GOAT ROCKS WILDERNESS
PCT Day 10. Saturday July 23, 2022
Mile 2262+ 20 miles today
Total Distance Hiked: 184 miles/296 kilometres
The forest felt dark and mysterious when I woke in the middle of the night. The mosquitos have stopped buzzing and the current of fatigue that was running through my legs last night had eased. I fell back to sleep and was woken a little later by the whistling of marmots somewhere in the valley. Like train conductors whistling for the train to pull out of the station.
And we did, leaving camp just before 6am. Shadowed by a cloud of mosquitos we climbed out of the valley. A heavy mist shrouded the forest.
The air was cool, hiking felt easy and in a couple of hours we came into a clearing with the tip of Mr Rainier emerging the mist. Mosquitoes disappeared, so we sat on trail to have breakfast watching the sun burn off the shrouding mist leaving a fantastic view of Mt Rainier. What a great breakfast spot.
The morning just kept getting better. Views south back towards Mt Adams made it looked so far away. Hard to believe we walked around it only yesterday.
We were so excited to reach Cispus Pass. A sort of photographic wonderland in my mind. Today the excitement was a bit mixed with anxiety for me as we were not sure how much snow we would encounter on the steep approach to the pass.
We expected snow and we got snow. As we approached the Pass it was a bit hairy due to the slope but slowly we made it to the cornice of snow at the top of the pass. It wasn’t hard to kick some steps in the cornice and pop into the wonderland.
I was so happy to see the whole valley pretty much clear of snow.
I think I hollered with joy at seeing it looking resplendent in its spring green colours. The valley is just as beautiful as I remember it. The trail winds it’s way around the huge bowl shaped valley with numerous streams and waterfalls of snowmelt to cross. All the creek crossings were OK but Cispus River was a wet shoe crossing for me. Hammer with his long legs managed to step across a few stones and stay largely dry. The cold water felt wonderful on my feet. How nice it would have been to have had a swim under its icy waterfall.
We stopped to dry our feet and have lunch. We were joined by Starman who was just behind us at the river crossing. It was great to chat to him over lunch and learn a little bit more about his background and reasons for being here. He is a Vermont resident, we are of similar age and have similar professional backgrounds. So nice to sit in the sun and dry off before continuing on.
So with great excitement we got going to the Goat Rocks knifeedge traverse. It was mid-afternoon by the time we made the Old Snowy Mountain Junction.
We were so relieved to find much of the top of the knifeedge was free of snow.
Climbing the steep Old Snowy Alternate I couldn’t believe that my body got me here. I have dreamt of returning to this magical landscape and really did think my injury would be the end of my ability to visit these wild places. I was so happy, I could have cried. But I was too busy trying to breathe and keep up with Hammer.
The view across the knifeedge is like being on top of the world, well this part of the world anyway. At over 7,000 ft it is the highest point of the PCT in Washington. Once on top there is a trail all the way up Old Snowy Mountain and we could see some people up there. But for us the knifedge north was enough.
I was slow descending the loose scree from Old Snowy Mountain. I just took it easy – more time to see the world. Walking on the slate rock shingles lower down sounded like rain on a tin roof with our footfall.
The sky was clear with a little afternoon haze in the distance. That did not detract from the splendid views of the Goat Rocks spine stretching towards Mt Rainier to the north and to the south Mt Adams and Mt St Helens. And inbetween layers and layers of mountain wilderness.
I kept stopping to take pictures and Hammer strode on, knowing that we still have a long way to descent and find a campsite.
Hundreds of pictures later, we were coming off the knifeedge late in the afternoon. A few more steep snowy patches on the descent – we made our first snow-free campsite about 7pm. We are again sharing the site with Starman.
While setting up camp we were surprised to see a fox approaching us from the woods nearby. It did not seem scared of us at all. I hope our shoes don’t go missing overnight. And to finish off this perfect day
my happy bird sang us to sleep, tired but very happy campers.