In 1859 Captain John Ingalls became seperated from his unit in the Washington Cascades. Being the genius he obviously was, he decided to climb one of the 8,000ft peaks around him to “see” where he was. Note to the reader: if you are ever lost, putting in an extra 4,000 vertical feet to get your bearings is a very stupid idea… even in the mid 19th century. Capt. Ingalls survived the climb and saw a series of three lakes connected by a mountain stream in a hanging valley below him.
Supposedly two of the lakes were dark and circular in shape but the third, the middle lake, was crescent shaped and green in color. Anyone who has hiked above the treeline and seen alpine lakes know that they generally are not green. Most green water is the result of algae that is found in warmer water at lower elevations. Ingalls found this color curious and descended into the valley/canyon for a closer look. Upon reaching the shore of this crescent lake Ingalls lost his shit. A giant quartz intrusion entered the lake from the mountain peak above and was loaded with flecks of gold creating an entire beach of gold and quartz rocks. Ingalls estimated upwards of “10 tonnes” of gold just at the surface!
Returning to his unit became the least important thing in Ingalls life from this point on. He stayed on the mountain for days and mapped and surveyed the area. He went deep into the valley below and continued mapping his path. Now, Ingalls, as we established earlier, was not the sharpest tool in the shed. The map he made, the only map to his lost gold load, he burried under a boulder at the mouth of either the creek that bears his name, Ingalls Creek, or at the mouth neighboring Peshastin Creek.
Q: Why would anyone bury an important piece of paper under a boulder that itself can easily be lost forever as one would likely have to make a second map just to find the first one, especially when that same piece of paper could just as easily fit into their pocket for the rest of their life?
A: Because that person is an idiot.
Captain Ingalls returned to his unit dreaming of his fortune in the hills. In the early Summer of 1861 the now retired Capt. Ingalls put together a party in his hometown of Portland, OR under the guise of heading North into Canada and the newly discovered gold fields of the Frasier River. The men included in the group were his son Ben, and his friends John Hansel and Jack Knot. Reports vary as to whether the men knew the real reason for the trip or not. Many accounts have Capt. Ingalls holding his secret pretty close to his chest; some say only Hansel knew of their real agenda.
For safety’s sake Ingalls attached his merry band to a much larger group travelling along the Columbia River as a large group would less likely be attacked by the local tribes. First they traveled East from Portland and then North from what is now the Tri-Cities (The Dry-Shitties, if you will). Upon reaching the mouth of the Wenatchee River, the city of Wenatchee had not been settled yet, Ingalls told the rest of the prospectors that he and his gang were going to go sight-seeing for a couple of days and to not wait up. Packing a few days of rations, picks, shovels, gold pans and other gear the men and paddled up river in canoes. They were delayed when they reached a waterfall and had to hike over it/around it . The brush was thick and they kept getting smacked in the face by switches thanks to the man in front (Captain Ingalls).
A particular branch got caught on the pick strapped to Ingalls’ back and as he felt the tension build on the limb he yelled, “Look out, Jack!” Behind him, Jack Knot did not have time to react. Himself loaded down with gear, and most likely a canoe on his head, Knot got whipped by the branch. This was bad news for Ingalls, for Knot also carried an older muzzle loader rifle in one of his hands. The branch hit the hammer on his rifle and a shot fired through Ingalls’ spine and a .50 caliber ball lodged into his belly. Whoops.
The men fashioned a stretcher and carried his dying body back to the larger group of prospectors camped on the Columbia. Ingalls lasted another two or three days; on his deathbed he began to divulge his secrets to Hansel, Knot, and his son Ben. He told them about the landmarks to look for, the boulder under which his map was buried, the placer gold in Peshastin Creek, and the lake of gold on top of the mountain. Ingalls’ dying wish was for his son to return to Portland and inform his mother of his father’s death. The party did just that. They buried his body on the East bank of the Columbia River in what is probably now East Wenatchee.
A few years later Hansel returned to the Cascades and made a homestead at the mouth of Peshastin Creek. For the rest of his days John Hansel searched for Ingalls’ lost load and the map that lead to it. He found bupkis.
Blewett Pass, Swauk Creek, Peshastin Creek, and Ingalls Creek have all produced a lot of gold, perhaps as much as 1 million ounces since the 1870s, but the lake of gold has never been found. Some believe that Ingalls was full of shit, others that the great earthquake of 1872 did a lot of damage on the summits of the mountains and buried/changed the lake of gold, or (as I believe) someone found the gold load, staked a load claim and mined the piss out of the thing until it played out; they just never knew they had found the fabled lost mine.
Someday I am going to scuba dive the Enchantment Lakes with a metal detector and put an end to this speculation once and for all! Until then, hikers, maybe you’ll be the one to find 10 tonnes of gold, good luck!