Goat Rocks Backpacking

Goat Rocks 10-12AUG 2016
Russ and Pete gearing up for the hike
We initially planned for a hike from the Suiattle River to Holden, but were informed that the town of Holden was shut down from prior forest fires. After much adjusting we opted for the Goat Rocks Hike. I had apportioned 5 days so that we would not feel stressed about getting back home. We ended up needing only three days. Using two cars with one parked at White Pass and the other at our starting point at Walupt Lake, we were able to start and end our hike by our own conveyance. We left home at 7:30 am on 10AUG and arrived finally at the trailhead in time to start our hike about 11:30. We went up the Nanny Ridge Trail, which was about 2000 ft of immediate climbing until we got to Sheep Lake. We then were on the PCT, and had a little easier elevation profile. Though the trail was designed for horses, it still was a considerable amount of scrambling. The first pass was Cispus Pass, where we were able to meet some through hikers, which included Georgia Boy, who was on the last leg of completing the Triple Crown (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail). We dumped a bunch of our food on him, and he graciously got a photograph of all of us together.
The Three Musketeers on Cispus Pass
Russ, Georgia Boy, and Pete on Cispus Pass
Georgia Boy took off at almost twice the speed we were going, with less than ½ the weight on his back. It was a sudden realization that we were WAY overloaded with stuff, and started looking at that time for any and every thru-hiker who was starving and needed food. Over the Pass, we found ourselves in a verdant meadow with clean mountain streams and sore bones. It was then that we decided to set up camp, about a mile from our original destination of Snowgrass Flats.
My tent on our first night, with Pete and Russ’s tent off in the distance
Looking up from our tents
Waking up is hard to do for Russ and Pete
There were a few clouds in the sky which cleared overnight, and we had perfect weather for our walk the next day. The sunrise left a bright glow on Mt. St. Helens, which unfortunately could not be picked up well with my camera. We were at Snowgrass Flats in about an hour, and then slowly wound our way up the side of Old Snowy toward the knife-edge. Looking down, we could see herds of mountain goats, and also a herd of elk. They were a touch too far away to photograph, so left them in our memory. The knife-edge is a 5 mile or more walk along a ridge radiating out from Old Snowy. There was a sheer cliff on each side, which wasn’t terribly dangerous, but demanded your constant attention. One could not be a Hans-Guck-in-die-Luft character. We finally dropped down into McCall Basin, and were greeted by huge fields of alpine flowers in full bloom. What a glorious site.
A view of Mt Adams from Snowgrass Flats
A view of Mt. Rainier from above Snowgrass Flats
Goat Rocks with Old Snowy on the right. Our went to near the summit of Old Snowy, and then down the knife-edge.
Looking down the valley to Packwood Lake from high on Old Snowy
Pete ready to start the knife-edge
Looking back from the knife-edge on Old Snowy
A well needed break by a mountain stream in McCall Basin
Lupine and Indian Paintbrush were quite prolific
Our resting place that evening was at Tieton Pass, which really didn’t seem like a pass, though it was. At this point, we were greeted by multiple hikers, including a couple going from southern Oregon to Canada, another Mike and Teresa who was doing almost the same hike as us, and who will be later encountered. Our most cherished encounter was with the Brit Family Robinson III, a family from Northern England with a 12 yo daughter and 10 yo son, who had survived the entire journey from Campo (Mexican Border) to here. We gave them a bunch of food which they were quite eager to take, making our packs lighter. The family chronicles might be found here.  https://reallylongwalk.wordpress.com  with Josie and Jack, the Brit Family Robinson III. I dearly hope we might meet them again once they finish their journey. They left us a nice note on our car which we found at the end of our trip.
We also met Catwater and Sliderule, an elderly couple who hiked the PCT NoBo last year, and now doing it SoBo this year.
Friday am, we were up at 5:15 and on the trail by 7 am. We had no major passes to cross, but needed to cross a ridge which led us to above Shoe Lake. We could have gone to Shoe Lake, but I was concerned about adding elevation and mileage to our hike, which we learned later would not have happened. Dommage! Past Shoe Lake, the trail was nearly uniformly downhill though quite gradual in its descent. It still was hard on the feet, and it seemed like it was easier to go up than to go down. Also, I had run out of water, and there were no good water sources along the trail from Tieton Pass until we were near the end of our hike. I was totally dehydrated once reaching White Pass. Our friends Mike and Teresa had arrived before me, and we had arranged to give them a lift back to their car at Walupt Lake.
On top of our last major ridge climb
Looking down on Shoe Lake
Looking back at the Goat Rocks
A forward look from high up
The very well known to PCT thru-hikers Kracker Barrel store – also our destiny.
Russ arrives at White Pass
Pete arrives at White Pass

Lessons that we learned from the hike…

  1. We must go MUCH lighter. That even goes for me, who had the lightest pack.
  2. The Garmin was phenomenal at recording our tracks, and showed very little sign of battery usage, with lithium ion batteries.  I’ll use it again. It incorrectly calculated caloric output, but was a little too truthful about our snail pace on the trail. Plus, we now know exactly where we were.
  3. My shoes wore out. On inspecting the shoes after the hike, there were cracks where I had gotten blisters. I had hoped that they would last forever. I must now explore other hiking shoes.
  4. We need to all be individually prepared. Organizing for three old farts just doesn’t work, as we all want something different for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have different ideas on how backpacking should take place.
  5. We MUST hike on. The more you do, the more comfortable it is. It is now time to take a year off and do the PCT. I’m not sure I’ll persuade Russ, Pete, or my wife, but it’s worth a try. I still like bicycling, and wish to do some epic rides in the next few years.

To all the wonderful people we met on the trail, may your journeys continue on in safety and comfort.