Ingalls Lake

Nearly every fall I get out on a trip to view golden larch trees. Deciduous needle trees that turn from green to golden as the days grow shorter and colder. While I have done a number of different larch trips the most often one for me is Ingalls Lake. It is a much shorter drive than most. Larch are found on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. This fact is well known. The weekend crowds at the larch peak can number in the hundreds. Hence, mid week is a great time to go. Reports showed that the larch were just a little short of peak on the weekend. Still some green needles. Early but not by much. Tuesday looked to be all blue sky. The rest of the week would be dry but with some cloudy sky. The golden needles look best with sunshine to light the colors and blue sky for a backdrop. I don't take many days off work but this time it looked to be well worth it. Gary also could be free on Tuesday. A last minute plan was set in motion.

We met outside Issaquah at 6:25 am. A few minutes later we were heading east. Once out of bad Puget Sound traffic the going was easy. Up over Snoqualmie Pass, down to Cle Elum, then north to the NF Teanaway River Road. Thirteen miles of freshly paved road and then the last ten miles on gravel. The gravel road was awful last November but was regraded this spring. It was still in pretty good shape. My sedan had no problem. We arrived at the trailhead at about 8:00 am. Two cars parked along the road from a day or two earlier. Nine more in the lot. On Saturday there will be fifty cars by 8:30 am. Off to a good start. It was cold enough for me to put on polypro and gloves. Summer is over. By 8:25 am we were on our way. To start off a deer popped out of the woods twenty feet from us. It seemed to want to pose so I took out by camera and obliged. Another one went farther into the trees.

The steep rocky old road at the start is the worst section of trail up to the pass. Quickly we reached the junction. Right turn and we were onto the Ingalls Way Trail. Some good leaf color in the first part though we were in shade and it was not very well lit up. The trail is very gently graded with a number of easy switchbacks as it climbs out of the valley. Gary tweaked his knee recently and so we set a slow steady pace. Esmerelda Peaks are right across the valley and the top was in the sunlight while the bottom was very dark. A neat view. Higher up Koppen Mountain came into view and then Mt. Adams. The sky was very clear. Reddish Fortune Peak also was in view.

We reached the turn off for Longs Pass and headed left towards Ingalls Pass now mostly above the forest. When we came into the sunshine the temperature went way up. We met two women who were taking off long sleeves and I soon did the same. From very cool at the start it was now comfortably shorts and short sleeve weather. We were passed by one lone hiker as we neared the pass. I expected to see many more folks go by us before we reached the pass. The first larch trees are just on the south side. Larch are far more often seen on the north side of ridges. That is very much the case at Ingalls. From the pass we had great views of Mt. Stuart, Ingalls Peaks, and all of Headlight Basin. Indeed, a little green but the larch were very near their peak.

We arrived at the pass at about 10:15 am. Time for a short break. Gary went right along the treed ridge and a minute later he called out. He had walked right into a family of goats. With in a dozen feet before he saw them. I had to go have a look. These were the first two of ten goats we saw this day. I often see mountain goats here but never as many as ten. Next, we headed over to the upper basin. Not far along we found three more goats. Two were right in the middle of the trail. The slope was steep and we chose to drop down to get around them. Five goats down and five still to come.

 Larch ahead of us were muted. Those behind us were fully backlit and appeared to be almost on fire. Really great color. The low morning sun made for some of the most colorful larch trees I have ever seen. The really good stuff is in the upper basin. The lower basin had some golden and some still green trees. Once around and under South Ingalls Peak the larch turns to just rocky terrain. We spent a good deal of time amidst the golden larch.

We saw one backpacking party heading out. Another was preparing to leave. With so few day hikers so far the basin was as empty as I have seen other than on a late snowy spring day. On a few occasions I have seen golden larch, blue sky, and a dusting of fresh snow. Those are the ideal conditions in my opinion. This day we had two out of three and the golden larch and blue sky made for excellent views and photos. As we walked around the basin a few more parties came through. At about 11:45 am we headed on to Ingalls Lake. Gary's knee was feeling fine. The rocky route to the lake can be a problem for a sore knee but he did just fine. Near the spot where the lower Headlight Basin Trail drops down, we found three more goats on the side of the trail. Again we chose to detour around them. They were not aggressive but they do have very sharp horns.

We arrived at the lake to find a few folks high on the slabs and one person on the shore. We headed down to the shore for lunch. On our 2011 larch visit Gary and I counted about 80 people at the lake when we were there. That included a group of 24 and one of 12. That was not a problem this day. A lone goat guarded the spot where the the trail first views the lake. We arrived at the lake at 12:30 pm and spent 35 minutes there.It was unusual to have almost no wind at the lake. It can get chilly there. I never even thought about a jacket. As we left a few 6-8 person groups arrived. By far the largest groups of the day.

We knew that I-90 would be closing for rock blasting at 6:00 pm The wait would be at least an hour With that in mind we made sure to get down in time to beat the clock. We hiked back to the larch trees and took time for some more photos. The lighting was still good though not as good as in the morning. We meandered through the basin and finally made it back to Ingalls Pass at 1:55 pm. One last break to admire the views and we headed down. We took two hours coming up and cut off more than 30 minutes coming down. We did meet a few backpackers heading up. The temperature was comfortable at the pass and it became quite warm as we neared the bottom. One more warm day before long sleeves become the norm for the next seven or so months.

We had plenty of time to stop in Cle Elum for a bite to eat and still made it to the construction zone with half an hour to spare. I have enjoyed many larch hikes in the North Cascades and a few farther south. Ingalls is still a lot of bang for the buck and the easiest to get to. Hopefully I can squeeze in another larch hike the next few weeks before the needles all fall to the ground. if I do not, I still had a heck of a good larch season in this one hike.

Trailhead Deer
Shadow On Esmerelda
Fortune Peak
Longs Pass Junction
Gary & Fall Color
First Larch
Larch & Mt Stuart
Ingalls Peaks
First Goats
More Goats
Another Goat
Backlit Larch Near Pass
Framed Stuart
Larch By Pass
Larch Near Pass
Backlit In Basin
Stuart From Basin
Not A Cloud In The Sky
Larch Needles
Cell Phone Shot
Rugged Mt. Stuart
Open Terrain
Dark Background
Needles Against Sky
Line Of Larch
Gary At Work
Larch Forest
Nearly At Peak
Dark And Light
Great Lighting
Larch, Dark, & Sky
Evergreens & Larch
Vertical Shot
Where's Gary?
Great Conditions
Toilet Trail
Big Rock
Stuart Yet Again
Larch And The Sky
Near End Of Larch
Head Of Basin
Even More Goats!
Guardian Goat
View From Rock
Lower Basin
Back To Larch
Less Colorful Now
Heading Back
Gary On Trail
Larch Afire
Still Okay Lighting
Climbing Up
Forest Ahead
Forest And Sky
Back Near Pass
Ingalls Lake And Mt. Stuart
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015