Goat Rocks, WA - 4 Day Trip
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Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Goat Rocks, WA - Sept. 10-13, 2009 on 09/19/2009 16:34:27 MDT Print View

Goat Rocks is actually the eroded remains of a very old, large volcano. It’s situated among three of its more famous volcanic neighbors in Washington state, namely Mt. Ranier, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. Glaciers have shredded this landscape over the millennia so that what remains of the Goat Rocks volcano today is a just long, jagged ridge with several peaks along it that reach to nearly 8000 feet. U-shaped valleys radiate away from the ridge and there are many large meadows and several charming lakes here. One of the unique things about this area is that it was buried under volcanic ash during the eruption of Mt. St. Helens nearly thirty years ago. I’ve read estimates of the depth of this ash that range from six inches to as much as two feet. Goat Rocks was the largest alpine area to be seriously impacted by the eruption, aside from St. Helens itself. The ashfall devastated the meadows here, but in the decades since the wildflowers have returned in spectacular fashion.

This was a great, four-day trip I did through the heart of this wilderness area along with my 8-year old pooch Kirah in the second week of September, 2009. We started at the Snowgrass trailhead and did the classic central loop counter-clockwise. The loop isn’t very long, so I set up a base camp in the meadows north of Snowgrass Flat and then did a couple of substantial day hikes from there. We had perfect weather all four days and saw more wildlife than I ever have in a single trip. The critters included mountain goats, marmots, deer, birds of prey, a herd of elk, chipmunks, squirrels, frogs, camp robbers, butterflies and the yips and howls of nearby coyote at night!

Our hike started around lunch time on a Thursday and in short order we were crossing the bridge at Goat Creek…




The hike in is mostly in the trees but along the way there’s a good view of Mt. Adams…




Entering the meadows where I eventually found a great campsite…




Mmmm, steak for dinner!




Served up with a nice Cabernet and later some fresh picked huckleberries for desert...yummy!



And yes, Kirah got to enjoy a wee bit of steak as well!


Alpenglow on Goat Ridge the next morning…




On Day 2 we hiked up to the high point of the PCT, which is near the summit of Old Snowy Mountain.

We get a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens along the way…




Much of this hike is above timberline…




We pass through Marmot Town…






Cross a large snow field…




Enjoy spectacular vistas along the way, like this one with Goat Lake and Mt. Ranier…




Eventually we reach the summit of the PCT, it’s highest point in all of Washington at about 7600 ft.

A group of women who were through-hiking the PCT were taking a break here…




They left their packs near the trail and headed off to the summit of Old Snowy…




It looked like a fun scramble but a little too rugged for my pooch...






A pond on the mountain's north side…




Back at camp it was time to try out my new Bushbuddy wood-burning stove…



As others have mentioned, the Bushbuddy is a well made piece of kit that’s fun to use. It works well, boils two cups of water with just a couple handfuls of small, dry twigs. It’s not exactly fast though, especially when you add in the extra time it takes to find and prepare fuel. In the future for a 4-day solo trip like this I would take my alcohol setup instead. It’s lighter, cleaner, faster and easier. I think the Bushbuddy makes more sense for longer trips though, or if you’re cooking for two.


On Day 3 we headed south for a dayhike to Cispus Pass.

A frog near Snowgrass Flat…




Lovely Cispus Basin…




Looking into the Klickitat drainage from Cispus Pass…




We passed some horses on our way home…




Early the next morning I heard the bugle of an elk. Sure enough, just a couple hundred yards away from my camp a whole herd were making their way down from the high country…




And up high there were a few goats grazing as there had been every morning…




It’s Sunday, our last day, and regrettably it’s time to head out…




We pass Goat Lake on the way…




The lake is now completely free of the ice which typically lingers late into summer…




A final look back at the jagged spine of Goat Rocks as some big, puffy clouds begin to roll in…



Here's a map of my route, (mostly hand drawn).

And here’s my gear list for this trip.

Awesome trip!

Gordon

Edited by swearingen on 09/19/2009 17:44:45 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Goat Rocks,WA-4 day trip on 09/19/2009 17:09:42 MDT Print View

Excellent trip report and pictures Gordan.. I agree about the BushBuddy--to much fiddle factor plus your hands get super dirty right before you have to eat....cool dog too!!

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Goat Rocks, WA - 4 Day Trip on 09/20/2009 11:11:22 MDT Print View

Nice photos, looks like the weather is still pretty warm where you are (September is cold in the Alps so far).

I like it that you took your dog with you, I would have loved to do the same with our dog.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Goat Rocks on 09/20/2009 14:43:59 MDT Print View

Very nice.
P.S. Some snowfields with rocks or cliffs at the bottom can be dangerous, did you use, or wish you had something to self-arrest with?

Edited by RobertM2S on 09/20/2009 14:53:19 MDT.