I've been dying to photograph the glory of the Western Larch for a number of years, just never had the opportunity/timing to get up there. This weekend I finally lucked out.
My son, Cohen (5) and I left Bothell at around 7:45am and reached the Blue Lake trailhead at around 11:30 (my son had to stop and look at all of the dams). The puget sound was socked in, but the skies cleared around Newhalem, but they were mostly cloudy again after Rainy Pass. We hit the trail anyways and found tiny patches of snow and frozen mud at the bottom. Its an easy grade all the way up. The larches in the small cirques across the valley were visible through the trees and a hint at what was to come up near Blue Lake.
We encountered the first larches and more snow about halfway up the trail (~1 mile) and the last 1/4 of the trail was entirely snow-covered (only a 2-4 inches), but it was not difficult going, even for my son. We reached the lake outlet at around 1:30pm, and I was just immediately awed by the beauty of the lake and its surroundings.
The cliffs at the south side of the lake still retained their dusting of snow, while all around the Larches shined at their peak of color. It was my first larch experience and I was just amazed by the beauty. By this time the clouds had largely broken up and was replace by mostly blue skies all around.
After a light snack and some hot cocoa and a few dozen more photos, at 2:00 we trekked back down to the truck and arrived at the trailhead at around 3:15.
I drove us to the overlook at Washington Pass, but it was closed, and with a tight deadline of getting back to Bothell before 7pm, I reluctantly passed up fall color photo op after photo op. The leafy trees were in flourescent mode all along the creeks and avalanche drainages all the way back down to Ross Lake. The town of Newhalem was almost New Englandy with their variety of color. By the time we got to Marblemount, the colors were mostly played out. I'm going to have to get back up to that highway next year and make an entire day of just the fall color along the road!
I opted for Blue Lake because it sounded like a slightly less people-packed locale with an abundance (I was hoping) of western larch. I figured that Rainy Lake and Lake Ann would be the more popular of the lakes up there for photographers. We did meet a number of couples on the trail, maybe 8 but at the lake only saw a handful of parties. Though as we were leaving the trailhead, a very speedy cluster of 4 minivans careened into the parking lot. It sort of reminded me of the black minivan tornado chasing team in "Twister". They seemed very intent on getting into that lot and on the trail.