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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Number One; The Larch

Getting away from Puget Sound lowlands with only one thing on my mind

Sunny skies and Larch

Larch fever strikes those of us who like to see our Fall colors on a different type of tree.  For many dedicated hikers this means going out to some of the popular trails, like Ingalls Pass.  On the weekends this trail can be a freeway and the parking lot filled to overflowing.  Many hikers develop Larch Fever a particularly nasty 24 hour bug which usually means you have to take a work day off and find your medicine on a popular high altitude trail.

I have been feeling the wear and tear of walking the last month or so and am bothered by a sore joint in my foot which I will reluctantly take to a doctor for evaluation.  I am confining myself to easy walks wearing my athletic shoes rather than my hiking boots.  Today I wanted to escape the fogged in state of my home territory and get out and see some blue skies and larch trees.

I drove over to Blewett Pass, sure to have the clear skies.  The trees can be hit and miss.  If we get wind early, the needles fall.  This year many people feel the color is slow to come on.  Today I hit it well.  Driving up to the pass in dense fog, I hit the sign at Snoqualmie and it said it was 35 degrees out.  All we need is a rain pattern to set up and the ski season can get underway.

Breaking the crest also means the fog gives way to stunning blue skies.  The deciduous trees all along I-90 were a blaze of gold.  Willow, Alder, Cottonwood and Aspen.  Up some mountainsides your could tell where the roads were as gold trees lined the roads through the green conifer covered hillsides.

I selected a few Geocaches to attack and planned to get photos for two Flickr photo projects I am participating in; "Assignment Photowalk" and "10 Minute Photo Challenge"  Assignment Photowalk gives us a topic every month and we post photos from a walking trip that supports the subject.  You can take one walk or several walks.  This months theme topic is "weather".  Today I will try to capture sunshine.  For "10 Minute Photo Challenge" we capture photos ( limit 20 postings) all within a 10 minute period.  My goal is to either tell a story or capture a theme.

FS 7423 was my destination.  Just north of Blewett Pass, I had never been up this road before.  I was not far in when I came to a junction and the road got very narrow indeed.  A sign posted on a tree warned of a washout ahead.  I decide to park Pearly Mae and walk in to the geocaches, about 2 1/2 miles down the road.

Even though it is hunting season, I heard nothing and saw no one.  The sky was as blue as could be and the trees were close in around me.  I guess most of the birds were sleeping in as it was silent; not even a whisper of wind in this usually breezy place.

And the larch!  It was not magnificent forests of golden goodness but there were enough pretty trees to keep me happy.


I noted that this road was littered with mushrooms of many types.  One of the geocache descriptions mentions Morels in the Spring.  Red Top is not far from this place and I usually hike up in the Spring as I know Morels are good along that trail.  Next year I can put this place on my list.



Indeed this road has many of the same shrubs as the road to Red Top so I suspect this might be a good place to hunt for Mountain Ladyslipper orchids next spring.  There were abundant Pine Drop stalks too.



The road went down down down and I could hear Scotty Creek over the way.  Every so often I got a keyhole view of the Stewart range.  That is where Ingalls Pass is and I imagine there were hundreds of people climbing up to the early snow fields for glorious views.


Larch trees are a unique conifer.  They are deciduous, turning gold in the Fall and loosing their needles.  Here they grow at higher altitude and when mixed in with the green of the pines they make stunning contrast.  Add in a sunny day and you get the magic glow.






This walk was not the type that hikers rave over, a conventional FS road with few spectacular views.  It was a steady uphill returning to the car, other than that no bragging and discussing 1000:1 gains knarly footing or  missed trail junctions.

Pedestrian

But when I find magic like this Witches Hair lichen I am content.




It was 65 degrees at Snoqualmie Pass at 3pm.
When I arrived home in Redmond, it was socked in grayness of fog and barely 50 degrees.
I think tomorrow I might have to go east again.

4 comments:

  1. I didn't know about these trees, they make a magnificent contract with the greens of the conifer, you are so right. You come upon so many interesting things on your hike, I enjoy them a lot.

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  2. Spectacular photos, Marti. We went to see the larches in Maple Pass and hiked through two feet of early snow. As to Winchester Mountain. It is amazing when the colors change in the autumn - whole hillsides of orange and red.

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  3. Thanks for the link, I will check it out. And with my dog with his sun sensitive eyes (who refuses to wear doggles) I'm out walking about early most days.

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  4. Marti, this was a great hike to go on with you. We have a couple of native Larches on our property that we prize because they are unique as you say.....they shed all their needles just after they turn this beautiful colour.
    They are scattered through our forests here in Nova Scotia as well and I offer a great contrast to the other conifers this time of year, as you said.

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