Larch Lakes (Entiats) (Oct 19-20, 2013)

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larch_lks_coverConditions: Backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map: USGS Saska Peak
Area: Entiat Mountains
Reference: Day Hiking Central Cascades
Stats: 16.28mi, 3332' gain (round trip)


This is the "other Larch Lakes". There are two, one being Larch Lake (Hwy 2 Chiwaukum Mtns). This one is Larch Lakes...the one accessed from all the way at the end of the long 38 mile Entiat River Road. The spur trail up to Larch Lakes begins at Trail #1404 and ends at Trail #1430 and is a hiker only trail.

The weather was looking good...too good to pass up one more trip to see some larches. What better place that a place called Larch Lakes. It sounded even more appealing since I've never been there before.

I headed out solo, leaving town (north of Seattle) early but not too early. Yes, a long drive...Google Maps said 4.25hr from my house but it only took 3.5hr. I only needed to hike the 8 miles in, one way. I wasn't sure if I'd have company on the trail. I knew the area was big with hunters this time of year so I figured I'd at least be sharing a trail with them.

I headed out as light as I could. I thought of leaving the stove at home but decided to throw it in the pack at the last minute for warm drinks at night and in the morning. Good choice.

I drove first to Wenatchee and then headed up 97A to Entiat turning left (west) onto Entiat River Rd. The road is in good shape and is paved nearly the whole way to the end...38 miles up valley. I pulled into the TH parking area, hung my pass and sat on the bumper to put my hiking boots on. A hunter hiked out and we chatted a bit. He told me earlier that day a few bears were spotted up the first few miles of the trail. Hmmm...interesting. Just as we finished chatting, a Subaru pulled up with two more hikers. A really nice couple, Les and Lorraine. We hit it off right away and decided to combine our groups (am I a group if I'm a party of one?) and headed up the trail.

The Entiat River Trail #1400 is pretty flat. Bits of ups and downs along the way but like most river trail...there would be a time I'd have to pay the piper.

We reached the junction for the Myrtle Lake trail #1404 and headed up. There is quite the interesting bridge crossing. A really nice span has a huge tree that pierced the decking. A clear puncture. It looks to have missed the load bearing iron structure and with a bit of work to remove the tree and replace some shattered decking...the bridge should be good as new.

At the outlet to Myrtle Lake the trail heads north and continues up to Cow Creek Meadows. Instead of heading up to the meadows, to took the trail that parallels the Entiat River, there is a junction for this hiker only trail just after the Myrtle Lake outlet. The connector trail meets up with the Larch Lakes Spur trail at about 5.4mi from the TH and at about 3865' elev. From here the spur trail heads steeply uphill.

Some time around noon, with the warming temps, we decided to find a nice sunny spot and eat lunch.  Wow...lots and lots of fall color...and all of us were amazed by the number and variety of mushrooms.

At about 6.4mi (4680') we reached the bottom of a set of steep switchbacks. Time to change into short sleeve shirts. Weird...snow a few weeks ago and now we were hiking in temps that felt more like August instead of mid October. At about 7.3mi (5438') the switchbacks start to peter out. We hit persistent snow at about 5500'. At about 7.6mi (5650') we reached the outlet end of Lower Larch Lake and a beautiful snow covered meadow surrounded by larch trees. There was about a foot of snow in the sun coated meadows. Parts of the trail were melting out. I'm guessing with another week of good warmish temps, the trail will melt out quite well.

At the far end of the meadow we were back in the trees and deeper, crustier snow. At about 8mi (5760') we reached the outlet of the Upper Larch Lake nearly surrounded by snow. Several friends had day hiked the area the previous day and said there were a few snow free campsites. Another friend had gone up Pomas Pk and camped at the lakes and said the same. We dropped out packs, poked around, and found a perfect spot.

We set up tents, got ourselves settled, and then poked around the lakes taking photos and then as the sun set and the full moon rose, we settled in around a campfire talking the night away. Finally tired, sometime around 9pm, we retreated to tents.

Morning came but no one was in a rush to leave. I couldn't believe it was just the three of us up at the lakes. Why...it's not a hard hike...all I could figure is that the recent snows kept more hikers away.

Finally, sometime around 11am we were packed and ready to hike out. We took the same route out. It felt warmer this second day than the first. I left camp in shorts and short sleeves and I was roasting. We arrived back at the TH around 2:30pm, we traded emails promising to try to meet up for future hikes, and then it was time for the long....long...long...drive home.

Really great time.
 
Larch Lakes Slideshow

larch_lks_map
(click on map to view a larger version)

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