On the fifth day, we headed out from Spangle Lake. The plan was vague for this day. We might go all the way back to where we camped the first night, or try to find a place near Mattingly Creek or somewhere in between. Water access would be a deciding factor in our choice of campsite, and how long it took us to get down from Spangle.

We set out before the sun had crested the ridge. Frost covered the low meadows that we walked by. I was glad that the first few crossings of the day were rock hops (or log hops) rather than boots-off crossings. I’d already had enough of boots-off crossings in freezing temperatures this year back in May.

The climb down the switchbacks from Spangle Lake was a lot faster than the climb up had been. And I was cold enough that I had to keep moving fast to stay warm, and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the sunshine.

This time, I knew to time the break so we could sit on the rocky overlook, admiring the valley we would soon be hiking through. But I couldn’t stay long without some sun to warm me up. Not even with the help of snacking on candy.

The sun caught us just after that break as we continued down towards the Flytrip Creek junction. The interlude of warmth was shortened by the shade offered by the trees down by that junction. And then when we crossed the Middle Fork again, we were on the east side of the canyon and the sun was blocked by the ridge again.

As I walked down the trail, ahead of Ambrose, I caught a whiff of animal scent. There’s a musky smell that elk and bear can give off, and I kept a close eye out and slowed down a bit. When the trail left a meadow for forest, I saw a place where bushes had been crushed flat, as if a large animal had climbed over them recently. But no bear sightings.

Luckily, the sun was up by the time we reached the boots-off crossing. Unluckily, there wasn’t much sun to bask in on the other side of the river, so I hurried with the drying of my feet. Ambrose did take his boots off for this crossing this time, when he didn’t do that on the way up for this one.

At the next crossing, unfortunately, the stone bench was on the near side, so we had to cross over and find places to put our boots back on sitting on downed trees. And the sun was behind the ridge again, so I got really cold again.

But we regained the sun again in short order and I warmed up for good. When we got down to the junction, a pair of young hikers passed us going in the other direction. They looked like teenagers, and maybe too young to be out by themselves, but we didn’t exchange any words. We stopped for lunch after our final crossing of the Middle Fork for the day, and another party of four older men hiked up.

Their party was spread out, and we ended up directing the one at the rear of the pack as to where his companions had crossed the river. After lunch, we continued on towards Mattingly Creek. I ranged ahead of Ambrose and came across yet another party not far from the creek. This one was four people and a dog. The dog approached me and I tried to keep it from touching me because of my allergies. I think that gave the group the impression that I wasn’t friendly, because they didn’t talk to me, but Ambrose said they asked him questions about how far they were from the next junction.

We made it across Mattingly Creek and then to the flat spot I thought might make a good campsite. We dumped packs and checked the water access. There was a viable path down to the Middle Fork, so we wouldn’t have to backtrack to Mattingly for water. That settled it for our campsite, but I was in no hurry to put up the tent. By now, it was a nice, warm day and Ambrose and I lounged around.

Another pair of hikers passed by; I think they were hoping to get our spot, but they had to walk on. They ended up camping just out of sight towards Mattingly, so it was still like we were alone. And no more Labor Day hikers passed by. We had a quiet night, comfortable once I got the tent up and we ate our dinner.

Reflection of sunshine.

Goodbye Spangle Lake!

Time to head down.

Glad we don’t have to walk through the frozen meadow.

One option for crossing. 

A better option for crossing.

The rocky overlook.


Another rock hop.

Flytrip Creek Junction.

Lost the sunshine again.

Spuming side stream.

Tree problem.

Bye, stone bench.

Cold water crossing.

Ambrose on the trail.

Late setting moon.

Green valley.

Ambrose crossing before lunch.

Almost there.

Rather tall bushes.

Mattingly Creek.

Old sign after the Mattingly Creek crossing. 

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