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.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2004