Headlight Basin / Ingalls Lake (Oct 8, 2011)

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headlight_basin_mapConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothign special
Map: USGS Mt Stuart
Area: Teanaway
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's Alpine Lakes
Stats: 9.5mi, 2988' gain (round trip)

Yes, this is a popular trail most any time of the year. Sprinkle in some golden larches and you can't exactly expect solitude. But holy cow! The crowds!

First...No dogs are allowed on the trail up to Ingalls Pass or beyond. There are signs everywhere. One at the TH, one at the first trail junction...another at Ingalls Pass. I don't subscribe to hikers I encounter who have dogs where dogs don't belong saying "what was I to do?" My response has always been...do an alternate hike. To flagrantly disregard the no dogs allowed notices really pisses me off...and I like dogs! You can't claim you didn't know. The information is pretty easy to find on the FS website. In addition...you'd have to be blind to miss at least 3 posted signs advising the no dog regulation.

Second...The party size limit once you enter the Wilderness (at Ingalls Pass) is 12. The trail to Ingalls Lake enters Wilderness right at Ingalls Pass. Again...see first note. There are signs at the TH and again at the pass indicating there are party size restrictions in the Wilderness, in this case it's 12. Since no dogs are allowed...that means 12 people. Read up more on the regulations. If a group larger than 12 shows up you can't just split into two groups...there cannot be any coordination between the two groups and the groups must be completely separate (including a physical distance of 1 mile between the two group).

JimK and Gary joined me on this trip. First trip with Gary.

I dislike the first 1/2 mile or so of this trail but then I hate all roads that are converted to trails. Once that first junction comes up it gets much more scenic. We hiked up seeing about the number of people you'd expect on a nice day, on this trail, during larch season. But we had an early start...but I'll get to that in a minute. The trail up to the pass was full of beautiful Fall color. Frosted lupine leaves. Purple gentian a bit past prime. Huckleberry leaves a beautiful shade of umber...

We got to Ingalls Pass and here was the first view of the golden larches we came to see. There were gorgeous. A sprinkling of fresh snow only make the photography better. We took our time, stopping often to photograph the beautiful gold color of the larches against the blue sky above, a blanket of fresh snow, and a backdrop in the Stuart Range.

We got to the lake and found a few people, again...about the number you'd expect this time of year, and perched ourselves on a rock overlooking the lake. Then, I started counting people...and dogs (several off leash)...as they arrived. I lot count on the people at about 100...the dogs...there were at least 1/2 dozen of them yipping, barking and running all over the place. I thought for a moment that I must be crazy. Then I looked over to Gary and Jim (when they returned from a scramble to the far side of the lake) and I knew I wasn't the only one thinking...WTF?

Some groups were quite apparently together and larger then the regulations allowed. I kept looking around for a FS green shirt...where is a FS ranger when you need one? I thought to myself...John...must report this to John at the Cle Elum Ranger Station. People and dogs continued arriving. One large group above us on the rocks was celebrating some event...loud, boisterous, obnoxious. Popping a bottle of champagne. Hoots and hollers that echoed off the walls around the lake. A boom box I heard in the distance. Again I thought...WTF? There were hundreds of people at the lake...people sprinkled like pepper flakes in every direction, from one end of the lake to the other, from the shores of the lake to a hundred feet or so up the rock surround the lake.

I honestly don't know why people don't exercise good judgment, act politely/respectfully towards others in their "sphere" and why people make a conscious decision to be selfish.

Dani, Ingunn and JK arrived a short time after our group of three got to the lake. Nice bumping into them on this trip. Neither of our groups was aware the other was headed this direction. TomN was in the area that day with the stout dog Jasper but they chose to head into Esmeralda Basin since they were aware of the no dog policy. Tom...thanks :)

After a short stay at the lake, our two groups merged into one (still under the regulation party size) and began the hike out. Several shutter delays again on the hike out. One prolonged one just below Ingalls Pass since we were all photographing the larches with Mt Stuart as a backdrop.

By the time we got back to the trailhead the parking area was FULL and cars lined both sides of the road nearly all the way back to the DeRoux cutoff. Holy....Cow...

Turns out another friend (David) was hiking the lake that day. His TR and photos are here. The TR is a good resource for more discussion on the offending parties and the regulations that apply to the area. The discussion got quite lengthy.

The primary offenders for party size on this day were two Meet Up (MU) groups. One MU group had 22 people signed up, a second with 16 signed up. Mike, another friend and MU member, posted on MU about the events and had his comments deleted by the trip leader. Even after those comments were posted, deleted, and reposted...there were MU trips planned again for the following weekend with one group of 26 (8 on the wait list) and another group of 16. Repeated posts on MU were again and again deleted by the trip leader. Kim...OK yet another friend...got a call into the Cle Elum Ranger station before I could...and reported the issue. The results of that call were that Stewards were present at the trailhead the following weekend. I hope it had an impact. The "infractions" from this trip can't help but reignite discussion/debate about implementing a permit system for this area which would not be a self issued/voluntary permit that wouldn't be much help in controlling party size, number of people visiting, dogs, etc., but would be more official and would have the effect of limiting access. I'm torn about this... I just wish people would stop behaving selfishly and simply follow the rules.
Headlight Basin Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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