Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mt. Ireland Hike

August 3, 2012
At the top of Mt. Ireland: Jed, Mike, Rick, Ginger
Click HERE to see hike photo album
     Today's hike was chosen by Jed, home for just one week this summer.  It was a new location, a peak, and now accessible in our Honda truck!  Mike Braymen joined us for the adventure.
     Mt. Ireland, at 8320' is not one of the highest peaks in the Elkhorns, but it rises prominently alone in the western area of the range between Sumpter and Granite.  We drove about 10 miles west of Sumpter and then turned up Rd. 7370 for a slow and bumpy 3 miles to the trailhead.  There is a fire lookout at the summit, and we found the car parked that we later learned belonged to the lookout guard.

Helicopter with drop bag
Helicopter making first swing
around tower
     One of the most exciting features of the day was the helicopter drop that took place!  Shortly after beginning the hike we heard the sounds of a chopper, and saw it circle around the lookout and then leave.  We were puzzled.  Then, over the course of the next hour and half, it made three more trips to the lookout, with a dropbag attached each time.  By the third drop we were caught in the trees, but on the summit ridge.  I was hoping for ONE more drop when we had a really good view. No such luck.  Upon arriving at the top, we found they had delivered mostly water and wood.  A two-man team comes up on a ATV (how...we aren't sure having been over the trail!) and they manage the land end of the drop, unload and pack the supplies up to the tower, and then pack out the drop bags remaining.  Nice guys.
Trail went through some old clear cut areas. 
     Back to the hike itself.  Steady climb for the first bit, then a nice gradual traverse of a ridge through forested slopes.  We crossed a couple of trail signs, the last at the base of the main summit ridge in a meadow of dock.  From the final sign it was a good 1000' more up to the lookout tower.  All in all, a climb of about 2300'.  No wonder my muscles are a little sore!
     Not many wildflowers this trip.  The phlox and lupine seemed past.  Mostly dock and occasional fleabane and sunflower types.  Did see some monk's hood growing in one damp seep.
Sign - covered with goat hair
on the backside! 
Lakes, Lees, and Angel Peaks from Mt. Ireland
     Great view from the top in all directions!  We met Andy at the tower, who has been on duty since July 1 and will remain until the end of October.  He showed us how to use the fire locator in the center of the tower, and we used the sight to confirm the identity of several Elkhorn crest peaks.  Great to view the entire range from north to south all at once.  It was easy to identify the Anthony basin peaks, Mt. Ruth, Red Mt., Rock Creek, Elkhorn Peak.  To the south Strawberry Mountain, and Ironside Mt.  Too hazy to see the big peaks of the Cascades in the western horizon, but evidently on a clear day you can see to Mt. Rainer and Hood.  Bald Mt. and Phillips Lake could be seen.  Rick spied Sharon Defree's house with his binocs!  We also could see the meadows of Whitney area.
Mike oriented our map to help in peak identification!
Tea pot plus to deter the goats!
     The mountain goats have been a problem at the top, so Andy has all sorts of shiney metals hanging from the edge of the tower to detract them from entering the area underneath.  Not just foil, but metal pots and pans!  We saw alot of goat fur shed on the back of the signpost.
     The west side of Ireland is a huge cirque of rocks.  Just north of the peak, Baldy Lake nestles down in the trees.  You can't see Downey Lake because a ridge is in the way.  We built our Inuksuk out on the rocks overlooking the cirque.  Jed and Mike did the construction.  I just provided rocks!
Mike and Jed with inuk construction
Mt. Ireland Inuksuk
     We left the summit about 2 pm, Jed and I heading down in front, Mike and Rick a little behind. The trail is dusty, especially toward the top, and you didn't want to follow too closely or you were eating dust!  After the main junction with the Deep Creek Road, Jed and I missed a spot where the trail veered to the right off the road.  We realized our mistake halfway down a very steep section of road, commenting, "I don't remember hiking up this earlier!"  Eventually, thanks to Jed's GPS app on his Galaxy, Jed led the two of us back to the main trail, using a picture marker he has posted earlier in the day!  We still beat Mike and Rick back to the truck, even with our detour!
     Great hike, great company!!!

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