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
- USFS – Alpine Lakes Wilderness
- USFS – Ingalls Way Trail, including Ingalls Pass and Ingalls Lake
- Map – National Geographic, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
- Book – Alpine Lakes Wilderness: The Complete Hiking Guide