We needed to test ourselves on yet a longer hike. Whitney is 22 miles so the more we do long hikes, the better prepared we will be for the distance. I looked through the Loop Hikes book and saw an interesting hike starting at Iron Peak, dropping down to Beverly and then looping over to Ingalls Creek. We'd come back up Fourth Creek to Beverly and back over Iron. A nice 16.5 mile trip with an elevation gain of around 4500ft.
There was the potential issue of crossing Ingalls Creek twice. It is really swift and deep where we typically hike and I wasn't certain what it would be like to cross. I asked on the hiking board and got mixed answers but most felt it would be fine to cross. It would probably be somewhere around calf high so we decided to take some sandles to cross in.
We planned to leave Seattle by 7am but didn't leave until 7:30am which got us to the Iron Peak #1399 trailhead at 10am. We had followed another car for the last few miles and he just happened to be headed to the same trailhead. We talked a bit and he said he was only going a short ways up and headed off while we put on the boots. The weather was partially cloudy and cool with a slight breeze.
Iron Peak trail is in good condition without a lot of horse dung on the trail. It starts the climb right off making wide switch backs which take you up out of the forest and across the serpentine slopes. I was struggling a bit. I didn't sleep much that night stressing a bit about the distance. I knew we needed to keep a 2 mph pace if we were going to do it.
At three miles you reach a saddle below Iron Peak at 6100ft. I checked the time. 11:30! Boy did that cheer me up. I thought I was going really slow but I was actually right on pace. The views are gorgeous in all directions. There are a few flowers still blooming at the saddle. There are a couple nice patches of anemone and douglasis. But no time to dally like we normally do.
The trail descends in .5 miles to the junction with Beverly-Turnpike trail # 1391 at 5600ft. Along the streams we crossed were still many flowers; shooting star, phantom orchids and elephant heads. We headed up Turnpike to another saddle with views back to Iron Peak and down Beverly. The trail started down and was very rocky. It didn't look like it was much used even by horse groups. Much of it was down through rocky trenches and we treaded lightly so we didn't twist an ankle but it was easy to follow. It was much better than that last bit going to Lake Bianca. In front was a full view of Mt. Stuart and the upper Ingalls valley. We heard Turnpike creek a long time before we finally crossed it and then continued on for a bit before we came to Ingalls Creek. There was a large log right at the creek so it was an easy crossing. It was shortly after 1pm so we paused to eat our lunch.
It was still about ¼ mile or so until the junction with Ingalls Creek trail. Here is a large open meadow filled with lupine that is just starting to fade and a 360 degree valley view. We headed east. The plants were about waist high and pretty thick across the trail. The trail left the meadow and entered woods. There were several small stream crossings and lots of water. At 1 ½ miles we reached the junction with Fourth Creek # 1218. It was the halfway point at 8 miles and it was 2:30. Not bad so far.
The next crossing of Ingalls was pretty straightforward. We didn't see any logs and the water was above the stones so, we took our boots off to cross. The water was to our calves and cold. Fourth Creek trail didn't look like it was used much either but the trail is pretty obvious and easy to follow. It climbed up right away providing views back over the Stuart Range and then leveled a bit. It followed Fourth creek all the way with small pockets of flowers next to the creeks that feed into it. We crossed Fourth Creek and stopped to filter some water and fill our water bottles. A few mosquitos found us while we we were filtering. Surprisingly we weren't bothered much with bugs along the way and only had a few bites when we got home.
The trail passes along the edge of a large meadow filled with flowers. Gradually we climbed up and the views opened back to the Stuart Range. Soon we were at the saddle and then dropped down a ½ mile of rocky steep trail to rejoin Beverly-Turnpike #1391. Just over 4 miles left, but first we needed to climb about 1000ft back up to the saddle near Iron Peak. By now the sun was low as we climbed up the serpentine slope. We heard a few voices from a party up on Iron Peak. It was the first people we had seen since we left in the morning. At the saddle, we noticed the clouds had thickened and darkened over Esmeralda but didn't see any rain. I sucked down an energy gel for one last burst. Shortly after 5pm we headed down. My thighs definitely were sore but I didn't feel too bad. We made the car around 6:15. We hit the Burger King in Cle Elum before heading back on I-90. There was an accident before the pass which had the right lane close and traffic crawled. Shortly before 10pm we pulled in the driveway. Finally, time for a beer.
Mileage: 16.5 miles Elevation: 4400ft total Time: 10.5 hours Bugs: not bad yet