GOAT ROCKS WILDERNESS
PCT DAY 32: Thursday July 27, 2017
Mile 2246.6 – Mile 2272.1
25.5 miles (40.8 km)
I woke up at some point through the night. I looked up and I could see some stars through the tree canopy. I couldn’t see the tent mesh. I had a sense of sleeping out in the open, suspended and being cradled by the forest. It was a very beautiful, peaceful feeling and I quickly drifted back to sleep. I know it wasn’t a dream because it felt so beautiful, I tried to take a picture of the tree canopy above me. But of course it came out all black.
I was camped alone by a rapidly flowing glacial creek. So it didn’t matter how much noise I made breaking camp this morning. I was packed and on my way just after 5am. It was still not fully light to see the trail so I started with a torch.
Great morning to process the visual richness of yesterday. The scenery yesterday appeared so suddenly, it was overwhelming after days of hard work and little reward.
I was camped not far from a huge lava field which I passed early. The first couple of hours of hiking were absolutely delightful. It was cool and a mist shrouded the open forest through which I hiked. It was quite, except for the rumble of creeks at several crossings. Sunrise was illuminating the part of Mt Adams I could see when I turned to look back. Simon and Garfunkel song “Hello silence my old friend” poped into my head and it seemed to fit the mood of the morning.
I crossed a dirt road at some point early on where a camper van was parked. Judging by the stack of paper plates sitting on a table outside the van – this could possibly be my first trail magic, on trail. Except it was 6am and I guess even trail angels need to sleep.
The forest soon closed up and for the next four hours it was back to mosquitos and trying to outrun the blood hungry hordes. The trail passed several ponds, which were absolutely swarming. The air above them was thick with movement. I needed to stop for water but there was no way I could bring myself to slow down anywhere near these waterholes.
I soon entered the much anticipated Goat Rock Wilderness I had to get around a couple of huge trees which had fallen across the trail right by the sign.
Eventually the trail left the forest and I spent the next couple of hours hiking downslope of a ridge on my way to the beautifully named Cispus Pass. It was absolutely beautiful to feel the breeze, have no mosquitos and have awe inspiring views of the north face of Mt Adams and in the distance the distinctive cauldera of Mt St Helens and flattened mountain tops in between. The mountain slopes were carpeted with flowers. I could see all my favourites. And just as I thought all that is missing is beargrass, up it pops as if by magic, a small patch of them still in flower. It was breathaking – and then breathtaking was taken to a whole new high.
The approach to the pass still held a few patches of snow but nothing worrying. It reminded me of many similar slopes Hammer and I had gone through last year in full snow cover. I reached Cispus Pass just before 4pm. I rested a bit on top and enjoyed the view of the towering glacier peaks and the magnificent green valley below.
When I dropped over to the other side of Cispus Pass, I felt like I’ve died and gone to heaven. High Sierra last year moved me to tears and today was similar. People have told me how beautiful the area is but nothing prepared me for what I saw. The trail sweeps around the most glorious curved river valley through which Cispus River flows. There was a gentleness to the curves in the valley landscape combined with ruggedness of the volcanic peaks. Its hard to get a srnse of scale in the photos. I could see the trail sweeping around Cispus River and around the slopes on the other side. The slopes were covered in masses of flowers. And as it was late afternoon the light was becoming perfect for photography. I was awestruck and did not want to leave. I hope my photos do it some justice.
I’m camped on the approach to the Old Snowy Mountain, at an elevation of just over 6,000 ft. I stopped early so that that I can go over the Goat Rocks Knife Edge in the morning. The section from Mile 2262 is to be hiked slowly, so as to fully absorb the splendour of this landscape and see what makes it to special. I’m too elated to rest. I already want to come back and I haven’t even left yet.