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Posts Tagged ‘Goat Rocks’

Once we managed to make giant poops after eating so much, Hop-a-long and I chased Lush and Man Party down and found them on the top of the climb.  We knew we had to make time in order to get to White Pass on the two days of food we brought with us.  From the top, we could see how the trail swung around in a giant backwards “c” towards  mountains that looked massive and super cool.  Those mountains we had heard about since leaving California: Goat Rocks.  Super psyched for epicness.

Artwork from Team All-Dead

Artwork from Team All-Dead

Plunging into the trees, we kept up a great pace through the backwards “c” toward the climb up to Goat Rocks.  After many miles, we stopped right before dark and conveniently, right before the next climb to grab our headlamps and manage to stomach a bar to up our energy.  I enjoy climbing at night because it seems less strenuous since I can’t see exactly where I’m going other than up the trail.  With a careful eye, it’s quite meditative and peaceful at night.

As we climbed up, we did slow ourselves a little bit to make sure of our footing because we could tell we were contouring narrowly and nothing really seemed like it would catch our fall for at least 50 feet down.  Eventually, we came to a drainage which signaled we neared a “campsite.”  I put campsite in parentheses because many campsites marked in spots such as this on a climbing contour often are a.) not big, and b.) not that great.  We banked on some water there after thoroughly scanning half-mile’s notes, yogi’s notes, and the data book which frustratingly don’t correspond often.

We got a trickle of water just enough to fill water bottles with an ounce of patience and a decently flatish area.  Better than we had hoped!  Crashing out at as soon as we cooked dinner, we knew we had to be up and at it early to make 26 miles over Goat Rocks to White Pass.  Despite eating to capacity and beyond at lunch, we had reached the 17 miles after lunch to match the 10 before lunch to make a whopping 27 mile day.

Pumped for Goat Rocks, we began early with cameras ready.  We ran into many people out doing the same section we planned on doing in a day and a half in four days…oh the luxuries of not thru-hiking.  Most of them we managed to get off with minimal conversation except for Mark Trail who dutifully took our pictures and gave us a head count of all the thru-hikers ahead of us by day for three or four days back.  Talkative dude with a large external frame pack and dirty girl gaiters.

We continued going ever upward toward some of the most amazing views since the High Sierras.  The higher we climbed, the better views we saw.  At a small plateau, a side trail went off and we saw some artwork from Team All-Dead with No Amp and Bone Lady.  It made Hop-a-long and I chuckle, then continue forward.  The PCT actually crosses the very tip of the Packwood Glacier not much further on which just looked like a small snow field.

Mt. Adams and the fire to the south

Mt. Adams and the fire to the south

For a good amount of time we could see Mt. Adams smoking to the south and Mt. Rainer in all it’s majesty to the north.  The last push, we knew we were in for it when the PCT split: a hiker PCT and an equestrian PCT.  Just like in Crater Lake, the hiker PCT went straight up, no questions asked which – the equestrian PCT contoured over to the ridge we would later descend.  We gawked at it for a minute and determined the equestrian PCT more sketchy, especially if more snow covered the area.

We took an hour early lunch break on top, despite having gone only 8 miles to savor the view and what so many people had told us about with such fervor.  Truly amazing are the only words to describe it.  The trail followed a knifes edge down for miles along a ridge cutting in between two deep valleys teeming with snow melt streams and green plants galore.  Rainer framed it to the right climbing twice the height that we found ourselves on top of.

Next step: down, down, down.  The ridge dropped drastically on loose rock and scree and the trail did it’s best to wind ever so slightly to take a wee bit of the edge off, but the trail still lost something like 900 feet in 0.6 or 0.7 of a mile…absurdly steep for the PCT…even for the AT, that’s steep.  Hop-a-long managed to go down faster, but took enough pictures that my knees could moderately keep up.

Once the equestrian bypass joined back up, the trail went along the very edge of the ridge with several hundred foot drops to either side.  I thanked the wind for being mild that day.  We found the super sketchy part that Mark Trail had warned us about and cautioned us to stay together for.  The trail had literally been washed out for about six feet or so.  The trail was already no more than 8-10 inches wide, but in this spot, fine scree just shot hundreds of feet down.  Hop-a-long jumped it after some debate while I fished a foot around in the scree to test it’s stability.  Upon finding a solid rock in amongst the unstable mess, I put my weight on it then fished around with the other foot for something else calmly, but surely.  I found one, weighted it, then got to the other side.  Not something for those timid of heights, that’s for sure!

Looking down to the knifes edge and Mt. Rainer

Looking down to the knifes edge and Mt. Rainer

We dropped off the knife’s edge for a hundred yards or so and made a very tight contour in some dense rock and then we were back on the ridge going up and over several small bumps.  Finally, when the ridge petered out, the trail wrapped around and veered east down into a green valley.  We crossed many snow melt streams that were clear as day, but came from pink snow, so we waited until we found a decent looking one and filled up on water since most of our information said water could be iffy later on until White Pass.

Continuing down for what seemed like eternity, we finally began to go up again to hit the top of another ridge before descending to White Pass where Dead would have dinner.  We both wished we had allotted ourselves more snacks because the demanding terrain had increased our appetites.  The trail found every way to wind around natural features that it could, taking us the ultra scenic route.

Near the top of the last ridge, Hop-a-long came up upon a herd of mountain goats and got some great pictures of them.  I was just about two or three minutes behind and the last one had disappeared into the bush right before I got there, but she was super stoked about seeing the giant giants.  So there really are goats in Goat Rocks!

Getting to the road just after dark, we stumbled around trying to find the campground which looked super obvious on the map.  The map failed to make a horse campground separate from the real campground and we figured it out after half an hour of stumbling around dodging horse shit to find Dead Animal and dinner!  We also found Tahoe’s friend Ed in the adjacent campsite as another surprise.

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The next morning, Hop-a-long and I left before dawn again and began plugging away at the miles feeling the cold sinking into the ground waiting for snow.  Wanting to beat it, we continued slackpacking as long as possible.  Out of the horse camp we flew as it slowly began to get lighter.  Jubel was also on a mission: he had managed to leave before us!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALucky for us, the straight up and down several thousand foot climbs had subsided for a bit and we had rolling hills instead which gave our tired legs a wee break.  Noticing a lot of people seemed to be out enjoying the wilderness, I pondered why they were all there until I realized it was Saturday.  Weekenders.  Right.

It still seemed more than the average weekend crowd out to walk around a bit though, so I asked one, “Do you know why so many people are out this weekend?  Is it a holiday that I’ve forgotten about?”

“Oh no.  It’s just probably the last nice weekend of the year,” he replied in a matter-of-fact way.

Great.  400 miles left and this is the last nice weekend?  Well, shit.  Hop-a-long and I caught Jubel leaving a shallow lake at the 10 mile mark for the day.  We waved in and out and sat down for a rest since we had not stopped yet.  That’s the great thing about slackpacking: more miles with less pain.

We had found ourselves in another lake filled area, but so many of the lakes here had lost quite a bit of water.  Sandy stretches between the marshy grass and the water showed exactly where the water level usually reaches but had receded away.

Headphones went on and we kept walking.  One foot in front of the other.  We ran into one dirty looking guy on a wild horse and learned that horses react better if you step down from the trail instead of up since they don’t always understand how big they are.  More horse poop…awesome.

Hitting the first road, we took a short break to see if Dead had made it there and we meandered around.  Finding nothing, we left a short note written in rocks that we had been there in case he found the spot later.  Several miles further, we found him at the next road and we plumped down tired, guzzled a beer, and stuffed our faces with some chips and salsa.

It was still another ten miles to the easiest way to get off into Trout Lake where Hop-a-long had long-awaited shoes mailed to her.  Already being 2:30 pm, we decided that 20 miles was enough for the day and Dead drove us into the very small abode of Trout Lake where we grabbed Hop’s shoes and headed back into Stevenson where we splurged for a room (the absolute last one in town…we called everywhere) and resupplied at a giant Safeway.  Who knew so many people visit Stevenson, Washington on a non-holiday weekend?

No matter, we got everything set and went to Walking Man Brewery where we enjoyed a wee bit of beer and some grub before retiring back to our room and doing some long needed laundry which had not gotten done in over 130 miles.  Oops!

In the morning, we did our usual sleep in, take our time, and leave right at check out time to head back to the trail.  Before hitting the trail, we stopped for some lunch at a podunk little restaurant which turned out to be absolutely delicious!  However, we found ourselves so full that we had to sit and hang out at the trailhead for almost two hours.

To be fair, we actually had to bring our whole packs for a stretch since we weren’t sure if Dead could get to the next road before Goat Rocks.  Also, we found ourselves having to deal with yet another fire on the side of Mt. Adams.  Finding a map, we saw that the fire had stayed at least 1.5 miles to the east of the PCT which was still open to thru-hikers, but no one else.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I amused ourselves at that, not knowing whether to take offense to it or not.  Either they didn’t want to hear thru-hikers complain about the closure until the PCT was actually on fire, or they just don’t care about us.

We plunged into it and found ourselves in thick smoke that gave us headaches quickly.  Coughing and coughing, we scooted up and began to contour Mt. Adams not seeing anything too great due to the smoke cover and our bloodshot eyes.  Finding Lush and Man Party, we chatted for a few moments, then pressed on for another mile or two.  We got as far away from the smoke as we could and camped on lava ash for the night.

Wanting to get away from the smoke more, we got up early and headed onward trying to clear our heads of wildfire smoke.  We did get a few glimpses of Mt. Adams and it’s glaciers through thickets of smoke which was a brilliant sight.  We contoured away from the smoke and down the north face of the mountain toward what some people claimed to be an exceptional lava spring.

It gushed buckets straight out of a large heap of lava rocks to pool in a brilliantly clear divot.  Hop-a-long and I both treated it despite how awesome it looked due to close proximity of clearly used toilet paper, campsite, and a road.  Every time that happens, it saddens me that people couldn’t walk just a little further away to relieve themselves.

We hit the road and found Dead Animal ready to cook us lunch with the trusty Coleman stove.  Hop-a-long and I plopped down, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcut vegetables, and helped wherever he needed it.  He regaled us about his entertaining night camping right next to the road while we told him about the smoke.  Lush and Man Party joined in for a little bit but managed to keep on a better schedule than our go for 10 miles, then take a 3 hour break, then another 10 miles etc.

Once again, we stretched our small stomachs to their limits and then had to lazily sit there while we digested a good portion of it.

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