WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Ingalls Pass (Sept/Oct 2021)

The forecasters got this one wrong. I like to camp near trailheads so I can get an early morning start. Well on this day instead of hiking I read. Living in your car has some drawbacks and on long rainy days there aren’t a lot of options. Yes I could have been like those I saw hiking anyways, some carrying backpacks. That’s the difference between those from the Pacific Northwest and this sunny Californian. I also could have driven back to town but I don’t like wasting gas and since hanging out inside was something I avoided during COVID times, that wasn’t a great option either.

As I drove to the trailhead the next morning, I was mostly excited to see this view of I believe Fortune Peak, although a little concerned about snow since I didn’t have my microspikes or weatherproof shoes with me. Afterall I packed for this trip when it was over 100 degrees. I met a few of the backpackers coming down after a wet cold night. They were regretting not waiting a day for better weather and views.

It was a great hike to the pass. I had views of Mount Rainier and cloudy views of either Mount Adams or Mount Saint Helens. The Esmeralda Peaks are in the foreground.

Finding larch turning yellow at the pass and seeing Mount Stuart with it’s first dusting made Ingalls Pass a worthy hike.

This is looking down into Ingalls Creek drainage which I’d hiked from the other end a couple weeks previous, though not quite making it this far (blog link).

At the top I found a marmot enjoying the warm sun.

The colors remind me of California’s Klamath Mountains. Ingalls Pass is to the right in front of the colorful mountains which I believe includes Fortune Peak on the left.

In one of the rock fields, I took time to watch the pika scurry about. This one blended well with the rocks.

With the yellowing larch signaling a change in season I headed further north hoping to find them in peak color. I returned to Ingalls Pass a couple of weeks later to see how autumn was progressing. I’d say I found gold!

I was still full of energy and feeling strong when I arrived at the pass so decided to continue on toward Ingalls Lake. Headlight Basin is beautiful. You can see why it’s a popular backpacking and hiking destination. This is looking back up at Ingalls Pass.

This is the route to Ingalls Lake. There isn’t a trail; it’s more of a multiple-option cairn route, sort of what I call pick your poison. I started up two different routes and realized they were too risky for where I was in my knee rehab. If you zoom you can see people scrambling among the rocks. If I were to see this photo, I’d think it would be easy to stick to the boulders making it a somewhat easy climb but in reality there is lots of class 2 scrambling.

Instead I enjoyed lunch with views like these into the Ingalls Creek Drainage. As a bonus I had time to people watch. Some were suffering greatly carrying overnight packs, even though the lake is off limits for camping. I met a ranger on my way down who was on her way up to check permits and relocate those camped in closed areas.

I made the mistake of taking the alternate trail on my way down. The main trail is a much nicer grade and provides even better views. The shorter alternate trail drops down steeply and then regains some elevation to meet up with the main trail. In retrospect I wish I would have done an out and back on the main trail.

Dr Seuss trees.

Very few trees were as mature as this one. I wonder if a fire wiped out old growth at some time in the fairly recent past.

I was still a tad early for peak color but it was still a WOW experience and not one I regretted.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 19-20 and October 1, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Rachel Lake (Sept 2021)

A friend recently shared photos of her hike on this trail so I added it to my list as I headed north in my ongoing attempt to escape wildfire. By the time I arrived smoke had shifted so I continued north and spent a couple weeks in the Leavenworth/Lake Wenatchee area (blog link). Soon enough the winds shifted again and it was time to head south where AQI was looking much better. I first spent some time at Cle Elum Lake where I walked from the waterline to the mapped shoreline, an amazing 2.5 miles.

I enjoyed following the river channel while being entertained by the clouds. The shoreline mountains were colorful and had me looking at my maps to discover more nearby trails.

As I reached the far end of the lake’s boundary I wondered how long ago it was last full. The nearby campground would provide a convenient opportunity to watch wildlife at dawn and dusk.

The green line represents the 2.5 miles I walked on what was once the lake.

It was a brisk 34F when I arrived at the trailhead to begin my hike to Rachel Lake. It’s a 4-mile hike to the lake. On the ridge is Rampart Lakes which was my intended destination or beyond to Lila Lake.

I was a little early for best fall colors but there were teases like here on the shoulders of Hibox Mountain.

And some nice color along the trail with views into the canyon and I believe Box Ridge in the distance.

As much as I was motivated to get to the Rampart Lakes and beyond, this trail zapped my joy. The first 3 miles were nicely graded but the last mile to Rachel Lake was steep roots and rocks with hardly any dirt or flat areas in between. This section needs to be rebuilt as this is a very high use trail. If they are going to keep the same path it needs steps or stairs but it seems much better to build on a contour with switchbacks. I should have turned around when I reached this hell because it wasn’t even close to being knee rehab friendly.

Good thing there were a few water features for distractions.

I even found some late season penstemon.

The profile gives you can idea of the steep rooty rocky section. This was well outside my league and turned my smile upside down. I should have done my own research instead of just being giddy from my friend’s photos. There are a couple of other entry trails that might provide better options to access the higher trails.

Back at Cle Elum Lake I found more fall colors to help me return to my happy spot.

After that very challenging day at Rachel Lake I needed a recovery option and found this rail trail to be perfect.

It seems rainy season caught up with me. No complaints since we need rain to clean the air and drown the wildfires. I waited out this storm at a dispersed campsite near Cle Elum Lake.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 14-18, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Ingalls Creek Trail (Sept 2021)

I’d landed in Washington in my continued attempt to escape wildfire smoke. After three days of refuge at Newberry Volcanic National Park (blog link), smoke found me and it was time to run again. I continued north finding options like Bend and John Day with very unhealthy air quality. I had moderate success in finding places to spend the night or hike waiting for the wind to shift again. One winner was in the Leavenworth area where I hiked up Icicle (1,800 feet 5.5 miles) and Nason (1,600 feet 4.5 miles) Ridges. Neither were wow worthy but helped me build my post-knee surgery fitness and kept me moving.

Between those strenuous hikes, I took a stroll on the Ingalls Creek Trail. Once again not wow worthy, but just what I needed in terms of miles, elevation gain and solitude.

Early fall colors were one reward.

Another reward was plentiful water.

After this preview of the Ingalls Creek Trail and with an inviting weather and smoke forecast, I decided to try a 3-day, mini backpacking trip. This would be my first solo since Joan helped me by carrying part of my weight in July.

I was limiting my mileage so my first campsite didn’t offer much in the way of views. This is my new weight-saving Zpacks Plexamid tent, and my first trekking pole and stake dependent shelter. After watching a couple videos I had good success at getting a decent pitch. First impressions leave me concerned about being able to avoid touching the sides in condensation situations. It’s height makes for great in-tent stretching. The DCF material won’t absorb water, another weight-saving benefit when overnighting in rain, which hasn’t yet presented for a test.

I spent a lot of time looking up at these cliffs, remembering my trip into the Enchantments (blog link) many years ago. If I was ready for more strenuous hiking I might have attempted a walk-up permit. One of the things I’m learning is patience and compromise. Baby steps will get me back faster than set backs.

Views from my second night campsite were much improved albeit the temptation to explore were almost more than I could manage. I had to say NO more than once.

Up there is Little Annapurna which I hiked when I was in the Enchantments. Here I am looking down on Ingalls Creek.

I even found a few late blooms.

Most of the fireweed had gone to seed and with each puff of wind the cotton was everywhere. I was sneezing plenty.

The magic of morning light.

One of the few friends I found on the trail.

When you are limiting your mileage, having places like this to break up the day is much better than hanging out in camp.

I can’t wait until my body is up to hiking long days again but until then I’m grateful for trails like this that don’t require advance planning.

I’m happy to have my base weight below 14 pounds.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 7-13, 2021

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

Sunset at Lake Wenatchee with a wildfire smoldering off in the distance

WA – PCT Section J . . . for Jan and Joan (together again)

Dates Hiked:  August 28 to September 2, 2016
Direction: Northbound
Section J: Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass
-Miles: 71
-Elevation: Gain 19,128′ (269 feet/mile), Loss 18,068′ (254 feet/mile)

While I was thrilled to share some more trail miles with my adventure buddy Hemlock, I was more than a little nervous pairing up with my friend who floats up the climbs while I suffer and slog. What was I thinking? I’ve heard this is the most challenging up/down section of the entire PCT, even more than the sierra section. This sign at the beginning of the trail did little to alleviate my anxiety. 

The first stretch is known for two things, the Alpine Lake Wilderness (ALW) and the Kendall Katwalk. After my recent Chiwaukum Circumnavigation trip in the ALW, which was a stark contrast to my Enchantments trip, I was extremely curious as to what I might find on the PCT. 

Why hello Mount Rainier!

Hemlock showing how to walk the Katwalk. 

Although it we were nearing the end of August, fall foliage seemed to indicate the end of September.

This is the scene I’d expected in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. There were plenty of lakes easily accessible via the PCT and thus we happily took a dip in several.

Are you the Four Brothers and Three Queens? 

Hello Ms Grouse. 

Weather be a changing?

Hmmmm . . . (yes, this crossing made me very nervous, especially the transition back to the trail)

Maintaining the PCT is a huge job. I can never give enough kudo’s to all those who help make our travel safer and more enjoyable. We never take it for granted. THANK YOU trail crews!!!! 

Photo credit: Joan

Overgrown and eroded trail in the berry areas is a constant battle for the maintenance crews, where the season is short and the growth the phenomenal. 

Sure enough the weather changed, and we got rain in the late afternoon of our 4th day. I’d come prepared! 

It rained nearly all day our 5th day. 

Occasionally we caught glimpses of what we were missing. See the lake? 

I hiked this section for the spectacular views . . . but sometimes it’s okay to settle for moody images. 

Are we having fun yet? 

When you’re already wet, why not swim? 

The benefit of mucky trails . . . who walks here?

Possibly the most beautiful lake in this section. Oh how I’d like to spend a day there. 

A welcome sight, the Steven’s Pass ski area. 

I can’t say enough positives about the community of Skykomish. From the the hiker friendly Cascadia Inn, to the library with computers, to the deli that not only had yummy food and friendly staff, but even provided a hitching sign (thanks for modeling Delta!). Thanks also to my friend Carol for making our reservation. Gotta love InReach texting!

For more details of our adventure, and more photos of ME, please check out Joan (aka Hemlock) blog posts: 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Taryn, our personal trail angel who stored my car for 3 weeks as well as provided transportation to the trailhead. The logistics of section hiking can be very challenging and Taryn made it easy and gave me peace of mind.

Links:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Chiwaukum Circumnavigation (Part 4 – Trails 1591/1574/1584)

Links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This is the drainage I fought my way through. In the far distance is Icicle Ridge and Cape Horn. 

After far too many miles and hours of bushwhacking and trail finding, I was ecstatic to reach the well maintained trails near Scottish Lakes High Camp, and Chiwaukum Lake.

Heading toward Larch Lake in Ewing Basin. 

First views of Larch Lake. 

Loved watching the development of these clouds. 

My campsite view of Larch Lake. 

The outflow of Larch Lake and the east side of the Chiwaukum Mountains.

Watching the larch trees turn color is on my bucket list for this fall. I was happy for this opportunity to get to know them first sporting green. 

After a rainy night, sunrise provided colorful skies accented by larch tree silhouettes. 

Pink clouds rolled in and out during the early morning hours. 

Campsite selection is key during gusty wind and heavy rain storms. This site was PERFECT! 

The incoming storm and worsening conditions prevented me from discovering Cup Lake. 

Hello Larch Tree! 

Goodbye Chiwaukum Lake . . . 

It was finally time to say goodbye to the Chiwaukum Creeks trails and head to McCue Ridge. 

I’m sure McCue Ridge would have provided some spectacular views, but alas it was a day of low clouds and precipitation. 

Loch Eileen (after a very stormy night in a less than ideal campsite). 

Lake Julius

Lake Ethel 

Who lives at Lake Ethel? To me it looks like a fish with a frog on it’s back, or maybe a mama whale and her baby?

I enjoyed this ridge walk though an old clear cut . . . easy to appreciate views and freedom after all the bushwhacking and trail finding I’d done. 

After the ridge walk, it’s a steep descent down to the Lake Ethel trailhead and Highway 2. 

This sign was confusing, as my map listed this as trail #1585. All the rest of the signed trail numbers matched my map. I’ve also seen this referenced as the Gill Creek trail (I believe that’s how it’s signed on Highway 2).

To complete the loop, I walked Roads 6940 and 6950. Lucky for me a couple of miles before my car, a nice couple who’d just completed a 3-day backpack trip were headed out and turned around to give me a lift.

This Chiwaukum Mountains circumnavigation route was about 50 miles with 15,000′ gain and loss. My solar charger broke so I wasn’t able to track the entire trip thus I don’t have accurate stats for elevation gain/loss and mileage. On the below map, the red was my tracked trip vs the purple was estimated.

The trail sections marked below in green are well maintained; those in red have NOT been maintained.

  • 2.4 miles – White Pine Trailhead  to Whitepine Creek 
  • 5.7 miles – Whitepine Creek to Lake Grace Junction 
  • 1.1 miles – Lake Grace Junction to Lake Grace 
  • 1.1 miles – Lake Grace to Lake Grace Junction
  • 0.9 miles – Lake Grace Junction to Frosty Pass
  • 0.9 miles – Frosty Pass to Lake Mary
  • 2.0 miles – Lake Mary to Icicle Ridge Junction
  • 1.8 miles – Icicle Ridge Junction to Chatter Creek Junction
  • 1.5 miles – Chatter Creek Junction to Index Creek Junction
  • 2.8 miles – Index Creek Trail
  • 1.7 miles – South Fork Chiwaukum Creek from Index Creek to Painter Creek
  • 1.5 miles – South Fork Chiwaukum Creek from Painter Creek to Chiwaukum Creek
  • 1.8 miles – Chiwaukum Creek from South Fork Chiwaukum Creek to Glacier Creek
  • 2.3 miles – Chiwaukum Creek from Glacier Creek to Chiwaukum Lake
  • 2.1 miles – Chiwaukum Lake to Larch Lake
  • 2.1 miles – Larch Lake to Chiwaukum Lake
  • 3.4 miles – Chiwaukum Lake to Roaring Creek
  • 1.1 miles – Roaring Creek to Loch Eileen
  • 1.1 miles – Loch Eileen to Roaring Creek
  • 2.6 miles – Roaring Creek to Lake Ethel
  • 4.6 miles – Lake Ethel to Lake Ethel Trailhead
  • 6.0 miles – Roads 6940/6950

Dates Hiked: August 3-9, 2016

Resources:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Consider accessing the nicer sections (above 6,000′) via more popular trails
  • If you plan to hike the unmaintained trail sections, be sure to have good maps, compass and if like me you’ll find GPS very helpful. Also be prepared for bushwhack conditions and plenty of solitude.
  • As I’ve learned, rain can happen anytime in the Washington Cascades. I used my rain gear, including my umbrella.
  • Be prepared for biting flies. They were horrendous!
  • I recommend Heidleburger Drive-In in Leavenworth for post-trip celebration. Onion rings were A+!
  • For help with trip planning, I recommend Leavenworth Mountain Sports.
  • Permits are by self-registration at the trailhead.
  • More Jan Jaunts posts in Washington and Alpine Lakes Wilderness

 

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Chiwaukum Circumnavigation (Part 3 – Trails 1570/1572/1571)

Links to Part 1 and Part 2

Although I was still on the Icicle Ridge Trail, sadly I was done with ridge walking.

From the junction of the Chatter Creek Trail (1580), trail maintenance became an issue. See the cairn? 

From the Icicle Ridge Trail (1570), I took the Index Creek Trail (1572) to the South Fork Chiwaukum Creek Trail (1571).

And then to 1591, North Fork Chiwaukum Trail.

This view provided an opportunity to look back at Cape Horn and Icicle Ridge. 

This aspen grove in Timothy Meadow was a highlight of this section. 

Old growth Aspen? Sure is a big trunk! 

Of course the many wildflowers and butterflies kept me distracted and were a bit of a reward for the hard work and lack of views.

Plentiful water helped balance out the negatives of these miles. 

From the junction of 1570 & 1580 (Icicle Ridge & Chatter Creek) through Index Creek (1572), South Fork Chiwaukum Creek (1571), North Fork Chiwaukum Creek (1591) all the way to Chiwaukum Lake, there were lots of trail finding opportunities. Between overgrowth, down trees, deadfall, and burned forests, the going was slow and challenging. The following two photos are examples of me searching for the trail. The brown dashed line is the map overlay of the trail (frequently inaccurate), the blue line with the arrow is me wandering about. The continuous blue/green line is a creek.

This episode of searching was by far the longest and most frustrating. I should have realized I needed to be on the other side of the creek earlier, but sometimes when you’re in the moment and especially when you see other shoe prints, it’s easy to keep going. One thing I did to try to help should I get injured was send out InReach signals whenever I was off trail for more than a few minutes. 

This section left me exhausted, battered and bruised. 

Link to Part 4

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Chiwaukum Circumnavigation (Part 2 – Trails 1592/1570)

Link to Part 1

In the morning I said goodbye to Lake Grace and enjoyed stunning views as I walked high above the sea of green. 

Are you Mt Adams? 

Are you Mt Rainier? 

Frosty Pass proved to be nothing more than a trail junction. It was time to say goodbye to Trail #1592 and hello to Trail #1570 the Icicle Ridge Trail.

The Icicle Ridge Trail was my favorite section of this hike. Oh how I love ridge views!

And this wildflower gal was thrilled to be tromping through the fields of lupine. 

 

Lakes Margaret and Mary 

View from Icicle Ridge (about 7,000 feet)

Upper Florence Lake

Finally, on trail snow! I brought my microspikes just in case there was snow at any of the high passes, but alas they were just dead weight in my pack. 

Spanish Camp Creek

 

Ladies Pass 

The approach to Cape Horn (7,316′).

Heading down from the pass. Oh how I love switchbacks!

Lake Edna 

Lake Edna looking back up at Cape Horn pass. 

Good morning 

Home sweet home (not the best location for the gusty winds, but better than the other spot where a group was dealing with bothersome goats). 

Lake Edna and Cape Horn 

Oh the wildflowers!

Link to Part 3

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Chiwaukum Circumnavigation (Part 1 – Trails 1582/1592)

This lesser known area of the ALW (Alpine Lakes Wilderness) was not on my radar, in fact Washington wasn’t even part of my August itinerary, but when Mother Nature intervenes, sometimes you gotta just go with it. I’m grateful I have the flexibility to alter plans on the fly. Long story short my new friend Lester at Leavenworth Mountain Sports helped me plan this trip.

And so it began . . .

4pm, finally on trail

From trail 1582 to 1592 

I was extremely thankful to find this unexpected campsite about 5 miles into the hike. The topography thus far had not been tent friendly. Bonuses: (1) Pest-free zone (2) Nearby creek  (3) Starry sky view (4) Zero overnight condensation.

I’m used to seeing 10,000′ as the magic marker, but have learned 5,000 is the equivalent in the more northern regions, not that I ever make a fire.

Figured I’d at least have lunch and take a swim at Lake Grace while considering the scramble to Upper Grace Lake. 

Incredible views of distant peaks (I believe to the south) as I hiked toward Lake Grace. 

I believe that’s Mt Adams in the far distance. 

The approach to Lake Grace. 

Very distinctive peaks (to the west I believe). 

So many views of Lake Grace but this may be my favorite. 

I met two gals who climbed up from Lake Brigham and dropped down the snow patch (top center) to Upper Grace Lake before scrambling down these steep slopes. Impressive! 

Oh the turquoise waters. 

The early morning colors reflecting over the Lake Grace outlet. 

Oh the wildflowers!

Link to Part 2

Enchanting Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA (8/25/14-8/28/14)

Selecting the starting and ending trailheads for this magical journey can be a challenging decision. My group elected to start from the Snow Lakes trailhead.

Nada Lake includes this forceful fountain from Lower Snow Lake. Enjoy this video I took showing the power of this fountain.

Upper and Lower Snow Lakes are used as base camp for many unable to obtain permits to camp in the Upper Enchantment zone.

This is the infamous rebar section. On a dry day, the steps are unnecessary, but when wet, icy, or snowy, this area makes hikers ponder whether to ascend, descend or avoid the Snow Lake Trailhead.

Lake Viviane is the first of the alpine lakes. The sun glare made it difficult to capture a photo equal to her beauty.

Leprechaun Lake, just as magical as it’s name.

A peninsula separates Leprechaun Lake and a granite wall highlighted by waterfalls.

Expect to see a few families of goats. We found them to be docile, seeking only our urine, which should be deposited only on or between rocks when an official toilet is not used.

Sprite Lake

Rune Lake

Inspiration Lake with Prusik Peak in the background.

Crystal Lake and McClellan Peak

Little Annapurna

The views from atop Little Annapurna were dramatic. To the south, the geology was much different than that in the Alpine Lake region.

Near the front right of the below photo is Crystal Lake, with an apparent infinity edge. In the middle are Perfection and Inspiration Lakes. Further in the distance is Leprechaun Lake with Lake Viviane above it, and in the far distance are Snow Lakes.

Rock Ptarmigan

Sunrises and sunsets can be dramatic.

Prusik Peak highlighted by the clouds signaling a change of weather.

An unnamed lake provided this stunning opportunity.

Tranquil Lake

Isolation Lake

Looking over the scree embankment down to Colchuck Lake

Looking up at the scree field of Aasgard Pass as well as the boulder field surrounding Colchuck Lake. Would you rather go up or down scree?

Colchuck Lake, another camping area for those without Upper Enchantment permits.

Ending at the Stuart Lake Trailhead

Here’s a general idea of what to expect.

Celebrating at the top of Little Annapurna

Jan’s Tips:

  • Resources:
  • Lighten your load! I can’t stress enough the challenges of hiking boulders and scree with an oversized weighty pack. I saw many miserable hikers. Your FUN meter will increase exponentially with a lighter leaner pack.
  • Some people run and hike the trail end to end in one day, others will take a week or more to enjoy the many alpine lakes and summits.
  • Be prepared for weather changes. We had one night of extremely strong winds, bringing with them a drop in temperature and clouds which could have easily dumped either rain or snow. Fires are prohibited.
  • Leavenworth is the nearest town. Besides it’s tourist charm, it meets a hiker’s basic needs with a Safeway and Starbucks. There was at least one outfitter, plus the Wenatchee River Ranger District Office for obtaining walk-up permits.  I stayed at the Best Western before and after my trip; they permitted me to leave my car in their parking lot.
  • Use this link to find other areas I’ve explored in Washington state.