Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, Teanaway, Top Trips

Larch Rx

Sorry to keep jumping wildly from season to season, but I never got around to writing about this trip, and it was just too purty and too important to skip.

October was rough. Actually, the whole autumn season was rough. The hormones I was taking made me feel all sorts of not great, so I spent those darkening months gaining weight, fighting lethargy, and feeling very down in the dumps.

Too many photo breaks

Very few things were able to motivate me to get outside. One was mushroom hunting, which I’ll come back to later, and the other was the chance to finally see the golden larch trees in Headlight Basin in perfect weather. I had been waiting for this chance for years, so I gathered up what energy I had left and let JK steer our trusty Subaru towards the magical kingdom of the Teanaway.

I had a moment of hormone-induced (yes, I’ll blame it on that) bliss/sadness/bittersweetness in the car when Pink Rabbits by The National was playing just as Mount Stuart first popped in to view, the light hitting it just right. It was one of those sappy American Beauty plastic bag situations when you realize that there are so many beautiful everyday moments in this world, even though it sometimes feels like shit. I will admit that I shed a tear or two, and I had that wonderful song playing over and over in my head the whole day. I still get emotional whenever I hear it – thankfully, I can still blame it on hormones.

Bare trail for now

Hiking felt so good, even after being couch-bound for so long. My legs warmed up fast, and my lungs reveled in the clean, crisp October air. Soon enough, the endorphins hit and I was talking a mile a minute as we switchbacked up to Ingalls Pass. I felt like myself again.

Headlight Basin

The ridge above Headlight Basin was crowded, as it always is during larch season, but I can’t really complain about sharing a good time in the mountains with fellow grinning, elated hikers. We had all hit the jackpot – larch trees at their peak, a blanket of fresh snow, and blue, blue skies. The colors looked slightly dull from above, but when we dropped down into the basin (which we actually had to ourselves) and the light hit the trees, the larches looked like they were on fire. Amazing.

Walking in a golden wonderland

Unfortunately, I don’t have the vocabulary to convey just how therapeutic and spiritually uplifting a day like this can be for me. I know it must be difficult to understand if you’re not a fellow nature-lovin’, endorphin-hungry, overly-emotional sap.

I meet people who say they hate hiking, they hate the heat of it, the cold, the sweating, the hard work, the bugs, and the dirt. We humans all have different outlets for frustration and inlets for inspiration, and hiking is mine.

When the light hits just right

Especially when I can share it with this guy.

It's such a perfect day

Headlight Basin | 7.5 miles | 2400 feet elevation gain –

Our own little corner of the woods

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  • Reply Michelle April 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    ah, just beautiful, what a picture perfect day!

  • Reply Rachel April 1, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Wow! Those larches are sure pretty! I’ve never been out to see them, and I think this year I will just have to!

    I have heard of those that hate hiking (psh! they don’t know what they are missing!), but they will just never understanding how it feels to climb up a mountain using your own leg power and to feel so large and so small at the same time. Or is that just the mountain air getting to my head again? :)

  • Reply The Padre April 2, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Love the photos!!! Thanx so much 4 sharing them. Sending you guys positive vibes. Stay Strong

  • Reply gck April 4, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Nice! I think we were up there on the same day, but I swung over to Longs Pass because of time constraints. The larches look like they were way better on your side! I had the same sort of blissful experience, though. I was the first one up to the pass that day and it felt like I had Mt. Stuart all to myself, 360 degree views. Can’t wait for summer to come around.

  • Reply jill i April 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Oh so lucky, the trip I planned to do that hike last fall with the WA Native Plant Society folks, think October 8 or so, was cancelled due to the snow obscuring the trail. So haven’t made it there year. Know exactly how you feel about hiking,etc. outdoors in the mountains to cure whatever ails you. Hope your pregnancy goes well and it’s a speedy delivery and healthy baby. Got to hold my first great nephew in Portland weekend before last when he was only 15 hours old, so sweet!

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