Larches are the only coniferous trees that act like deciduous trees. Every autumn, their needles first turn golden, then orange, and then they fall off. Golden larches are gorgeous!
However, most larches in Washington state grow only at high altitudes (6,000 feet and above), so you need to hike to see them. So, last weekend, I did just that. I drove over to eastern Washington (northeast of Cle Elum), and set out for Ingalls Pass. It’s a somewhat strenuous hike (you gain 2,500 feet in 3 miles), but the view is so worth it! Ingalls Pass is at 6,500 feet, and you can see forever.
Here are the pictures:
On day 7, we decided to camp at Hart’s Pass (a 17 mile hike) instead of one 10 miles away. There was a method to our madness. You may recall that we were supposed to start at Hart’s Pass, but we had to change the route due to possible wildfire danger near the Pacific Crest Trail (the PCT was reopened after a few days). So, we had to park at a trailhead which was 10 miles away from Hart’s Pass. We were hoping that we could catch a ride, so that we didn’t have to hoof it all that way (we’d already hiked 70 miles).
So, we got up fairly early, just went for it. One thing that helped my hiking speed was the weather. It rained all morning, so I didn’t stop for many photos. However, once the clouds rolled away, everybody slowed down to admire the views.
Eventually, we got to Hart’s Pass, and set up camp. I went to bed as it got dark. Fortunately, two of my companions stayed up. They flagged down a car! Since I was already in bed wearing almost nothing, I gave my keys to one of them. It was late after they brought the cars up, so we decided to stay the night anyway.
On day 8, we packed up for the last time, and drove 3 miles to Slate Peak, the highest point you can drive to in Washington state (7,200 feet). There’s a closed fire lookout at the summit (7,334 feet), not to mention 360 degree views!
Following that highlight, we headed home. Our route was still affected by wildfires, though. Highway 20 through the Cascades was closed, so we took alternate route (US 97 and I-90). On our way south to Wenatchee, we had to drive through a place that had burned recently. It’s been a bad year for wildfires. After Wenatchee, everything was routine, aside from the smoke. I thought that the air would clear after we got into western Washington, but it didn’t. I am glad that wildfire season is over now.
In my opinion, day 6 was the best day of the hike. I got up early, so that I could get some shots with morning light. That worked beautifully! I got the expected landscape shots, then I went after the unexpected ones.
Hopkins Lake and the North Cascades are so remote, that the animals have not learned to fear humans. Deer, for instance, simply ignore us (as long as we keep our distance). So, I just followed a deer as it was grazing. Then it encountered a grouse. You’ll just have to look at the pictures to appreciate it.
Eventually, the others awoke and packed up. We left Hopkins Lake, gained about 1,000 feet in a few miles, and hiked Lakeview Ridge. What a view! At 7,100 feet, we were at the highest point on the entire hike. I won’t try to describe it. Just look at the pictures! This is why the Pacific Crest Trail became a national scenic trail.
There was one down side to hiking a ridgetop. Water became scarce, and would remain so for the rest of the hike. Fortunately, I had already researched PCT water locations back home. It was a little tight every now and then, but we managed to stay hydrated.
On day 5, we hiked south on the Pacific Crest Trail for only 3 miles, and set up camp at Hopkins Lake. Everybody agreed that a rest day was welcome. Besides, the lake and the scenery were beautiful, so it was pretty easy to stay put.
I’m not the type to lay in the sun, so I explored around the lake. I didn’t go all the way around, because it was so pristine that I stopped after the bootpath faded away (I didn’t want to make a new path).
This place is so remote that the animals have not learned to fear humans. One doe wandered near and through our camp without a concern. After the sun went down, I laid down on the grass to watch the stars come out. When it was almost completely dark, I heard a rustling noise. I looked up at a buck with a huge rack of antlers who was about 10 feet away from me. I slowly got up, talking softly, and backed away.
BTW, I looked at the stars later. There weren’t as many as I expected, because they were obscured by the haze of a distant wildfire’s smoke. FYI, we were never near any of the wildfires.
Day 3 was a Monday, but for some reason I didn’t mind. :) We broke camp, and immediately forded a river (Middle Fork Pasayten River). We knew for sure that we were in the wilderness, and that’s a good thing!
After a few miles, we crossed the West Fork, but this time on a bridge. Shortly after that, we found ripe blueberries! After snacking for a bit, we pressed on and arrived at the abandoned Pasayten Airstrip (motors are not allowed in a wilderness, unless it’s an emergency). There is a ranger station there, as well. Nobody was there, but that was okay. There was a real privy! We stopped for lunch, and let our tents dry out (there’s lots of moisture and condensation when you camp next to a river).
After that, we soon found the boundary trail, #533, and headed more or less northwestly on it. We camped a few miles short of Frosty Pass (we hiked about 10 miles that day).
On day 4, we broke camp and gained about 2200 feet in about two miles as we headed up and over Frosty Pass. It was worth every drop of sweat! As we gained altitude, the views got better and better. This is what we had come for!
After Frosty Pass, we got on the Pacific Crest Trail, and camped a few miles later at Castle Pass. The plan was that we would then day hike up to the Canadian border (7 mile round trip), but I didn’t go. Frosty pass kicked my backside, so I stayed behind and rested.
I led my most ambitious hike ever last August. As planned, we would hike 62.5 miles in the very remote Pasayten Wilderness in 8 days. I planned everything out in detail. We would start at Hart’s Pass, and hike about 27 miles up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to camp just a few miles away from the Canadian border (we’d day hike to the border). Then, we would take the Boundary trail (#533) southeast to the abandoned Pasayten Airstrip. The last leg would be on the Buckskin Ridge trail (#498), which parallels the PCT, and would end about 1/2 mile from our starting point.
Unfortunately, I had to scrap most of my plans, because when we arrived the PCT had been closed due to wildfire danger. So, I consulted the map, and came up with a new route. It turned out to be longer (70 miles) than the original plan, but it still was an epic hike; definitely one of the better hikes I’ve been on.
The new plan had us start on the Robinson Creek trail (#478). After 20 miles, we would arrive at the Boundary trail junction at the Pasayten Airstrip. From there, we would do the rest of the hike as planned, but in the opposite direction.
This post will cover those first 20 miles. One disadvantage of the new trail was that it is mostly in valleys, so there aren’t many vistas. As a consequence, this post won’t have many pictures. Trust me, though. There are plenty of pictures for the other days.
I led a relatively easy hike last weekend. We drove up US 2 to Index, and hiked up to Bridal Veil Falls, one of the taller waterfalls in Washington state. After that, we climbed a LOT of steps and rocks to Lake Serene (the falls gets its water from there).
The Lake is serene, but the trail is so popular that the shoreline wasn’t. Oh well. It was a pleasant sunny day. The temperature in the upper 70s, so a lot of the males had their shirts off.
As usual, I brought up the rear. Every time I’d get my stride, something beautiful would catch my eye and I would stop to take a picture. That makes me a really slow hiker, but it does mean that you get to see what I do. Enjoy!