by Jeff Goulden
Washington State has many wonderful features but is best known for its really big coniferous trees. Many of the largest, oldest and tallest of the conifers can be found here. Almost all of them remain dark green throughout the year giving Washington its nickname "The Evergreen State". But there’s a very unusual conifer tucked away in the high alpine basins of the Cascade Range. Each October when fall comes to the high country, this unusual conifer’s needles change from green to glowing gold before they drop from the tree.
The Alpine Larch tree is a deciduous conifer. Like other deciduous trees that drop their leaves every fall, the Larch drops its needles. The Alpine Larch grows in sparse pockets near treeline at 6000 to 7000 feet above sea level. The short, soft needles begin changing colors in late September and usually turn gold around early October. The window of opportunity to see fall colored larches is short and unpredictable. Autumn storms can strip the trees of their needles overnight or dump snow on the trails, making access difficult.
There are few good places in the state to find the Alpine Larch and getting to them is not easy. Most places require hiking into remote back-country. Headlight Basin, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness northeast of Cle Elum, has one of the largest concentrations of larches in the state.
Ingalls Pass, above the basin, has stunning views of the larches and also the rugged south face of Mount Stuart, Washington’s tallest non-volcanic peak. Ingalls Pass and nearby Lake Ingalls are very popular hiking destinations throughout the summer. In the fall this area becomes a magnet for hikers wishing to view the magnificent colored larches. Headlight Basin also has a resident population of mountain goats which are very fun to watch and photograph.
Jeff's Photo Blog
In this Photo Blog I have combined my 50 year passion for photography and my love of the natural world, creating a portfolio that reveals nature in its pure and simple beauty. I am pleased to share my passion with you through this blog.