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2011–Ingalls Creek Valley

Posted by joeabbott on August 28, 2011

P8190001P8190012Every year since 2007 I’ve had the good fortune of getting out for an annual hike with my friend Pete. I’ve cataloged a few of our trips in my Outings with Pete post, and will continue that tradition with a 2011 version detailing our trip to Ingalls Creek.

Some years ago I climbed Argonaut Peak via a route that came in from the south and up a loose gulley. It was a long day and I was constantly on the move to make time but I’d always promised to get back here. Well, Pete was game to head into the same region and so, rather than a one-day marathon, we planned a two-night stay along the Ingalls Creek.

To get the most out of the trip, we took two cars so we could make a large, crescent “loop”; rather than head in and out along the same trail. Additionally, this allowed us to create a route that would generally head downhill a goodly portion of the trip.

On the first day, Friday, I met Pete in Monroe, WA for an early breakfast and, after we finished, we started the long drive east. The plan was to get to Leavenworth, stop for gas, and then park his car at the Ingalls Creek Trailhead a dozen miles or so to the south. A fire on Hwy 2 in the vicinity of Leavenworth forced us on a detour that took us past our gas stop, but we continued on to Peshastin and then south on Hwy 97, the Blewett Highway.

We pulled in at the Ingalls Creek Trailhead and purchased a three-day parking pass for the truck … all the while wondering what official thought it was a good idea to have people place a notice on their dashboard announcing how long the vehicle would remain unattended. I may not be thinking like a thief, but that information seems like it would be interesting to opportunistic procurement specialists. But, we tossed his gear into my car and continued along to the Beverly Creek Trailhead.

PhotoWhile the two trailheads are about 11 miles apart (as the crow flies), we needed to traverse roughly 45 miles in the car to get there. But, the roads were in good shape, the company was pleasant, and on the way we found a little store that sold us chilled sodas. All very fine.

At the Beverly Creek Trailhead, we pulled in at the same time a man and woman with a horse trailer pulled in. While we saddled ourselves up, the couple kitted out horses. As the sun was full overhead, we splashed on sunscreen, I pocketed an extra bandana, and we grunted at the weight of the full packs. But, we were ready before the horsemen and so we locked up and started walking.

I had vague recollections of the trail but it was far rockier than I’d recalled. It was also more gently sloped and we made good time in spite of the fact that both of us weren’t in the shape we should have been. Soon enough, the sun and some hot spots developing on my feet suggested we take a break in he shade and I used that time to tape my heels. As we sat, the folks on horses passed and made a minor jibe in our direction at needing to stop already.

They passed, I got my boots on, and we continued up the trail after them.

Just as we were starting to gain altitude a bit more seriously, we found the riders had pulled off the trail and were going to turn around. One of the horses was panting heavily and continuing on was ill-advised. Perhaps a bit of karma catching up with them but it was more likely a temperature nearing 90º F that was the true culprit.

We continued up the alternately rocky and then churned-to-mush trail (horses will do that to a footpath) and made it to the intersection with Forth Creek trail just under Iron Peak. Here we stopped for a proper lunch and endured the flies as we cooled our heels, our bodies, and inwardly smiled at knowing the rest of the day the trail would be downhill.

It was here that I found that my water hydration bag had been slowly leaking into my pack since leaving the trailhead. To say I was disappointed is making a fairly generous understatement, but I had enough water to make it to camp. I wasn’t aware of just how wet things were in my pack until we setup the tent a few hours later. Good thing it was hot out … my wet spare clothes and gear would need it!

P8200038 StitchThe trip along Forth Creek to Ingalls went quickly and peeks at the distant Stuart Range peaks helped pull us along. We made our campsite around 4 PM and had the space to ourselves. The sheltered and shady trees made for a mosquito and fly haven but I was exhausted from too much work and too little sleep over the past week: I crawled into the tent and napped until dinner time.

We ate dinner a few hours later and enjoyed that the ending of the day brought relief in the form of some cooling, but mostly for the abatement of the flies and mosquitos. Pete found a large rock by the side of Ingalls Creek to perch on and watch the sunset and I sat on a log down the creek a bit reading a magazine I’d brought for just this purpose.

When it was dark enough to need headlamps, we retired to the tent, did a bit more reading, and then sleep stole over us. Or at least me … I slept like a rock.

P8200060Saturday, day two, dawned and I continued sleeping. I believe I slept until about 9 AM; unprecedented and impressive given my before-dinner nap from the day before. It felt great. But, getting out feels great, too, so we grabbed what day hike gear we wanted and started hiking west up the Ingalls Creek trail to Ingalls Lake.

The temps were again in the upper 80s and felt even hotter when we broke out of the trees and into the open fields.

On the way out I, again, had to tape my heels and the mosquitos and flies were back in force. And yet, the day was absolutely gorgeous: high, craggy peaks on either side of us, a cool and lively stream below the trail, and light packs made the miles drop by quickly.

We made it just below Lake Ingalls and decided to find a bit of shade on a low, rocky tor.

P8200050I again made use of the magazine I’d brought and Pete fetched water and snapped pics. As the day passed overhead we played some cribbage and split the set, did a bit more reading, and then packed up to head back to camp.

Before leaving our picturesque vale, Pete did his best Sound of Music impression and, arms out, spun in circles below the towering mountains around us. It summed up the feeling of the day very nicely.

It was likely the effect of having sat out in the sun all day, but the trip back seemed both long and tough. The trail again was the odd combination of ankle-breaking rocky in one section and a broken down muddy mess in others.

Upon getting to camp, I repeated my “afternoon nap” routine from the day before. It kept me out of the heat and bugs for a bit, which was very nice.

P8210079When we woke up we found neighbors had setup a tent in a nearby space. It was a couple and they seemed to have little interest in chatting so we all ignored each other for the rest of that day.

Pete and I had our dinners, snapped a few early-evening shots, and continued reading our respective magazine or book before calling it a day. While idling is seldom what I find myself doing, I seemed to be rather good at it. And, upon that reflection, I turned in.

Our last day of hiking was again, glorious, bright, and clear. We arose a bit earlier this day, had breakfast, and broke camp by 8:30 or so. Our neighbors were about 15 minutes ahead of us in terms of schedule and we shared a few pleasantries as they hiked the way we’d went the day before. But, my mind was on my pack and how heavy it felt compared to the lightweight “day pack” weight from the prior afternoon. Still, it was riding well and I was feeling refreshed from a tremendous amount of sleep I’d been getting!

Still, my estimate of “around 3 hours” for getting back to Pete’s car was well short of the 4+ hours it actually took us. And, to be realistic, I’m not sure why I thought we would be able to go 10 miles in hot weather with full packs in three hours. We weren’t in shape, the trail conditions on the way out included “overgrown” to the “rocky and churned” that we’d seen so far, and 10 miles is a good stint.

But, we weren’t really in a hurry so we broke 2-3 times, had a lunch in there, and finally got to the cars around 1 PM or so.

And that was the trip.

At Pete’s car we changed into street clothes, drove around to get my car, and on the way into Seattle got stuck in a 15 mile backup for two hours as we waited for a bad accident to clear. The stopped-for-nearly-two-hours traffic allowed me to tidy up the car and run a pair of socks left in my vehicle up to Pete. And while I was a bit worried about having enough gas to get home, the journey back (aside from the long delay) passed without incident.

It was another fine outing and one on which it didn’t rain at all. So, except for dousing my clothes in drinking water early in the trip, it was perfect in many ways. Thanks for (another) good trip, Pete!

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One Response to “2011–Ingalls Creek Valley”

  1. […] in an effort to prepare for this year’s outing. I’ve talked about Peter before (here, here and here) when we’ve done a few hikes previously. He’s good company, carries his share of the load, and […]

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