Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

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DerWanderer
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Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by DerWanderer » July 24th, 2009, 12:26 pm

The Goat Rocks Wilderness is where some of my best memories of childhood were made. My parents took my sister and me on several magical backpacks there, but about 10 years had passed since I was last there. This last midweek, however, I had the opportunity to join a great group of Mazamas on a Goat Rocks adventure, expertly led by Tom Davidson (Tom goes as [email protected] on PH).

The “classic” Goat Rocks, for me at least, is the Lilly Basin/Jordan Basin loop, which is accomplished without ever setting foot on the Pacific Crest Trail. Little did I know what I had been missing all these years. The PCT winds through some really spectacular scenery on its way through the Goat Rocks; landmarks and landscapes that were familiar to me appeared in a fresh perspective as well.

Our route took us from the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead to the Snowgrass Flats junction, but instead of taking the Lilly Basin Trail, we took the bypass trail to the PCT, where we camped at the junction. That spot afforded us fantastic views of Mt. Adams, Ives Peak, expanses of rolling alpine meadows dotted with stunted trees, and layer upon layer of forested hills in the distance.

Day 2 took us north on the PCT to the saddle between Old Snowy and Goat Ridge. From there, those of us who wanted to made the hike to Old Snowy summit. There is a well-worn user trail to the summit, and right now, snow is not a problem: Old Snowy is not snowy in the least. The views from the summit are, of course, spectacular.

From there, we traversed below the saddle to Goat Lake for lunch, then returned to our camp via the Lilly Basin Trail (that trail is much shorter than I remember it as a child!)

Not content just to pack out on our third and final day, we took a morning excursion south on the PCT to Cispus Basin, a spectacular, emerald-green valley splashed with wildflowers here and there, and creeks streaming down its steep sides. Only then did we make our way down through the forest and down to our cars. Thanks for a great trip, Tom and everyone who went!


Now for the photo show:

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Mt. Adams at sunset

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Mount St. Helens at sunset

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Mt. Adams early in the morning

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Mount St. Helens with Goat Ridge in foreground

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Goat Lake, Hawkeye Point, and Mt. Rainier from the PCT

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The same view, a quarter mile north on the PCT from the last shot

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Looking toward Ives Peak from the summit of Old Snowy with Mt. Adams in the distance

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My Old Snowy Summit Photo

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Wildflowers along the Lilly Basin Trail with Mt. Adams in the background

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Mt. Adams early on our last morning, with clouds moving in

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Looking toward the Gilbert Peak ridge and Cispus Pass from the PCT

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I can't stop taking pictures of Mt. Adams. It's an obsession.

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Next several photos: Looking into the Cispus Basin from the PCT

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The End!

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awildman
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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by awildman » July 24th, 2009, 12:44 pm

Nice! I love the Goat Rocks - though I've never seen any goats there. Tons of rocks, though...

You got some nice weather! There has always been fog and wind along the PCT in the Packwood Glacier vicnity when I'm there - even when it's sunny and bluebird on either side of the ridge. You're lucky to see Rainier up close and personal!

How were the bugs?

(My avatar at left is at a campsite in Cispus Basin. The dog and I are enjoying the view from the north side of the basin.)
Rambling on at Allison Outside

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DerWanderer
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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by DerWanderer » July 24th, 2009, 1:23 pm

awildman - yes, we had quite a high rock-to-goat ratio; however, we did spot three goats lounging on the snow below the north side of the Goat Ridge-Old Snowy saddle. We also saw a herd of elk from a distance, plus a bodybuilding marmot bigger than any I'd seen.

And yeah, the bugs were bad, at least for me (I have tasty blood). Anytime in camp outside the tents was spent with a mosquito escort, and I had kamikaze flies aiming for my eyes at full speed more than once. Oddly, despite how annoying the mosquitoes were, I feel like I got fewer actual itchy bites than on some day hikes I've taken recently. Long, loose clothing helps.

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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by sparklehorse » July 24th, 2009, 2:04 pm

Great report and photos, thanks! I'm thinking of heading up there in September so it's nice to get a little preview. Looks like you had some fine weather and a great trip despite the bugs.

G
.
You have to milk the cow a lot to make a bit of cheese.
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by greasywheats » July 24th, 2009, 6:31 pm

Hi Derwanderer!

New to the site and love it.

My wife and I were looking at doing this hike as well, but were told that the road to Chambers Lake is closed due to road construction. Is this false, or did you get to the Snowgrass Flats trailhead from a different road?

Thanks much!
Dennis

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DerWanderer
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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by DerWanderer » July 24th, 2009, 7:33 pm

Dennis,

Allow me to extend to a very warm welcome to PortlandHikers! I hope you'll stick around; we're a fun bunch and you'll fit right in.

This is a fantastic year to do the Goat Rocks based on the conditions I saw, and I hope you and your wife make it up there and share your photos on this forum when you get back.

You are right that to get there requires a detour for the time being. Instead of leaving HWY 12 from Packwood, you will need to head south from Randle. Although you follow the Cispus River most of the way, it's a little confusing because of all the junctions, so I'll let Google do the directions:

Link to Google directions

Hope that helps.

Caleb

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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by greasywheats » July 24th, 2009, 7:56 pm

Awesome Caleb- No better information than straight from someone that has been there! Great Google map too!

We are planning on taking a long weekend (3 or 4 days) at Goat Rocks sometime in the next month. Our plan is to "base camp" out of a (hopefully) small, established automobile campground and enjoy 3 or 4 days of unadulterated dayhiking (preferably getting up high and away from the crowds)...looking at the maps briefly, I'm not sure that Old Snowy/ Snowgrass flats area is going to work now (we had looked at base camping at Chambers Lake). Any suggestions regarding good areas/campgrounds to accomplish our plan? Sunday, we are thinking about driving up to Packwood to scout around and dayhike the Tatoosh Ridge.

Cheers!
Dennis

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fettster
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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by fettster » July 24th, 2009, 8:43 pm

Aww man, taunting me with the trip report! I so want to get there again this year, but it looks like July and August are going to slip by before I have the chance. That is one of my favorite wilderness areas, if not my favorite. You can't help thinking happy thoughts when remembering visits to this area.

I'm guessing the area wasn't too busy mid week? What trail did you take back to the car? Cispus Basin looks really inviting!

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DerWanderer
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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by DerWanderer » July 24th, 2009, 9:19 pm

Dennis - I've camped at the Snowgrass Flats trailhead, but that was when my family and I drove up in the afternoon with the idea of starting on the trail early the next morning for a backpack. I don't know what the camping is like at Chambers Lake.

For the Goat Rocks, part of the problem with dayhiking from a car-camping base is that the Wilderness Area is expansive enough that getting to the really spectacular scenery requires at least a 5-mile hike, one-way, through dense, viewless forest. Once you get there and start exploring off the beaten path, you may be looking at 15-25 mile day hikes. For that reason, I've passed many backpackers but rarely any day hikers on the trail while in the Goat Rocks. Of course, that fact has probably helped protect the area; it's crowded enough as it is, and I can't imagine how crowded it might be if the access were easier.

Perhaps someone else on this board could answer your question better than I could, however... you could post a question to the "Trail Q&A" board to hopefully get a quick answer. Or you could call the ranger station in Randle.

And although I've never been there, I've heard that the Tatoosh Wilderness is a great hike. I'd really love to see pictures if you go there! Maybe I'll make it there this fall. I've heard the road is rough; you might ask locally about the road conditions.

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DerWanderer
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Re: Goat Rocks exploration and Old Snowy summit - 7/21-23/09

Post by DerWanderer » July 24th, 2009, 9:43 pm

Hey David, nice to see ya! It was fun to see pics of Kodi in your recent Newberry report!

If you can make it in September, or even October before the snow flies, that's still a great time to do it (and can mean fewer crowds), so don't give up hope!

To answer your questions, we took the same route back (we didn't go over Goat Ridge to Jordan Basin, although that's a worthy way to do it).

We probably saw more than a half a dozen other parties while we were there, plus a Forest Service trail tending crew. It definitely wasn't a solitude experience (solitude just doesn't happen on the major GR trails) but it wasn't crowded either.

If the Goat Rocks keeps getting more heavily used, it may need a quota system like the Enchantments to keep it wild, although I don't know how that would work with PCT running through it. In the bushes by our camping location I found 2 empty, discarded cans of Rainier beer (oh, the irony).

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