35 am and headed east. It was very foggy in Seattle but east of Bellevue it was clear and stayed that way all the way to Cle Elum and to the end of the NF Teanaway Road. We arrived at 8:40 am. Ten minutes later we were on the trail. As always this time of year, the trailhead was cold. Pant legs zipped on, long sleeves, and gloves to start.

I was surprised to see that a slide had covered the start of the Ingalls Way Trail. In a short distance the trail was picked up again. A boot path goes along the side of the slide back to the Esmerelda Trail just after the signed junction. Hiking this trail on a weekday in larch season was great. The lot was less than half full when we started. After about half a mile the temperature warmed enough to be comfortable. Off came the gloves. There is a little leaf color down low but it was not lit up in the morning. A few groups passed us and we ended up passing some of them again. As we rose above the forest the views began. Esmerelda Peaks across the valley. Koppen Mountain down the valley. Fortune Peak high above.

After the turn junction with the Longs Pass Trail the route is mostly out in the open. Nothing but blue sky overhead all morning. With a few photo breaks we kept up a steady pace to Ingalls Pass. We arrived at the pass just after 10:30 am. There was a light breeze but it was not too cold. The larch trees out of the sun were dull. There was little green on the trees. Definitely a little past peak. Not much though. We stopped for photos then climbed up to the top of the rocky ridge for a food and water break. Views out in all directions from there. I wanted to arrive at the pass early enough for good lighting. With a 5:00 am wake up and a steady hiking pace we accomplished that goal. Our goal was to see many larch trees. Seeing the lake was just an extra perk. With that in mind we headed into Headlight Basin.

Looking back to Ingalls Pass the larch trees were now backlit by the morning sun. the dull larch were now anything but. Lots of fiery golden color was brought out. I was feeling even more positive about taking the day off work. We hiked very slowly as some of the best larch are in the upper basin. More hikers came through. Some moving slowly and taking a lot of photos. Others heading at a faster pace to Ingalls Lake. We noticed a few small wisps of clouds. The weather was coming in. It was just a matter of when. Rain or shine the trail would be packed with a lot of hikers on the weekend. We were missing the crowds and getting some very nice sunny weather. In fact, the trail was crowded on Saturday and it rained in the afternoon.

We continued to make slow progress. At the end of the basin we began the rocky traverse around to the lake. The larch lost their luster as we were now at the wrong angle. We passed the junction with the lower trail and continued on. The last bit of the route is a rocky climb. We came over the lip of the lake basin to find several goats right off the trail. More photos. A number of groups were sitting on the slabs above the lake. We chose to head around the right side of the lake. Neat views of the lake and also Mt. Stuart from up on the rocks. At the end of the lake we had lunch on a peninsula jutting out into the lake. Several folks went by to my surprise. Another couple of goats seen there too. It was 1:45 pm when we headed back.

We went up and over the rocks and dropped back to the other end of the lake to find most folks had already left. A few more were still heading up. Down we went to the signed junction. We chose to take the lower trail back. As the day went along the clouds continued to build. The beautiful blue sky of the morning was now mostly white. Not the best background for larch photos. Still, there were a lot of larch trees in lower Headlight Basin. Not many people. We passed tents on the way in but did not see any below. Our route went through nice forest then we began the short steep climb back to Ingalls Pass. There were still a number of folks at the pass. One short ray of sunshine lit up the trees but it was gone in no time. A little more food and water and we were ready to descend.

A lot of us started down at nearly the same time. We passed and were passed but several groups. Back at the pass we looked south and saw a big plume of smoke down the road. Was there a wildfire on our route out? Did the Forest Service come in during the day and set to burning the slash from logging along the road? It was the latter. No need to have worried. Not much to photograph on the way down. Much worse conditions for photos. It was just after 5:00 pm when we reached the car. A stop for dinner in Cle Elum and the rest of the drive home in the dark. Up and 5:00 am and home at 9:00 pm. That is a full day of hiking.

I seem to make it to Ingalls Lake most years at larch time. Often another larch trip but Ingalls more often than not. It's an easy drive and a great display of larch. This is also the second time in recent years I have taken off a Friday to get good weather and miss the most crowded days. Both times it was well worth it. We had great morning weather, minimal crowds, good larch trees, and many goats. The larch window is often very short and I managed to get in two great trips this year.

East Esmerelda Peak
West Esmerelda Peaks
Ingalls Pass View
A Little Past Prime
Mt. Rainier
Tents & Goat
Dull Larch Trees
Gwen At Pass
Larch At Pass
Bright Colors
Wall Of Larch
Mt. Stuart & Larch
Especially Bright
Totally Blue Sky
Larch Forest
Angle Means Everything
Larch Afire
Looking Backwards
Framed Mt. Stuart
Tall Larch Trees
Deep Blue Sky
Great Colors
Larch & Ingalls Creek
More Stuart & Larch
Winding Trail
Dwarf Larch
Meadow & Larch
Nice Contrast
Gwen At Work
Curvy Larch
Hiker & Stuart
Ingalls Pass
Goat Near Lake
Ingalls Lake
Gwen On The Rocks
Hedgy & Stuart
More Goats
Gwen & Stuart
Climbing Slabs
Leaf Color
Lower Basin Trail
Climb To Pass
Yellow & Green
A Ray Of Light
More Leaf Color
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2014