Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Ingalls Lake Trail

Autumn Larch The trail up to Ingalls lake takes you over dry hills, through sparse clumps of larches to a beautiful and open alpine lake.

This hike provided a perfect compliment to the previous one in the Olympics. Whilst the Olympic national park is a temperate rainforest, Ingalls lake lies on the east side of the Cascades, in a rain shadow. The ground was dusty and the trees stunted and sparse.

The drive from Seattle was long but through interesting scenery and the novelty of farmland. At 10:30 am we hit the trail and after a couple of miles we were out of the forest and getting views of the red and grey rock-strewn hills around us. The plants here were very different from those in the Olympics, and there were barely any huckleberries.

Just before we reached the highest point of the walk, Rainier emerged from behind the nearest mountain to the south. It was a perfectly clear day and we could see the glacier-topped giant very clearly. To the west, far more distant, but still clearly visible, was its brother, Mount Hood.

From the high point in a saddle the trail contours roughly around the basin below. It was easily visible and we could see where lake Ingalls was probably hiding. The view across the glacial valley to Mount Stuart was impressive, but the views closer to us were equally good; [scored orange-red rocks][scratched rock] dotted with yellowing larches. There is a campground here, a superb isolated location, but it would certainly be cold. There was frost in the shade even though it was early afternoon.

On the way around the basin we encountered a couple of marmots, which didn’t seem bothered by our clumping boots and got too close to get completely in shot

The last leg of the walk turned into more of a scramble up over to the edge of the lake. It was a stunning view: Ingalls peak to the left of us, orange, streaked with grey and to the right, reflected in the blue waters of the lake, were the crumbling peaks of Mount Stuart.

We lunched here in the silence and sun, ducked below the cold wind. The view looked familiar, on checking the guide book, I found out why: it was on the cover.

The return journey, back out the same way we came in, passed quickly. We saw the marmots again - passed the autumn larches and went back over the saddle for more views of Rainier. We arrived back at the car at about 4:30pm and headed back to the city in search of food.