Ingalls Lake

Ingalls Way - Trail No. 1390


JULY 19, 2008   Conditions were perfect for my first hike to Ingalls Lake.  The sun was shining.  The sky was bright and clear.  The breeze was gentle.  The goats were charming.  The wildflowers were at their peak.  And the incomparable Mount Stuart dominated the scenery. 

It was a cool 46 when I left the trailhead, but the first 1/4 mile of this trail is steep and it didn't take long to warm up.  The views were even better than I remembered from my hike to Ingalls Pass last July, and the wildflowers were at their peak.  From the pass I took the alternate trail that drops down to the campsites in Headlight Basin and encountered a patch of snow on a steep section of the trail that made me glad I had my hiking poles with me.  Headlight Basin is a beautiful park that is worth the hike on its own merits, and I spent an hour happily exploring the valley and enjoying the rare weather.  The first mountain goat I encountered was grazing in a meadow just below the trail and couldn't be bothered to pose for a photo.  As I continued hiking, I crossed a little stream and met a juvenile goat on the trail that approached me so closely that I was caught between a rock and a pair of sharp horns.  It inspected me with its amber eyes, then stepped off the trail to graze. 

The trail climbs out of Headlight Basin and rejoins the main trail, which soon becomes a primitive trail that climbs steeply up over a rocky ridge before dropping down to Ingalls Lake.  There were several marmots sunning themselves on the rocks along the trail, but they scrambled off their warm perches as I approached.  I was stunned by my first view of the lake, which from my first viewpoint was a deep cobalt blue pool surrounded by orange rocks and white snow.  The lake was thawed, but the slopes leading down to the shore were still buried in snow.  I found a sunny lunch spot on a  rock slab with a great view of Mount Stuart.  Everything was so beautiful that I didn't know where to look.  Even the few small clouds were perfectly arranged in the sky.  

Eventually even a great hike has to come to an end, and I reluctantly shouldered my pack and started back down the trail.  I hiked the main trail back to the pass, making my hike through the valley a counterclockwise loop.  There were a few more patches of snow on this trail, but there were also more flower-filled meadows, and more goats--a whole nursery band of them--on the other side of a meadow.  They were too far away for good photos, but they were close enough to hear the kids bleating.