Two weeks ago my girlfriend, Aubrey, and I headed out to the mountains to enjoy the fall colors and early snow. We had limited time, so we chose the easy, and thus popular, hike to Lake Ingalls. Knowing that most hikers are hesitant to camp in the snow, I suspected we would still be able to find some solitude by camping. Indeed, there were only a few groups in the basin, and it was easy to find a spot away from any other tent. The golden larches stood out beautifully against the snow, like burning flames, while the massive Mt Stewart looked over us. The snow cover helped damp out any sounds, and we had a peaceful afternoon away from civilization.

Just a few minutes before sunset, however, two loud hikers came down the pass, and decided that the only spot they were willing to pitch their tent was 50 feet from ours. Out of the nearly square mile of snowy terrain they could have chosen, that was going to be the spot. Even after I politely asked them if they wouldn’t mind settling down at a different site. I was reminded of my friend Guy Tal’s recent blog post about Vanishing Experiences. In his article, Guy wrote about the irony of encouraging folks to get out into the great outdoors, only to find his own experiences ruined by the lack of solitude. Although I agree with his conclusion that there are no solutions, I believe we can go a long way towards preserving these experiences if people make an effort to follow the unspoken ethics of wilderness camping.

The backcountry is the only place we can get away from the hustle of modern society and experience a deeper connection with the world around us. Please, help preserve this opportunity for everyone by respecting people’s space in the outdoors. With out peace and quiet, wilderness loses its power.

In the end, we decided to pack up and move our tent to a new spot, and enjoyed a quiet night under the stars, followed by a glorious sunrise surrounded by golden larches and sparkling snow.

Mount Stewart, Autumn Larches, Snow

Invigoration : Prints Available
Crisp autumn air, warm sunshine, golden larches, and fresh, sparkling snow! Nothing can match the invigorating feeling of a night out in Washington’s Cascades. Pictured here are Western Larches (Larix occidentalis), in their peak autumn color, with a view of Mount Stewart.

The Tech: Canon 5D2, Nikon 14-24mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/10th and 1/30th sec
Notes: two exposures hand blended for dynamic range.

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8 Comments to “In Search of Quiet – Golden Larches”

  1. Mike says:

    really? just 50ft away? wow, I guess they were either totally clueless or just didn’t care about you and your space.

    here in the East, many of the backpacking areas have designated campsites. most have a couple of sites for a tent to accommodate a few small groups but they are often right next to one another. when I arrive at a site that’s already occupied, I move on and find a new location. I like to have my space and I like to give others their space as well. that’s why we are all out here, right!?

    out West, there’s so many more opportunities for dispersed camping and sites are practically everywhere. so it boggles me that even with all of those opportunities, somebody would decide to setup camp right next to you.

    good to see you moved on and had a great time despite a couple of inconsiderates.

  2. Jack Brauer says:

    Oh man, a-holes in the wilderness… that’s the worst!

  3. Richard Wong says:

    Jerks. Glad you made the most of it Floris and beautiful image.

  4. daverave says:

    I wonder if they were so clueless that they didn’t realize that you had moved because of them?

    One time my wife and I were on a road trip from NorCal to the PNW. We hiked out in the Olympics to camp along Hurricane Ridge from my vague memory (it was 25 years ago). Spent a chilly, cloudy afternoon among snow flurries with the first mtn goats we had ever seen chasing us, I think for our salt. Got back to camp as the cold dusk descended and found a tent just 25 feet from ours! Weather was too iffy to really think about moving so I grumbled all night and high tailed it out first thing in the morning. That’s never happened in Calif 😉

  5. Aleks says:

    I can so relate! This summer we backpacked into the Wind Rivers and camped at a lake below Cirque of the Towers (I think it was Clear Lake). We knew it was a busy area for climbers but it was unreal. And we ended up camping few hundred yards away from a big group with teenagers. I think everyone around the lake heard every single conversation, they had no concept of “inside voice”. The tipping point happened later when way after sunset they had the brilliant idea to chop down a tree!!! So the echo of them chopping continued for over 30 minutes while we were trying to fall asleep and culminated in a loud sound of a falling tree! I couldn’t believe it! We packed up and moved up to anther area the next morning and had Deep Lake all to ourselves. Gorgeous area but hard to find solitude.

    P.S. Lovely shot 🙂

  6. Thanks folks for all the comments! It’s sad that so many of you can relate.. hopefully if we make people aware of the situation it won’t get too out of hand. Aubrey suggested that we should put up a few little signs at the beginning of popular trails with simple trail/backcountry etiquette. Not all in one place like they have the info boards, because people won’t read that, but separated as small attractive signs sprinkled throughout the first few hundred feet.

    I didn’t mention it in my post, but the campers actually knew of me, and I hope they read this blog post!

  7. Matt Curtis says:

    You did the right thing by asking them politely, and you did the right thing by leaving. It reminds me of camping next to the guy with the 5000 watt generator that runs all night. Or the families who bring their kids only to spend the whole time in the outdoors playing on their GameBoy. They are missing the whole point.

  8. Zach Schierl says:

    Beautiful photo! I went looking for larches in the North Cascades last weekend and was also surprised at the large quantities numbers of people I encountered, despite several feet of snow. Ran into a black bear on the trail though and that scared most of them away!