Ingalls Creek

Gary was free for a hike on the first day of the Memorial Day weekend. I snow camped on Iron Peak the week before and was hoping for something in the forest. We kicked around ideas and decided on Ingalls Creek. I had done it twice before, in 2011 and 2013. Two late May trips with good wildflowers and a raging creek. Gary's last visit was several decades earlier. It was supposed to be around 80 degrees so we headed over early. We met at Eastgate at 6:15 am and headed east. Off I-90 after Cle Elum and up over Blewett Pass. We cruised into the parking lot at about 8:05 am. The lot was about half full. We packed up and were on the trail by 8:15 am. The wildflower show began immediately. Balsamroot, lupine, woodland stars, Indian paintbrush, and more began right from the start. Several parties passed us as we took photos. Unlike most all of our hiking trips, this one had no destination. We would hike until we decided to turn around. The trip was the thing not some destination.

Ingalls Creek is a big creek in the springtime. More like a river. The trail is sometimes right above the creek and at times far above. There is one "almost" switchback. Gary would say none. The trail just goes along the river, er, I mean creek, for many miles. We were not planning to go close to near Ingalls Lake at the far end of the valley, some 16 miles away. It is narrow in spots but we had no problems getting around other hikers. It was warming quickly and an hour in we stopped to take off pant legs and lather on sunscreen.

The flower of the day was trillium. We saw it not far down the trail and all the rest of the day. From just getting started to deep purple ones that were well past prime. They just kept coming. In places there were "groves" of trillium. As thick as I can ever recall seeing them. There are campsites all along the river. On the way back Gary set waypoints for each one. More than a dozen sites. Many are small and some are large enough for several parties. The one at Falls Creek is the largest. Our early start allowed for fairly cool weather at first and not a very crowded trail. Our fear was that with the great holiday weather there would be hordes of backpackers and day hikers. That did not prove to be the case. Our slow pace and many photo stops left us going much slower than expected. In places lupine or paintbrush just covered the hillside. Not places to hurry through and we didn't. We reached one spot where a snow slide covered the trail. It is still 3-4 feet deep and will last for weeks longer. Not too wide and easy enough to hike right over it.

At about 4.75 miles in we came to a spot where we could easily drop down to the creek. It was in the shade too. We took a long break here. Hard to imaging a better spot to be this day. A loud roaring creek rushing by, a nice breeze, and almost no bugs. Alas, in time we had to get moving again. It was noon when we started hiking again. We had hiked 4.75 miles in 3:45. Not a great pace. Not a problem as we had many hours of daylight left. We hiked on getting occasional views up to a snowy ridge on the south side of the valley. We also saw some waterfalls coming down from the north ridge. A little before six miles in we reached Falls Creek Camp. There were several groups camped there but fewer than we were expecting. We also saw a few groups that had set up camp along the trail and were out day hiking.

Shortly after Falls Creek we came to the biggest side creek. It was flowing fast and required some careful rock hopping to get across. A break in the trees allowed a look up to the large waterfall that fed the creek. From there forest mixed with some open sections. We went from cool forest to quite warm out in the sunshine. I liked the forest. There were a dozen or so small trees down in the first 6.5 miles. Most could be stepped over. A few we had to go around. The last half mile had some bigger trees down across the trail. None proved to be that hard to get around. Spires near McClellan Peak and below Little Annapurna loomed high above us. We passed one more big campsite and a little farther along reached our turnaround spot. We were nearing Cascade Creek with drains down from Navaho Pass. Navaho Peak was somewhere up above us.

Just before stopping Gary noticed a bright colored bird in a tree. It was a Western Tanager. I see them occasionally though had not in several years. We each took photos. Gary's best was better than mine and he sent me his to include in the photos. They are very colorful birds. It was about 1:30 when we turned around. Now we had hiked 7 miles in 5:15. If we hiked back at the same speed we would get home at about 9:30 pm. We picked up the pace on the hike back. We took less photos but still took a few breaks. We saw a number of folks hiking in as we went out but it still was fewer than I had expected. After seeing two groups in two days last weekend this was more crowded but not as expected for such a popular trail.

The trail has numerous short ups and downs but is never steep. The sheer 14 mile distance did add up to about 2500' of total elevation gain. Having done this trail twice in the previous six years I recalled several spots to look for wildflowers and we found shooting stars in one spot and Oregon anemone in another. They were not seen anywhere else along the trail. Very sporadically we saw blooming calypso orchids. Far fewer than on my other visits. The hike out began to feel long after 12 miles but then we again reached the thickest flower sections. That perked us up for the last few miles.

After 14 miles we both had a good workout but the smooth soft trail and easy grade left us feeling pretty good. Good enough that I did two more hikes the next two days of the holiday weekend. We reached the trailhead at 5:15 pm. Early enough to stop for dinner in Cle Elum and still get home well before dark. Gary had low expectations but came out very happy with the choice. He had not hiked the trail in spring when all is green, the creek is roaring, and the wildflowers were putting on a great show. This trail can be hot in mid summer. It was excellent for a springtime ramble. This is not an ever year hike for me but it is definitely in the springtime rotation.

Woodland Stars
Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Paintbrush & Stars
Steep Valley Wall
Old Burn
Hooker's Fairybells
Gary & Lupine
Lupine To The Sky
Rushing Ingalls Creek
Gary On The Trail
Lots Of Indian Paintbrush
Paintbrush Close Up
False Solomon's Seal
Creek & Colors
Silver Crowns
Lots Of Whitewater
Ragged Balsamroot
Death Camas
Vanilla Leaf
At Creek Level
Calypso Orchid
Fading Trillium
View Out
Tiny Flower
Snow Atop Trail
Whiter Trillium
Break Spot
Snowy Ridge
Oregon Anemone
Shooting Star
Bright Colors
Small Cascade
Slower Shutter Speed
Western Tanager
Near Turnaround
Extremely Bright Color
More Balsamroot
Waterfall Again
Glacier Lily
Ballhead Waterleaf
Gary During Break
Lotsa Paintbrush
Shaded Lupine
Lupine Hillside
Lupine & Creek
Awash In Lupine
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017