Saturday, September 29, 2012

Goat Rocks 2012

This weekend was supposed to be our epic trip to the Enchantments near Leavenworth, WA but after watching what seemed to be the entire central Washington Cascades catch fire we were forced to bail on the trip due to trailhead closures and smoke in the air.  Everyone was disappointed of course but I had a backup plan of our amazing Goat Rocks loop that Em and I took Alexa and Kevin on as well two years ago.  

This would be our third time going back, which unusual for me, was still exciting because nobody else in the group had been there yet.  We were supposed to take Friday off of work but instead I worked for the day to save the day off and everyone met us in Ridgefield around 7pm on Friday night.  

We were supposed to drive up and camp at the trailhead but at the mention of Chinese food and everyone agreeing to get up at 6am for the 2.5 hour drive I relented and we all spent the night at our place.  Emily and Jen went to go get the Chinese after some confusion ordering it and only half of it came so Scott drove back out to pick up the rest.  The girls had also come home with Krispy Kreme donuts which were a hit as well as beer for the group.  We rented the Avengers on our Apple TV and everyone was pretty much passed out by midnight anyway from food coma when the movie ended.

In the morning after some coffee and breakfast the 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead went pretty quick.  We followed a dust storm behind a pack of motorcycles for most of the way down the 17 mile dirt road off of route 12 near Packwood to the trailhead.  We were all packed and on the trail by 10am but the parking lot was pretty full of cars which made me a little worried.  

It was an easy going morning without any bugs in the air as we made our way across goat creek and up towards SnowGrass Flats.  Emily was obviously in a leadership mood feeling comfortable having been there before so she took the lead and I held back to chat it up with Jason and Jen who was being careful not to agitate a weak ankle on the hike in.  

Once we got to Snowgrass Flats it was of course an easy traverse along the side of the valley up to Goat Lake.  We stopped for lunch at the same small stream we stopped at with Kevin and Alexa and while there Adams began to poke out of the clouds that had been sitting on the area the entire morning.  Everyone in the group seemed to be really stoked to be up there and I knew the views hadn’t even begun yet.  Once we got above Snowgrass Flats everything opened up and I could tell that all our friends were amazed at where they were.  I took a crazy number of panorama photos with the new function in my iPhone 5 and they came out amazing!  Jason was snapping so many photos I thought his finger might cramp up.  

At this point we were happy to see that most people had decided to camp at Snowgrass Flats but Emily and I wanted the best spot at Goat Lake.  We saw a couple pass us headed up to Goat Lake and I guess that flipped the switch in Emily’s head because she transformed into super hiker with Chris and Scott and took off up the trail ahead of us while I stayed back with Danielle, Scott, Jason and Jen to take photos and our time up the valley.  This worked out great as Emily was able to overtake all the other hikers headed to Goat Lake and score the best campsite in the area for our four tents!  By the time we got there they had been there for about 20-30 minutes and had laid claim on the spot scaring away other climbers who questioned if it was available.  

We had our tents up in no time at all and pulled out the multiple bags of wine and flasks that we had packed in.  Chris even had 3 tallboy IPAs that he stuck under a rock in the cool snowmelt water of Goat Lake that ran past our campsite.  I used my UV Steripen to get some water for Em and I because we didn’t drink much on the way in.  Later I would try to use it again only to have it fail repeatedly on me.  I got a video to send in to the company about how awful the product is.  I’m going to give them one more chance before I turn to something more reliable for my purification needs in the woods.  

Before it got dark we all took a walk up to Goat Lake to check it out and were pleased to see a group of goats up on the hillside.  I ran back to camp to get the long lens and got some good shots of the goats munchin’ on the grass.  We also saw a couple hoary marmots on the slopes above the lake and could hear Pikas as well.  Holm of course walked way out on the ice only get scolded by other climbers who were setting up camp too close to the lake anyway.  

Back at our camp site we spent the rest of the evening cooking up food and drinking lots of wine.  When it got dark a full moon rose over the shoulder of Snowy Mountain and we could see fires on the side of Mt. Adams in the far distance.  The girls turned in first but we were soon after and I think everyone was passed out in their tents by 11pm.

On Sunday we took our time getting out of camp.  Jenn heated up a hot chocolate/coffee mix for everyone and Emily and I ate some granola bars.  It was a super clear morning unlike the day before and we had terrific views.  Our packs were a lot lighter as we headed up over the pass of Goat Ridge to descend down a different valley with great views of Mt. St. Helens in the distance.  There was also a surprising amount of wildflowers still in bloom at the high elevation.  

When we got down to tree line we took a break for lunch and to relax in the sun for a bit before continuing on.  When we got to the side trail up the ridge I decided I wanted to check it out with the DSLR which was a great choice because we ended up walking out on an open ridge we hadn’t been to before with spectacular views of the Goat Rocks area and Mt. Rainier in the distance.  Danielle and Scott then continued on down the trail as she was having trouble with the dust from the trail and breathing but the rest of us headed up to another overlook where an old fire tower used to be for more views over the valley we had hiked up the day before.  

From there it was just a  trudge down through the trees back to the parking lot.  Thankfully, there was no mosquitos like there were the last couple times.  Jenn ended up rolling her ankle really badly so Jason wrapped it with a brace Holm had and I gave her some oxycodon from my knee surgery.  This of course numbed her ankle and cheered her up quite a bit for the remainder of the short walk out.  

When we got to the Berry Patch trailhead the guys took off down the trail to get the cars while the ladies waited to be picked up with the packs.  All of us agreed it had been a great hike and we all were ravenous by the time we reached the Burgerville in Kelso for some dinner.  Emily and I will definitely let everyone know in the future when we make backpacking plans.

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