Lake Ann

Last week I had the good fortune to see peaking aspen trees in Idaho. I returned just in time to visit the peaking larch trees near home. The weather looked good and I was up early and heading east. I had gone to the Ingalls Pass area the last few years. It is a reasonably short  drive and easy hike to see many larch. Because of those factors it is also crowded. I still wanted a reasonable drive but decided to take a chance on a new area. It starts from the same trailhead but is much less traveled. I had heard that there were larch around Lake Ann but I had never visited. I was out of Seattle by 6:30 and at the trailhead by 8:40. There were 14 cars parked down the road and the lot was 3/4 full. There were some early birds but also lots of overnighters as well. It was cold in the shade as I started out.

The Esmerelda Basin Trail is very gently graded. At one time it was a road up to the old mining center of Esmerelda. At no point is it at all steep. The trailhead is at about 4250' making it easy to hike up to the level of the larch. Less than a mile up the trail I left the shade and entered the sunlight. It immediately warmed up significantly. Off came my gloves and up went my sleeves. I passed two backpackers coming out and two more camped just off the trail. The trail used to follow the road straight up the valley. The road went along a meadow and had become very muddy. It has since been rerouted above the meadow. This added some distance but made the trail even more gently graded. After several long and flat switchbacks the trail finally reached the intersection. Left goes a short distance to Fortune Pass. Right is a continuation of the County Line Trail. It works higher to a shoulder of Fortune Peak then drops down to Lake Ann.

From the intersection the trail is rocky. Make that very rocky. The bad section is not too long and is easy enough to follow. I passed two more day hikers coming down and continued up to the ridge. Ahead I could see exactly one golden larch on the south side of the ridge. Reaching the ridge I met the final two people I would see for many hours. From the pass I could look down to Lake Ann and see many golden larch. The lake was still partly in the shade. Much of the north side of the ridge was dark as well. This gave me an excellent opportunity to get photos with a completely black background. Mt. Rainier was clear to the south and Glacier Peak was too the northwest. The pass is at about 6500". The lake lies 350' below the ridge. Fortune Peak is just 1000' above.

I headed down the ridge enjoying all the larch along the way. I had considered a short stay at the lake then a scramble up Fortune Peak. The weather and the larch were so nice that a nice long stay at the lake won out. Besides, I had been up Fortune on snowshoes in early June. As the sun rose the lighting changed. I was able to get very different results from photographs taken earlier. I also followed the trail across the outlet creek and found a meadow with even more photo opportunities. My leisurely stay ended up being over 2 1/2 hours at the lake. It was all time very well spent.

Finally, at about 2:00 pm I headed out. I took my time climbing back to the ridge top as the larch were gleaming in the sunlight. The day was so nice that I started down at a very slow pace. When I reached the Esmerelda Trail I saw a group. A number more groups were heading up and down in the final few miles. This may be the final hot hike I will do this year. Soon it will be time for rain gear then snowshoes. It was nice to have great weather and great larch on the same day. Ingalls Pass is an outstanding place to see larch but I expect I will return to Lake Ann in a not too distant October.

Cascading Creek
Ridge Top
Dark Larch
Lone Larch
Hillside Larch
Larch Above
Small Trees
Near Lake
Lake Shore
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2004