Ingalls Lake

     Ingalls Pass and Headlight Basin is one of my favorite October larch hikes. The peak is usually about the middle of the month. That was last week but the weather did not cooperate. With no precipitation forecast for Saturday I took my chances on the larch not being too far past the peak. I was somewhat concerned on the drive over as thick fog began at Hyak and continued on past Cle Elum. The Teanaway valley was clear. As usual, I saw deer on the drive in. This time two groups totaling 7 deer. I arrived at the trailhead at 8:30 and was very surprised to see only two other cars in the lot. By 8:45 I was on the trail. It was a little cold with mostly overcast skies. A little sun was shining through. The trail to Ingalls Pass is gently graded the whole way. The creek by the trailhead was flowing fast as the recent rains put an end to the low flow of late summer. Within half a mile there was a little snow on the ground. It was surprising to see it so low. The snow below 5700' was minor. As I climbed higher, Esmerelda Peaks came into view. The north side had a healthy snow cover. The south side of Fortune Peak has a more modest layer of snow. Once past the turn off to Longs Pass the route was out of the trees and mostly bare. Snow returned and deepened the last 600' or so up to the pass. At the most there was 4-6 inches on the ground. Nearing the pass I saw no south side larch at all and I feared that the high winds had blown most of the needles off already. At the pass my fears proved unfounded. Many of the larch were past their peak but many were just peaking.

     The wind was much stronger at the pass. It was a little cold as it blew across the snow. After a short break for taking photos I headed down to Headlight Basin. Mt. Stuart had much less snow than I expected. The route to the basin was all on snow but someone had put in some nice steps and it was easy enough even on the steep hill side. The sky was mostly overcast now and the lighting was OK but not great for larch photos. My trip from the pass to the lake took a long time. I slowly make my way while taking many dozens of photos. There is usually only one weekend per year for my larch trip and I wanted to make the most of it. Last October I came to the basin on a clear sunny day. With the snow it was much different. In some ways I liked it better with the golden larch set against the white snow. I managed to get off trail many times but had no trouble finding my way. The distant trail below Ingalls Peak was easily seen against the snowy background. I have had a bit of a cold this week and I planned to turn back if it became too cold but this close to the lake I had to keep going. Foot prints ended before the last climb to the lake. I guess my predecessors must have scrambled straight up. If hikers do not know the route up they can completely miss the lake. For that reason I was careful to stick to the real route even where it was sketchy. I expected more hikers would be coming along soon. The lake itself looked very wintery. Most of the area around the lake was snow covered. A nice chilly wind was blowing through as well. High above the lake I spotted one tent. That was the first sign of humans since I left the trailhead although I never saw its occupants. The lake with Mt. Stuart behind made for a nice picture. I had lunch and managed to spend 30 minutes at the lake before needing to get moving to warm up.

     I dropped down to the low point in the trail where I met the first hikers of the day. They were planning on climbing Ingalls. I hope they had headlamps as its doubtful they could get up the mountain and out before dark. Soon more hikers came along. In total 5 parties came in as I hiked back to the pass. That's still not bad for a dry day in larch season. I took even longer heading out. The basin is beautiful this time of year and I was in no hurry to leave it. I felt like I must have photographed at least half the trees in the basin. Occasionally the sun would poke through and I would scramble to get a few quick larch photos with brilliant back lighting. All to soon the sun would disappear once again. All good things must end and I finally made the last push back to the pass. Several more groups had stopped here to enjoy the freshly snow clad peaks and the larch below. I did likewise. I finally pulled myself away and headed on down. The trip down was quick and I was back in no time. Well maybe it took 90 minutes but it seemed all to fast.

     As I drove out I noticed just how brilliant the deciduous tree colors are along the North Fork Teanaway road. From DeRoux Campgrounds to Beverly CG and around the Stafford Creek road were the best. I drive this road nearly every fall but never took the time to see the non larch colors. They were so good I stopped several times to take more photos. I set a record this day as all totaled I took 160 photos. For a minimal amount of effort this trip has some of the best fall colors around. I'm sure I will be back next year.

Fortune Peak
Esmerelda Peaks
Near The Pass
Esmerelda & Rainier
Ingalls Pass Larch
Headlight Basin
Peaking Larch
Peak & Past
More Larch
Upper Basin
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2