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  1. #1
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    WA Goat Rocks Wilderness/Snowgrass Flat area

    From August 17-21, 2020 we visited the Goat Rocks Wilderness area in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, somewhat between Mt Rainier and Mt Adams. The Goat Rocks are remnants of a large stratovolcano, extinct for over half a million years. We didn't see any goats, but we sure saw a lot of rocks.

    For the pictures, see link at the bottom of the post.

    This is the most popular hiking area in the Goat Rocks Wilderness (supposedly hundreds of people flock there during the summer weekends). Thankfully, by going during the week and later in the summer, we did not see anywhere near as many people as we expected.

    Before setting off, we had already decided we would try to find a good campsite the first evening, and just do day hikes from there. It would save us the time of breaking and setting up camp every day, without the risk of hiking somewhere new and not finding a site suitable for a two-hammock setup with spreader bar, 12 ft long/11.5 ft wide tarp, and would also allow us to hike without having 30+ lbs on our backs every day. We did take our new pair of Tensa Trekking Treez, which in the absence of two properly distanced trees, would allow us to set up with only one tree, and one pole at the end of each hammock, but for all the other reasons, we wanted to try to find a proper hammock site on Day 1 and stay there. So we only used the poles for trekking, not for hanging.

    Day 1 (Monday)/orange on the map:
    From the Berry Patch trailhead (~4650 ft elevation), we began heading north on Goat Ridge Trail #95. This trail immediately starts ascending the southeast side of Goat Ridge through forest, with intermittent views of Mt. Adams.

    It was a beautiful sunny day in the low to mid 70s. Wildflowers were our companions throughout the entire trip: Monkeyflowers, Scarlet and Magenta Paintbrushes, Bear Grass, Bistort, Phlox, Heather, Western Anemone, Lupines, Daisies, Asters...

    Our first reliable stop for water was Jordan Creek at Jordan Basin (about 4 miles in).
    There is a campsite area in Jordan Basin. There were trees, but we didn't go examine them to see if hammocking would have been possible.

    Soon after climbing out of the basin (to ~6,650ft), we took Lily Basin Trail #86 heading east towards Goat Lake. The view of Mt Adams from up there was amazing.

    Goat Lake, which is at ~6,400 ft and mostly frozen, is spectacular and also popular. There were way too many people camping there. The close-up picture of Goat Lake doesn't do it justice nor does it give you a sense for how big it is. That thing is enormous. Try to zoom in on the right side, and you might see tiny people or tents. Absolutely no hammocking there, except for one site roughly in front of the lake where someone was hanging a day hammock.

    The zig-zagging trails to campsites and lookouts at Goat Lake were so well-worn that it was very difficult to know which was the through-trail. We took dead-ends more than once. Eventually, we realized that we had to cross the stream that flowed out of the lake. So we looked for the easy (dry) place to do that, but discovered none. Bob was able to hop on rocks to the other side. I had to ford it up to my ankles. As previously mentioned, it's a frozen lake that's melting at this time of year. The water temperature was, let us say, invigorating. I regret not having taken pictures here, but I was so focused on how to get across that photos were the last thing on my mind.

    From Goat Lake, it was about 3 miles, mostly descending, to our target campsite. While that wasn’t difficult, it was getting late, and we were getting hungry and tired. We saw many potential campsites along that last stretch of Alpine Camp/Snowgrass Flat, some even suitable for hammocks, but it seemed there were very few sites with nearby water sources. So we kept going to our intended destination. We were frequently serenaded by whistling marmots. And then one finally popped up and posed for us!

    We passed beautiful subalpine meadows covered in wildflowers and several small creeks and waterfalls. The trail at times became quite rocky.

    Trees were becoming larger and more plentiful as we descended. There had been very few at the elevation of Goat Lake. Our intended campsite was past the junction with Snowgrass Trail #96, on connector trail #97 at a place where a tributary of the Cispus River should cross it. Just a few hundred feet into the connector trail, we saw a sweet campsite near a small creek. We decided to set up camp there. By then, it was getting dark and cold, so we finished putting up the tarp and hammocks with headlamps on. Exhausted, we ate homemade food bars, cleaned up a bit, and went to sleep.

    9.58 miles, elevation gain 2,785 ft, descent 1,942 ft
    Temperature that night: 52F

    Day 2 (Tuesday)/blue on the map:
    We took it pretty easy, having a slow breakfast, improving our camp setup (now that we could see and had a bit more energy). The mosquitoes weren’t great, but they weren’t anywhere near as bad as they were at Flapjack Lakes last month. In the afternoon, we went for a casual exploratory day hike. It turned out the real place we’d been looking for was maybe another tenth of a mile down the trail at a serious river, but it was also a multi-site area and had quite a few people camping there, so we were glad we’d stopped where we did. Our campsite was about 80 feet off the (not heavily traveled) connector trail, somewhat hidden in the trees, on the edge of a meadow of wildflowers, and had a large area behind it that we could use for a kitchen, etc. It was ideal. That night, we had a full dinner of delicious homemade (now rehydrated) Misir Wat (Ethiopian spicy red lentils) with vegetables.

    2.43 miles, elevation gain 505 ft, descent 492 ft
    Temperature that night 46F

    Day 3 (Wednesday)/red on the map:
    We were ready for more serious day hiking. After breakfast, we headed south on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) #2000 to Cispus Basin and Cispus Pass (6,473ft). The views of Mount Adams, Mount St Helens, the basin, the Cispus River, the peaks and distant ranges, were stunning. Most of the trail was so dry that it was dusty. In many places, it was like beach sand. The hike wasn’t difficult, the weather was ideal, and we saw few people. And we got to hear and see pikas for the first time! Plus, because we hike in Vibram Five Fingers, I even managed to collect a tiny bouquet between my toes. All in all, a perfect day. That night, we had Ethiopian food again.
    In terms of possible hammock-friendly sites, I suppose it's possible to find something for a single hammock somewhere, but it would be slim pickings and again, we need something pretty big, so we wouldn't have wanted to risk getting there, not finding it, and having to turn around.

    7.14mi, elevation gain 1,296 ft, descent 1,283 ft
    Temperature low 48F and some light rain in the early morning

    Day 4 (Thursday)/green on the map:
    Cloudy, at times threatening rain. After enjoying breakfast and our morning espresso, our day hike took us back north along the PCT, aiming to reach Old Snowy Mountain. Several others - some of whom we’d encountered previously, had the same plan, but it wasn’t crowded. We did a loop, taking Snowgrass Trail #96 to PCT to Old Snowy, and PCT to #97 coming back. Water was very scarce on this trail as we climbed, and the environment had more rocks and fewer trees. At 2.5 miles, we came upon a creek - snowmelt runoff, really - just as hoped from our maps. While we collected water there, two horses and their riders came down the trail from above. As we continued climbing, it got colder, the wind became stronger, and the clouds got darker. The pink color on the snow is due to a cold-loving algae, Chlamydomonas nivalis.

    We eventually passed a lone little tent way up there, and all I could think of was, I hope they are constipated or can hold it till they get elsewhere 'cause I don't see where they could have privacy AND be able to dig a 6-8 inch cathole around here. I'm obviously an amateur and don't know all the secrets of expert hikers. Aaaanyway, back to the pictures, you will see views of Goat Lake, now from a distance, and it gives you a better perspective of how large it is.

    We encountered two large patches of snow that we couldn't get around, so we had to cross them (slowly) in our Vibram Five Fingers. Eventually, we came to the junction where the PCT continued forward. We instead took the turn towards Old Snowy Mountain (which is a PCT alternate route). We climbed a bit more, reaching 7,300ft before arriving at another patch of snow, this time on a steep climb. Other people with "industrial-strength" hiking boots were going slowly and sliding a bit, so we knew that was the end of the trail for us. We stood up there for quite a while, just admiring the sheer beauty of it all. Then we turned around and worked our way back. We also got to hear and see more pikas that day (no additional pictures, though). Coming back on the PCT towards #97, skirting Snowgrass Flat, there were possible hammock sites, but we didn't explore them.

    7 miles, elevation gain 1,959 ft, descent 1,801 ft
    Temperature low 50F, with light rain as forecast

    Day 5 (Friday)/purple on the map:
    It continued to rain in the morning. But as we were packing up the tarp, the rain let up so we could dry things reasonably well before putting them away. We were suited up for rain on the hike out, but rarely did it even sprinkle on us. This was mostly a forested trail out (Snowgrass Trail #96). We saw so many people hiking in on that trail (maybe 60?) that we were eager to get out.

    4.71 mi, elevation gain 312 ft, descent 1,224 ft

    Our trip lasted 4 nights / 5 days, for a total of at least 30 miles and elevation gain 6,857 ft.

    Overall, it was truly one of the most beautifully alien-looking places we have ever seen. So many different terrains, jaw-dropping views, carpets of wildflowers, forests, streams, snow, frozen lakes, volcanic rock, sand, marmots, pikas, horses. Wow.

    Hope you enjoy the photos.

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/3udv1XxbfuKJL6ti8
    Last edited by NW Boricua; 09-07-2020 at 13:23.

  2. #2
    Moderator TallPaul's Avatar
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    Thank you both for such a wonderful trip report.

    The pictures of Mount Hood and Mount Rainier are breathtaking. I’m jealous of all of the wonderful flowers you got to enjoy.

    And that picture of the marmot sticking his head up – fantastic!

    After doing much of the same loop as you (except Cispus basin), I agree some of the best hammock hanging spots are on the bypass trail #97. The trees there can be large but there are many obvious places to hang a hammock. There are less spots to tent if you happen to bring along a friend and their tent but there are some of those as well. I like how you set up base camp and hiked from there.
    I personally camped on the Lily Basin trail south of goat lake in a small clump of trees that worked but wasn’t the best.

    I shot some video of my trip and will post a trip report later. I got lucky the smoke from the forest fires wasn’t too bad. But wow the wind was a bit crazy.

  3. #3
    New Member
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    Glad your trip went well. The mountains in my pictures should be Mt Adams and Mt St Helens.

  4. #4
    ofuros's Avatar
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    Lovely photos, enviable trip.
    Mountain views are good for the soul....& getting to them is good for my waistline.

    https://ofuros.exposure.co/

  5. #5
    Moderator TallPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NW Boricua View Post
    Glad your trip went well. The mountains in my pictures should be Mt Adams and Mt St Helens.
    Ah that’s right you had rain / clouds on your day near Old Snowy.

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