The Longs Way Home ~ Longs Pass Lake Ingalls Loop, June 2019

“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near.”  Paulo Coelho

Longs Pass, Lake Ingalls

     A few weeks ago we ventured into the Teanaway Wild and kind of fell in love with it.  The snow melts a little sooner in its rocky rustic terrain and the sun often shines a little brighter as well. So, this weekend when a rainy forecast messed with our grand plans to pack up the kids and trek them into the woods for our traditional Packwood Lake outing, we ditched them (the kids and the plans) and headed back that way again.

The weather wasn’t brilliant, even in the hills east of our mountains.  But, it wasn’t suppose to rain.  So we made the two hour drive to the Esmerelda Basin trailhead early Friday morning to get a jump start on this epic hike that draws an epic crowd. Instead of heading to Lake Ingalls the traditional way, we took the long road instead, heading up to Longs Pass first, then dipping down into the lush green valley where Ingalls Creek runs wild, to a pretty little meadow just below the cliffs that cradle the coveted Lake Ingalls in it’s arms.  Our timing and route were aimed at dodging the crowds and finding that solitude in the mountains that our hearts really long for.  And although I was dragging the whole way up and down and up again we found what we were looking for.

Its not always easy getting to where you want to be in life.  But, once you are there it is always worth it.

Longs Pass is the path less traveled when adventuring off into the wild via the Esmerelda Basin Trailhead and it boasts one of the most prodigious views of Mt Stuart out there.  Legends tell of a face to face reckoning with Stuey that will leave you awestruck and amazed.  But, once you make the climb and find your senses once again you only have a couple options.  You can traverse your way over to Ingalls Pass, if you are used to bisecting passes and making your own way, go back the way you came and call it a day, or dip down into the valley and meet up with the Ingalls Creek Trail.  Ingalls Creak Trail rambles 14 miles below the Stuart Range and if you follow it all the way to the end you’ll meet up with Lake Ingalls, one of the most popular lakes in the Alpine Wilderness.  But, the rugged trail taking you from Longs Pass to Ingalls Creek drops you off just 1.2 miles from the coveted gem and if you are lucky you can spend the day nestled in a meadow just below it’s cliffs gazing up at Ingalls Peak (there is no camping allowed within a half mile of the lake itself) and the regal mountain goats that meander along it’s rocky scape ~ with Mt Stuart bolding blazing behind you.  Ingall’s Creak Trail continues on up from the meadow to Lake Ingalls which will leave you smitten.  You can make your way around the lake, even its still hugged in with snow, if you follow it around to the right where it eventually connects to the more heavily tread upon path #1390 which literally drops you back down the other side, ushers you over Ingall’s Pass and then down a bit more a bit more before it completes your loop and leads you back down to the, likely overflowing, Esmerelda Trailhead.

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With the day off and the kids sound asleep in their beds we left home Friday morning at 5 a.m., hopping on I-90 and then off again in Cle Elum, following the Teanaway Road and maneuvering our way through the cows until we met up with Road 9737.
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At the end of the long but well kept dirt road we found the trailhead fairly empty.
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The dirt path welcomed us.
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And in less than half a mile we veered right up Ingalls Way.
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Esmerelda Peak loomed big and beautiful beside us.
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We climbed another mile and half towards the nebulous above us.
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And then the trail split once again.
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We turned right once again up towards an obscured  and likely lonely Longs Pass.
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The 1.2 miles of steep switchbacks wrapped in clouds sucked a little bit of the life out of me.
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And although we found a bit of blue sky at the top, Mount Stuart hid firmly behind a wall of white.
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We followed the boot path to the left by mistake, before realizing it was the traverse on over to Ingalls Pass. But, it gave us time to let old Stuey reveal himself and leave us in awe.
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The wind was whipping and lead the clouds in a dance that was worth pausing to admire.
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After we scampered back down to the pass Stuart was still being shy, so we followed a boot path to the right to see what we could see.
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After quite a bit of bone chilling wandering Stuart still sat stubborning behind its billowing wall of white and Ingalls Creek was calling to us.
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So, we promised we’d be back and dipped down towards Ingalls.
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Its was a little sketchy at first.
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And as I took my sweet scaredy cat time maneuvering my way down the rocks we had company.
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Once I was back on the trail we ogled over him for a bit as he seemingly bowed his head in prayer.
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And then we granted him the solitude he was likely looking for as well headed on our way.
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As we descended down into the valley,
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Stuart gradually began to peak out of the clouds.
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The path was easy to follow and wildflowers were scattered about.
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Just as we began to hear the ramblings of Ingalls Creek, Stuart revealed itself.  We weren’t face to face but it was magnificent all the same.
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A sturdy log bridge and friendly cairn escorted us across the creek.
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We passed through a nice little camp.
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And then met up with the Ingalls Creek trail.  Here we went left heading up towards the lake and a pretty little meadow I had heard about along the way.
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After crossing an avalanche flow or two.
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We came to this sweet spot and wandered around bit wondering if it was the meadow we were looking for.  But, it didn’t seem quite right.  So, Mikey let me rest a bit while he ran ahead to see what was around the next bend.
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Where he discovered this meadow and it seemed quite right.
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He came back to get me and then we sat and stared up at Ingalls Peak for a bit before deciding where we’d set up camp.
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Then we found this sweet spot!

 

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And made it our home.
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We gazed at Ingalls Peak out our front window and Mount Stuart stood guard out the back.
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And then we took an amazing sun soaked siesta.
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After powering up with some Zs we posted up and watched the goats gathering on the cliffs above.
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It was sunny, but still pretty windy and I was still dragging a bit.  So, we boiled some water for a cozy cup of coffee.
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While we sat and sipped we wondered how easy it might be to climb up those rock cliffs and sneak a peak at Ingalls Lake.  With a hours before sun set and a little more energy we figured it was a least worth a look see.
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Turns out it was easy enough.  Lake Ingalls was still chilled to the bone and covered in snow.
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But, the melt along her edges whispered of her Alpiney beauty.
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The area up here was so fun to explore.
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As we looked down on meadow we could see that our sunlit abode was fading fast.
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So we peaced out, finding out way down the rugged path on the other side of the falls.
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Back at camp I worked in the kitchen a bit, making sure we had enough water for dinner.
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While Mikey fortified our fort.
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And then we sat back and watched the sun dip.
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It really was the sweetest of spots.
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Around 7 we boiled up some grub.  My fav is the Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken but Mikey makes his own Keto-friendly meals and then gives them weird inappropriate names. His is tastier than it sounds:)
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While we dined the sun disappeared without much flare.
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It being summer solstice and all, by 9 it still wasn’t dark but the clouds had rolled back in covering the might mountains and peaks that surrounded us and a tenacious wind continually burst through our wide open meadow leaving even my warm blooded man layered and huddled up for warmth.
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Trick of the trade – when you are freezing in the wild a Nalgene full of boiled water twisted up nice and tight and tucked into your sleeping bag is an absolute dream.
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Also, a downloaded comedy show can come in handy if the whipping wind causes you to take shelter before you are really ready for sweet dreams.  I fell asleep before the laughs were over but Mikey stood strong waiting to see if any stars might emerge.  But, there wasn’t much of a show up in the skies so it wasn’t too long before he was cozied back up beside and was dozing off beside me.
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At 6 a.m. we woke to blue skies and a lingering moon.
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But, the lazy haze still sat nestled around Ingall’s Peak.
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And it was still frigid – so first things first.
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I sipped my morning Joe wrapped in my sleeping bag – but happy all the same.
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Nothing like a couple of paleo pannies and some almond butter to get ya up and running.  I have been trying to hang with Mikey and his Keto ways and it often leaves me feeling crazy sluggish.  Our hike the day before was rough.  But, with these carbs mixed with my Pad Thai carbies from the night before I was hopeful that day 2 would be a little more fun.
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The sun was trying to greet us but it had to climb Mt Stuart first.
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So we huddled and cuddled and watched the goats for a while.
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When those golden rays first crept over the mountain and lit upon us we were ready to brave the chill of the day and get ready to go.
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Twinsies.
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And then we were out.
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We found the Ingalls Trail. And then lost it again pretty quick.  But, we knew the direction we needed to go and with a little help from our GPS and a tiny bit of bushwacking we found our way.
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Back on top.
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Ingalls Lake is lovely and there are plenty of spots where one could pitch a tent, but it’s a no go.
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We were high above our meadow once again with an almost cloudless Mt Stuart.
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The goats were still out so we took some time to admire them.
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And this melting pot of gold.
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We ended up on the left hand side of the lake and thought we could climb along the boulders and find our way around.
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It was fun adventuring.
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But, just as we were almost all the way to the other side we hit a wall, or a cliff rather, that was a bit much for us to scale with our packs.
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Our route got detoured but it made for some good sight-seeing.

There was a boot path in the snow along this side of the lake.  But, once we put on our Yaktrax and made it around the bend we realized the lake had melted too much and where others had walked before we would sink.

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So we back-tracked all the way around to the other side of the lake.
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Where there was plenty of solid enough snow to trek through. And before too long we made our way around Lake Ingalls.
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And then literally dropped down the other side.
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From here to Ingall’s Pass the path is often easy to lose.  But, if you keep your eyes peeled for cairns its not too hard to find your way again.
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By 11 on Saturday morning the camp sites around the pass were amazingly vacant.  But, as we headed down from here we passed more packs than you could imagine.  And I am certain this place was jam packed by early afternoon.
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We had grands plans of traversing from Ingalls Pass back over to Longs Pass to catch the up close and personal unveiled version of this beauty.  But, after our detour on the lake we lost too much time and had to say our farewells from here.
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As you descend down the back side of Ingalls Pass the Esmerelda Peaks ease the pain of leaving all that majesty behind.
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As did a little run in with this Billy.
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And his buddy:)
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Goat worthy.
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After a photo shoot with the goats we headed on our way.
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The path back down was easy and a little less breezy.
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Hikers and backpackers galore passed us on the way out.  But, as the trail widened just for a bit for us to walk side by side I was reminded that although solitude and pretty spots make my heart happy it’s this guy that makes my heart beat strong and fast.  Our dirt paths are my favorite – no matter where they take us.

The Miles

Day 1

Esmerelda Trailhead to Our Meadow ~ 6 miles

Roundtrip up to the lake ~ 1 mile

Total – 7 miles

Day 2

Our meadow up to the lake ~ 1/2 mile

Detour – maybe another mile?

Ingalls Lake back down to the trailhead ~ 5.5 miles

Total – 7 miles

Total Miles ~ 14, plus some miscellaneous wanderings:)

 

 

 

 

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