WA – North Cascades, Maple Pass Trail (Sept 2021)

I’d always wanted to see the tapestry of autumn colors found in the Northern Cascades.

I was a little early for the larch show but the overcast skies made the other colors pop. That’s Lake Ann hiding below the still green larch trees. “Larch is any of the coniferous trees belonging to the genus Larix categorized under the family Pinaceae. Although these are classified as conifers, larches turn yellow and lose their needles in the autumn or fall just like deciduous trees. These are medium-sized trees with the typical pyramidal canopy of conifers. They are found in places with cold climates and plenty of moisture.” Source: Coniferous Forest

As I gained elevation I found a few larch showing off their golden hue.

I hiked the trail counterclockwise, stopping at Lake Ann first, then taking a break at Heather Pass before climbing up to the first Maple Pass then traversing the ridge to reach the second Maple Pass. This little tarn and snowfield were visible when I began my descent. Rainy Lake is further down the drainage.

THIS is the tapestry I came to see.

I shared the trail with a grouse family.

I loved this hike so much I couldn’t resist returning a week later. As much as I hoped for brilliant blue skies showcasing the golden larch, Mother Nature had other plans. It was a damp brisk 33F when I started my hike around 8am. There was fresh snow on the nearby peaks.

As I gained elevation I found snow level. The tapestry of color was dulled by a thin veil of white.

I believe this is Wing Lake (or Lewis Lake) which I’d planned to visit after reaching my highpoint turnaround. On this date I didn’t plan to hike the loop, instead just going to Maple Pass before returning to Heather Pass where could spend a few hours exploring this side trail and these lakes.

Another bucket list item was seeing larch IN the snow, maybe not while it was snowing.

The cloud ceiling dropped and not long after I reached the first Maple Pass, I found myself in a whiteout.

To say I was giddy is an understatement. So much WOW in that little storm. It completely changed the landscape providing lots of photographic opportunities, although I was wishing for my winter gloves.

I was still a bit early for peak larch season but I was beyond thrilled with this experience. I’m guessing once the slope above Lake Ann is covered in yellow larch, the reds and oranges of the other foliage will be gone thus making my timing spot on.

I think this pika was smiling at me.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to nature’s quilt.

ADVENTURE DATE(S): September 22 and 29, 2021

TIPS:

  • This can be a super busy trail. There is room for about 50 cars in the main parking area and signs indicating overflow parking on the highway. When I arrived in the late afternoon the day before my first hike there were at least 100 cars on the highway. It was on a heavy overcast day. I started early and only saw about a dozen people. There wasn’t anyone in overflow when I finished my hike. On my return trip, it was damp, cold and mostly overcast again. It was a much busier day even though both trips were on Wednesdays under cloudy skies and had early starts. When I finished on that second day, there was a mile or two of cars parked along the highway.
  • This hike is outside North Cascades National Park, but just on the boundary.
  • The Heather Pass/Maple Pass trail is a loop and can be hiked in either direction. After reading reviews I decided on counter clockwise. The benefit is a more gradual climb and more controlled descent. If you go clockwise, you’ll face a steeper ascent and a less controlled descent on the sections between the first and second Maple Passes. If you don’t want to deal with the steep sections, I highly recommend going counterclockwise to the first Maple Pass and then turning around. You can see the differences on this profile pictured below.

RESOURCES:

LINKS:

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 – PCT Section H . . . as in Hike your own Hike, J&J Style (Stevenson to White Pass) (Days 9-12)

In case you missed the previous posts, I’m supporting Joan as she complete this section of the PCT (link to previous post). I’m chronicling what I found to do while Joan was hiking.

Days 9-12 – Williams Mine Trailhead on FR-23 (Mile 2229.9) to White Pass on Highway 12 (2295.9)

Mt Adams Wilderness – We both hiked north on the PCT. My destination was Horseshoe Meadow, Joan’s was White Pass 66 miles away. My reward was a meadow filled with pink paintbrush.

My timing was perfect to find many blooms, and I was ecstatic with my longest hike to date since my knee surgery including 2,000′ elevation gain.

The next day was filled with waterfalls and lakes as I traveled north on FR-23. First up was Big Spring Creek Falls.

Council Lake“Council Lake is a drive up mountain lake on the north west flank of Mt. Adams.  It has a U.S. Forest Service campground.  It is stocked annually with catchable rainbow trout, but also contains eastern brook, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.”

Takhlakh Lake “A very popular campground close to the shore of Takhlakh Lake. The Campground includes ten walk-in sites. The views across the lake of Mt. Adams are outstanding. The northern trails of the Mt. Adams Wilderness are nearby. Takhlakh Loop Trail # 134 originates in the campground and encircles the lake. It’s a 1.1 mile flat hike around the lake. You can also connect to the Takh Takh Meadows trail #136 that leads you to an old lava flow.” Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Pika

Olallie Lake“This campground, on the shores of Ollalie Lake, offers 5 small sites and one larger area with room for RVs. The sites offer scenic views of Mt. Adams from the lake. It’s located in a high elevation stand of lodgepole and subalpine pine.” The trail around the lake wasn’t in as good of shape as that around Takhlakh Lake, the lake was shallower, more buggy and views of Mt Adams not as wow.

Chain of Lakes – This was the least desirable of the lakes I visited. There is free dispersed camping with picnic tables and fire rings but no restrooms. It was very buggy but maybe a fishermen’s paradise although no one was around the morning of my visit. You can access High Lakes Trail from there.

Horseshoe Lake – This was by far my favorite lake as it offered great swimming. It’s a first come first serve no reservation campground and was packed with a large father/kid group. Bugs weren’t too bad and there were views of Mt Adams. “The campground is a rustic site situated on a 24 acre lake, and offers most campers a view of the water. The campground is small with only 11 campsites. Fishing, boating (electric motors only), and hiking are available.”

At White Pass, I hiked north on the PCT to Deer Lake. This was a very somber day as I thought about Kris “Sherpa” Fowler (link) who went missing in 2016. I’ve been very involved behind-the-scenes with the search.

Old signs bring smiles, with another to add to my collection.

Good morning from a new-to-me wilderness.

I was excited to find blooming elephant head orchids.

Deer Lake

Leech Lake – at the PCT Trailhead in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Joan’s last stretch was in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This is a favorite area of mine and I’ve hiked the Knife’s Edge portion three times.

Once off trail we had a J&J day where we explored Skate Creek, a Washington State Park.

Joan’s last section of the PCT to complete is from Rainy Pass north. We attempted this in 2016 (link) but I got shin tendonitis and we had to reverse direction. This time there were fires, and although the trail was open, access was a problem. The good news is that now we had time for more J&J adventures.

Dates: July 18-22, 2021

ID – Sawtooth Wilderness, Grandjean Grand Loop (Part 3 of 4)

I left Middle Cramer Lake a little too early to catch sunrise. My previous post covered the section from Baron Creek through Baron Lakes, Alpine Lake and on to Cramer Lakes where I spent my third night on trail (link).

Upper Cramer Lake provided some nice reflections.

I could hike along this trail forever.

Another reminder of the change of seasons and altitude. Also good lessons about campsite selection. I’d escaped frost although the temperature dropped to 31F in my tent at Middle Cramer Lake.

Climbing to find sun. Good morning!

It was another morning of hiking out of one basin into another, this time I’d be ascending to Cramer Pass, one I’d been looking forward to seeing as others had shared it was their favorite. That’s Temple Peak front and center.

One of the games I play is trying to figure out the escape hatch.

Yes that’s the trail. It was in great shape and easy to follow considering it was in the middle of a talus field.

I wasn’t expecting it to go under Temple Peaks. If you look closely you can see the trail paralleling the ridge. I liked how the red rock morphed into the white/gray color.

Switchbacks switchbacks how I love thee.

With the rocky environment, there were plenty of pika. They tend to be quite shy so I rarely get a photo as I’m usually too impatient. One of the things I’ve learned is that where there are pika there are also marmot but in the Sawtooths I only saw one and never heard the pig whistle so prevalent in other alpine areas I’ve visited.

Once on the ridge I climbed up a big further to get a better view.

It was a lakes kinda of day. Descending from Cramer Divide you first see an unnamed lake and then Hidden Lake. It doesn’t look very hidden to me.

Virginia Lake, Edna Lake, Vernon Lake, and some unnamed lakes at the pass were visited before settling on Ardeth Lake for the night. Where there are lakes, it’s hard to resist a dip or two or three; maybe that was why I was having a hard time making miles?

I’d reached 45 miles after hiking four days.

This was such a great site for enjoying the water with my own diving and sunning rock. It wasn’t my favorite lake for views but it sure was relaxing.

The next morning it was time to ascend another pass to reach another lakes basin.

Looking down at Tenlake Basin, known for plenty of wildlife activity. I met a guy the previous day who said there was so much fresh bear scat.

Some of the lakes in the Tenlakes Basin not visible from the trail.

And then I was nearly to the top of another pass.

. . . . to be continued (link to Part 4 of 4)

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 24-30, 2019

Hike Details:Tips:

  • The Ranger Station in Stanley and the Visitor Center at Redfish are helpful resources as is the Riverwear store in Stanley (also has outdoor gear). If you need to refill water, you’ll find potable water in a hose near the gray water dump station at the Stanley Ranger Station.
  • Self register for a backcountry permit at the trailhead. LOVE this system!
  • The best food and WiFi I found in Stanley as of this date was the Papa Brunee’s. You can usually access the WiFi 24×7. The library offers the same but my experience showed it much slower. I liked the coffee kiosk in the Riverwear parking lot. Of course the Stanley Baking Company & Café is always a good option but it can be quite busy. There’s a quick line at the bar if you want coffee and a bakery item. Grandjean Lodge also has yummy food if using that trailhead.
  • If you are arriving via Lowman, you won’t find any cell service in Lowman nor until you are nearly in Stanley.
  • There are tons of dispersed camping options in the Sawtooth National Forest. Check with the ranger station for recommended roads and options.
  • Grocery options are slim in Stanley. If you are going to be in the area for an extended time, it might be worth a trip to Challis or Hailey, both over an hour away.
  • Check out the nearby hot springs for post-hike recovery. Sunbeam Hot Springs is about 20 minutes to the east. Kirkham Hot Springs is about an hour south just past Lowman.
  • Laundry and showers are available at Redfish, as well as in Challis at the Pioneer Motel and RV Park. Another option for showers is the Grandjean Lodge.
  • If you’re looking for a place to hang out between trips, the park is a good option. The beach at Redfish Lake and along the Salmon River are other great options.

Resources:

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