I’d Fall for That!

This is the time of year I really start to think about autumn, or “fall” as we call it here in North America. I know, just these mere words will cause many Pacific Northwest locals to hiss and boo, because they’ve “suffered” through three horrific seasons of, well, light drizzle and mildly cool temperatures, and they don’t want their summer to end. But frankly, summer doesn’t really do it for me.

Sure, I enjoy the rain-free BBQs as much as the next guy, and it’s certainly nice to be able to run around in shorts without carrying a jacket. But summer is boring. There, I said it. For a photographer, summer is just not as interesting as the other seasons. Sure, I can always find something interesting to shoot, but it’s harder in summer, especially by the end. Wildflowers are mostly dried up. So are the waterfalls. The days are long, making it very difficult to get up in time for a sunrise shoot. The sunlight is higher and flatter, making it less interesting. Haze from temperature inversions makes landscapes look dull. There’s no interesting color in the leaves, there’s no snow, and the trails and campgrounds are packed with, um, people. And, as I’ve mentioned before, without air conditioning, my home is hot!

Now autumn, that’s different! Leaves (and around here, needles) are turning beautiful colors, campgrounds are clearing out, bugs have gone away with the heat, and the air is crisp and clean. You can hike and camp without being sweaty and covered in bug repellent all the time. It’s easier to park at the trailhead and find campsites, and the nature experience is just so much more, well, natural.

Hike of the Larches, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

A hiking trail leads through a copse of turning larch trees down to a lake, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington.

Back in 2012 my friends Lee and Karen invited me to share their hard-won permit to backpack in the fall to “The Enchantments”, spectacular basins within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth, Washington. The permit was for the first week of October, timed to coincide with the turning of the golden larch trees. They didn’t have to ask twice.

Larches, as I’ve mentioned before, are conifers that drop their needles in the fall, but not before putting on a spectacular show of golden color. If you are a nature photographer around here, you know about larch trees. And when you hike and photograph in The Enchantments, there are two things that will be in almost every image: goats and larch trees.

I’ve already covered the goats in a recent post, so it’s time for a few scenics with larch trees today.

We were really lucky on this trip. Weather in the Pacific Northwest can be unpleasant for campers in October, but we had the most amazing weather a camper could ask for. It didn’t rain once on our weeklong trip, and the air was crisp and cool. By cool, I mean it was 14°F (-10°C) one morning when we awoke, frost covering the inside of our tents. But the sun came up and warmed things up, and the hiking could not have been more pleasant. You can see from the images just how perfect it was!

The Enchantments, Alpine Lake Wilderness, Washington

A stream runs between lakes in The Enchantments, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington.

Overnight trips into The Enchantments require a permit, issued through a lottery system by the National Forest Service. While it is possible to hike the length of the trail in one day, using a car shuttle system, I don’t recommend it. The Enchantments is a place to be savored, not rushed, and doing it in one day does not do it justice. It’s not that hard to get a permit, if you’re really interested. Just get a friend or two to apply with you and someone will eventually get a permit. But you need to apply early in the year, unless you feel lucky and want to try for a daily walk-in permit. Best to get in on the lottery and know for sure.

So I almost got to go again this year, but my friends are going the weekend I have a booth at the Issaquah Salmon Days, and I can’t miss that. Maybe next year!

Alpine Larch Detail, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

Close-up of the trunk of a larch tree as the leaves turn color in autumn, in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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4 Responses to “I’d Fall for That!”

  1. Lorraine says:

    Soooo beautiful, Ed!!!

  2. stacey says:

    Ed you just need to train some volunteers for your booth. 😉