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Ingalls Way, plus more catch up

posted October 22nd, 2013 in Trip reports

Just to clarify, it’s not like I just skipped out on hiking or anything else since I got back from New Zealand. However, I have been exceedingly lazy about posting any updates. That’s at least partly because most of my hikes have been revisiting places I had been before, although there are a couple of new destinations in there as well. In almost definitely not chronological order:

Rattlesnake Ledge – I think I finally took Karolina up to Rattlesnake Ledge sometime since we got back from New Zealand, on one of those days where we felt like we should get out and do something but didn’t have time to take a long trip.

Annette Lake – A couple of our friends from UVA have also recently started jobs out here, and I think this was the first hike we did with them after everybody settled. One of the Annette Lake trip reports on WTA around that time had indicated that flies would be a problem when we got to the lake, and that was definitely not an understatement — our bug spray had no effect on them, although conveniently, wading into the lake a bit away from the shore basically left the flies behind. (On the other hand, we didn’t have any water shoes or flip flops with us, and the rocks on the lake bed were pretty pointy.)

Source Lake – One of Karolina’s friends came to visit to help us move in late July, but we had just enough time to squeeze in a short hike.

Snow Lake – I went to Snow Lake twice this year, once with Karolina and once on my own. The Cascades got a freak early snow storm around the first of October this year, so I decided it would be interesting to check out Snow Lake with a little snow. By the time I got there it had melted significantly, which was good for my ability to actually get around, but there were still a few icy patches in the deep shade.

Naches Peak – I finally managed to make it up to Mount Rainier for a sunset, taking off from work a bit early and making the two hour drive to the Naches Peak loop over near Chinook Pass. For the fact that it is relatively convenient and not a hard hike up into the wildflower meadow at sunset, I was surprised that I saw no other photographers. Well, except for maybe one guy who seemed to be in a hurry to get back down toward Tipsoo Lake.

Spray Park – We also went to Spray Park with our friends, and it was sort of a toss up compared to last year’s late season trip. Last year it was a beautiful day, but it was well past wildflower season; this year the park was carpeted in wildflowers (although I heard somebody say it was technically past peak), and we got to see two bears (from a loooong distance), but the clouds set in sometime around the time we got to the parking lot and so we couldn’t actually see the peak.

Chain Lakes – In my quest to tick off all five volcanoes in Washington, we finally made a run up to Mount Baker and the Chain Lakes. This was another case of the clouds cheating us: the forecast was for sunny skies, and we could see the mountain pretty well as we drove in, but as we started our hike a bunch of clouds blew in and completely hid the mountain for the duration of our visit. There are three places you can park to join the trail, and some rangers told us the main difference was when you had to do the unpleasant steep climb (assuming you were doing the whole loop). We ended up parking at that visitor center, which let us get the steep mile of trail along the road out of the way at the front. The lakes were still pretty and I would like to go back sometime when it is sunnier; our consolation prize was basically all of the wild blueberries we could eat.

Comet FallsComet Falls was another hike where we wanted to get out and do something while the Mount Rainier area was still hikable, even if the weather was less than pleasant. We unfortunately got stuck in WA State Fair traffic on the way over, which left us with even less time than we would have liked to finish the trail, but we got back to our car just around sunset. Comet Falls is pretty huge, and we got lucky enough to get there just before the pouring rain started.

Ingalls Way – One of the things I have wanted to see since hearing about them are the alpine larch, a coniferous tree that is not an evergreen but whose needles turn yellow and drop every fall. Most of the places I have heard of that you can see them are far away in the North Cascades, require a long hike/multi day trip that needs a permit (the Enchantments), or both, but this year I heard about Ingalls Lake. Ingalls Lake is also in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, about 2000 ft higher than Snow Lake. That area also got pounded with snow early in the month; some trip reports remarked that there were 3-4 feet of snow along the trail, which kept me out for a while, and then I was sick and missed what was probably the best weekend to go. However, by this past weekend, a lot of the snow had cleared back off the trail, and the forecast was still for sun and temperatures in the upper 50s-mid 60s. Still, in trying to keep with being prepared for changing conditions in the mountains, we had brought entirely too many layers. We left Bellevue a bit too late to be able to make it all the way to the lake, given that we did still have to traverse ice and snow to get there, but at least we got to hang out a bit in/above Headlight Creek Basin and got to see the larch. Unfortunately, the larch were past peak at this point and had passed from yellow on to reddish brown. But now we know how to get there and to find time to go next October!

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