Monthly Archives: July 2012

69 – Grouse Ridge Trail

On our way to the trailhead for a hike along Grouse Ridge, we stopped by the USDA Forest Service Public Service Center at Glacier for a last minute snow condition update. A less-frequented area, they had no information about the road we needed to follow, nor any information about the condition of the trail. They did have reports that the snow was off of quite a few other trails that were at about the same elevation, and some even slightly higher, than our destination – so off we set.

Checking snow levels at Parks Service in Glacier

Just before the parking lot for the Heliotrope Ridge Trail, we turned off onto another gravel road and started climbing higher and higher in elevation. The wildflowers were absolutely beautiful along both sides of the road, but when driving an old Volvo wagon up a winding, one-lane gravel road that hugs the edge of a steep drop-off as it climbs a ridge, I really needed to keep my eyes on the lookout for deep potholes – rather than beautiful wildflowers.

Indian paint brush . . . Grouse Butte

Most likely an old climbers route, our map indicated a short trail at the end of an abandoned (probably over-grown) road, but we did not know how long that trail would be – or in what condition we might find it. Since the wildflowers were so beautiful as we drove, rather than miss them, we parked along the side of the road and extended the length of our hike by walking along the road. I thought these tiger lilies exceptional!

Tiger lilies . . . along the trail

The road had a very gently elevation gain to it as we walked along, and made a great warm-up for us before we reached the actual trail later on.

Following the logging road to Grouse Ridge trailhead . . .

From the gravel road, we picked up the trail. It was a retired logging road. This trail was fairly easy to follow and appeared to have received a little maintenance

Stream crossing . . . along Grouse Ridge Trail

The trail led us into a forest so thick there was very little underbrush as it continued to gain elevation.

Yellow cedar . . . along the Grouse Ridge trail

To describe portions of the trail as primitive is a bit generous as it was quite obvious that the trail receives little use and has not received regular trail maintenance. At times difficult to determine exactly where the trail even was, several times Kent marked the route we were following to help us find our way back.

Marking the trail . . .

And we continued our climb.

(pic by Kent) . . . along the trail

s often is the case this time of year in the high country, we hit snow.

Snow . . . along the trail

Near the top of the ridge we sat on the edge of a snow field for our picnic. Even with a cloudy sky, I found the view most enjoyable.

Pound cake for dessert . . . oh, what a view

To reach the trailhead for Grouse Ridge, follow the driving directions to the Heliotrope Ridge trailhead found here – http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/heliotrope-ridge – but just before the parking area for the Heliotropt trail, take the gravel road that is on the right and continue following that road until it ends.

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68 – Yellow Aster Butte

Tiger lilies, penstemon, Indian paint brush, fireweed, cow parsnips, columbine, bleeding hearts and more, it was high season for wildflowers along the trail to Yellow Aster Butte. Right from our boot-up, wildflowers lined the way. And look at that snow-capped peak! One mountain after another, gorgeous snow-capped peaks filled the horizon.

Great view from trailhead . . . booting up on the tailgate

With slices of homemade pizza in our pack, we hoped to picnic near the junction of the trail to Tomyhoi Lake just below Gold Run Pass as we signed in at the trailhead.

Signing in at the trailhead . . .

Filled with bushes and wildflowers, the trail started out climbing quickly on switchbacks leading through an old slide area.

(pic by Kent) . . . Tiger Lilies along the trail

With a few easy stream crossings, the trail continued to gain in elevation a bit more gradually once we entered the forest.

(pic by Kent) . . . stream crossing along the trail

Continuing, we entered the Mount Baker Wilderness area within the National Forest.

Entering the Mount Baker Wilderness area

Finally, the trail led us into the snow.

No hike seems complete without snow . . .

Snow was no problem this time! Having stopped at Yeager’s Sporting Goods on our way out of town so I could pick up a pair of ICEtrekkers, in no time I was safely tekking up and down those snow fields.

Ice trekkers . . . great for hiking on the snow

At times, the snow was so deep that it completely covered the trail, but with his advanced trail finding skills, Kent kept us on course as we continued our climb in the direction of Gold Run Pass

The trail is . . . . . . . there

With temps in the high 70’s, what a fun afternoon it was as we climbed the snow banks in the bright sunshine.

(pic by Kent) . . . trekking through the snow

Finally coming to a large snow field that was scattered with huge boulders, we had found the perfect spot for our picnic.

“homemade” pizza picnic . . . at the pass

With an excellent view of majestic Mount Baker, once again, it seemed that we had found the top of the world.

(pic by Kent) . . . on top of the world – Mount Baker backdrop

To reach the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead from Bellingham, follow the Mount Baker Highway east for 34 miles to the Glacier Public Service Center. Continuing east for another 13 miles, turn left onto Forest Road (FR) 3065 (signed “Twin Lakes Road”) just past the Department of Transportation’s Shuksan garage. Bear immediately left at an unmarked junction and continue on FR 3065 for another 4.5 miles. Parking is available along the side of the road. Toilet facilities are available near the trailhead. With more hiking and sight-seeing opportunities available further up along that road, it continues on to Twin Lakes. We could see from where we parked, however, that the snow would have still been too deep for my car my old Volvo.

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With my step-sister and her husband now residing fulltime at their home in the Mount Baker Rim Community at Glacier, we had made arrangements to visit with them after our hike.

Climbing the steps to the treehouse

Overlooking a creek, the tree house is beautifully decorated and makes a lovely guest house. She took this photo of us as we climbed the steps for a tour.

(pic by Judy Borman Harding) . . . Us, on top of the treehouse steps

Near dark and about ready to head home, Kent noticed the fireman’s pole next to the steps to the stairs leading up to the tree house. Encouraged by us, he gave it a try.

Sliding down the pole . . . from the treehouse

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67 – Park Butte Trail (Backpacking Trip)

Having followed the Baker River Trail for less than a mile last Spring before we turned off to cross the river and hike the Baker Lake Trail (see: Hike #46 – Baker Lake), we knew it was beautiful there and felt it would make a great backpacking destination as we continue to wait for the snow to recede from the high country, so we loaded up our backpacks, grabbed our boots and hit the road.

Loaded up and ready to go . . .

We stopped in at the North Cascades National Park Services Complex in Sedro Woolley to register for one of the two campsites along the Baker River Trail. Informed that both sites were already in use, we inquired about current snow levels in the high country and what other trails might make a good backpacking trip, and learned that the trail through Schreiber’s Meadow, located in the Mount Baker Recreation Area, was about ninety percent snow free.

Park Service Office . . . in Sedro Woolley, WA

The trail through Schreiber’s Meadow goes on to join trails to Park Butte, Railroad Grade and to Mount Baker, so with sunny skies above and humid temps in the mid to upper 80s, we decided we would start at Schreiber’s Meadows and continue until we found the perfect spot to set up camp.

Trailhead to Schreiber’s Meadow

As the trail often followed boardwalks made from thick, hand-hewn planks through its more boggy areas, Schreiber’s Meadow was a nice surprise. With lots of trees, plenty of early spring wildflowers in bloom, ground huckleberries forming on the vines and mountain heather bushes about to bloom, the meadow seemed more like a sunny forest to me.

Along the trail . . . through Schreiber’s Meadow

Expecting a little snow, sure enough, we eventually found ourselves trekking over portions of the trail covered with snow.

Snow on the trail . . .

We often find ourselves on trails with hazardous stream crossings this time of year, and this trail as no exception. Floods took the bridge out several years ago, and now a make-shift bridge of logs and plywood is in place.

Crossing the stream . . .

Then the we started climbing in elevation as we continued on to the Park Butte Trail.

Along the trail to Park Butte . . .

It was not long before the entire trail was buried under snow, but with Kent’s advanced trail finding skills, we were able to stay on route fairly well. When we lost the trail, he would scout ahead to determine in which direction we should go in order to pick up the trail again.

Scouting . . . looking for the trail

After climbing up one snow field after another for what felt like hours in the hot summer sun, we finally reached the absolute perfect place to make camp.

Entering snowfield . . . to our camp site

We had the perfect view of Mount Baker right from our tent.

Setting up camp . . . Mount Baker

With a 360 degree view of mountains, peaks and valleys, it was one of the most stunning places I had ever seen. Really, it could not have been more beautiful.

(pic by Kent) . . . Mount Baker evening at camp

We boiled snow and sipped hot cups of tea as we looked out at the glorious view. Then we had a backpacker’s dinner of hearty bowls of mashed potatoes with bacon and cheese stirred in. We walked around identifying the landmarks, taking pictures and taking it all in.

Photo op . . .

Sometimes the world feels small as far as when and where people’s paths happen to cross, and that snow field by our camp felt like one of those small world places as Kent’s old friend came back country skiing through. Hanging the food bag on a cable high up in the trees as two guys came skiing through, he looked up and said, “Jeremy?” Moments later, there was a very happy reunion.

Kent and Jeremy . . .

The next morning, we were joined by Canada Jays right about the time we finished breakfast. It is obvious why they have the nickname of “camp robbers”, but so entertaining, it’s not like we weren’t encouraging them.

Hand feeding Canadian Jay

The next morning, we saw several groups of climbers pass through the snow field on their hike back down, and a couple of groups of hikers heading up.

(pic by Kent) . . . hanging out at camp

After a leisurely morning at camp, we packed up and started our hike back down.

(pic by Kent) . . . hiking out from camp site near snowfield

Hiking down hill always feels easier – especially when there are heavy packs on our backs.

Observing wildflowers along the trail . . .

With so many hikers along the trail, there was a bit of a wait to cross back over that stream where the bridge had washed out.

Hikers ready to cross the stream . . .

Waiting for my turn to cross as Kent carried my pack to the other side, I wondered just how many hikers that make-shift bridge would support at one time.

Hooked on hiking, heading out of Schreiber’s Meadow on our way back to the trailhead, we were already starting to discuss possible trails for our next hike.

Heading out of Schreiber’s Meadow

Such a wonderful backpacking experience this trip was!

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66 – Hannegan Pass

We had a great time trekking through the snow along the Hannigan Pass Road when we attempted this hike back in May (see Hike #48 – Hannigan Pass Road), but having turned around after hiking five or so miles up the road, we were unable to even reach the trailhead then. Now it is summer, and the rivers and streams down here at near sea level are mud filled and practically flowing over their banks due to the snowmelt in our mountains, so we have been regularly checking the USDA Forest Service road and trail conditions for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and watching for updated trip reports on the Washington Trails Association website. The Hannegan Pass trail conditions looked promising – for at least the first three miles, so we headed up the Mount Baker Highway. Our first stop was Graham’s Store in Glacier (for ice cream), and second, the USDA Forest Service Public Service Center for a last minute snow condition update.

Checking snow levels at Ranger Station . . .

Normally our backpacks are stuffed with raingear and plenty of fleece layers, but this was not the case today. This happened to be one of those unplanned, spur of the moment type of hikes that we often do when we have the right combination – a day off from work and sunny skies above. It had been a gloriously sunny day when we grabbed our hiking boots and shut the door at home, but the truth of the matter was, we were totally unprepared for the storm that moved in as we drove from Glacier to the trailhead. With the windshield wipers going as fast as they could, they barely kept up with the heavy downpour, and we shared our doubts about being able to hike in such heavy rain. Had we really driven all that distance only to turn around and head back?

Thunder storms often move fast, and we’ve certainly waited storms out before (see: Hike #32 – Squires Lake Park for example); so, good news, once we reached the trailhead, the storm was beginning to wind down. Rain or shine, we really did want to hike, so we decided we weren’t going to be scared off by a little rain and got creative! That happens to be the frame for one of those folding backpack camp chairs he has over his head, and he pulled out the big golfing umbrella for me. We were ready to hit the trail!

Waiting out a thunder shower at the trailhead

And just like that, as quickly as the storm had moved in, it moved on, so we stowed our make-shift raingear in our packs and checked out the information posted at the trailhead.

Trailhead . . . Hannegan Pass Trail

As we started down the trail, we were met by several groups of thoroughly soaked hikers making their way back to the parking lot as quickly as they could. Later on, we ran into a few guys hurrying back to the trailhead with skiis mounted to their packs. Still soaked, they told being in the middle of a snow field while back-country skiing in the area of Hannegan Pass or Ruth Mountain with lightening striking around them. Wow, that must have been very frightening! A storm such as that one was a good reminder for us to always (always!) carry the 10 essentials.

The sun quickly came out and we passed through meadows about to burst open with wild flowers as we followed the scenic Nooksack Range. With Hannegan Pass and Ruth Mountain almost always straight ahead, this really was a beautifully scenic hike right from the beginning of the trail.

(pic by Kent) . . . along the trail

After awhile, we began to run into a few patches of snow – but nothing too serious.

Along the trail . . .

There were several small streams that flooded the trail.

Along the trail . . .

The Nooksack Range, an absolutely stunning backdrop!

(pic by Kent) . . . along the trail

I spotted these lovely columbines along the trail.

Columbines . . . along the trail

We had been warned about a dangerous snow bridge over a fast moving stream at about three miles into the trail, and once there, agreed that we should not walk out on that snow. The snow completely covered the stream, making it impossible for us to simply wade through.

Along the trail

The only way to continue on was to scramble up and around the unsafe snow bridge. It was a bit scary for me to climb up that steep slope with loose soil and rocks slipping out from under my feet. Reminding me of the steep off-trail scramble we made during our hike to Elbow Lake (see: Hike #62 – Elbow Lake) where I fell and sprained my knee (which, BTW, finally is feeling much closer to normal again), Kent was extremely helpful by offering me a hand each time my footing appeared unstable so I felt safe and did not cause any further injury my knee.

Scrambling off trail to go around unsafe snow over a creek

We did not hike much further after that point as Kent had scouted ahead before we scrambled around the snow and had come back reporting tiger lillies in bloom. We already knew that the snow level would be deep at Hannegan Pass so had not planned on hiking that far. Looking for a good turn-around point, our goal for this hike became those tiger lillies.

Tiger lillies . . . along the trail

We stopped near those lillies and enjoyed a picnic as we looked out in awe at the gorgeous view. I sat in that camp chair Kent had so cleverly worn as a hat during the storm we waited out at the beginning our our hike – and we laughed, we laughed a lot.

Belly laughs . . . along the trail

One thing you should know about stream crossings in the early summer when the snow is still melting from the high country is that stream levels can rise several inches in one short afternoon. Thus, streams that we had easily walked through as we hiked in, were near top-of-the-boot level (one was over boot level!) when we hiked out. As a result, several days later, our boots were finally dry.

Stream crossing . . . higher water levels later in the day

For more information on the Hannegan Pass Trail, go here – http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/hannegan-pass. It is a 10.4 mile hike from the trailhead to Hannegan Pass, and back and I would really like to see the outstanding view from the pass. I am sure we’ll go back again – maybe even backpack in and stay for a day or two.

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65 – Upper Elliot Trail (Day 3 – Goat Lake Backpacking Trip)

This being the last day of our backpacking trip, we spent the morning leisurely enjoying our coffee on the shore of Goat Lake. How enticing it was to follow the delicious aroma from a pan of boiled cowboy coffee as I walked along the path through the meadow that led to the lake. I do not believe that a cup of coffee ever tasted so good.

Morning coffee at Goat Lake . . .

And the view of Goat Lake as we sipped that coffee, was it not absolutely stunning?

View of Goat Lake during morning coffee . . .

After coffee, hoping maybe there would be fried fish for breakfast, we followed the trail around the lake to our favorite fishing spot.

Morning fishing . . . at Goat Lake

Having seen a couple of proud hiker/fisher folks the morning before on their way back to camp with a nice bunch of fish on their stringers, that’s not how it worked out for us, so back at camp, we enjoyed hearty bowls of creamy oatmeal with cranberries and almonds.

Camp Cook . . .

After breakfast, we packed up and prepared to head out.

(pic by Kent) Leaving Goat Lake Campground . . .

Having opted for the Lower Elliot Trail which followed the more wild and scenic Elliot Creek as it climbed in elevation and joined the Upper Elliot Trail about a mile before reaching Goat Lake for our hike up to the lake (see Hike #63 – Lower Elliot Trail – Day 1 – Goat Lake Backpacking Trip), we chose to follow the Upper Elliot Trail all the way back down to the trailhead. The Upper Elliot Trail is about one mile longer than the Lower Elliot Trail, but rated slightly easier because it follows what remains of an old logging road so its decrease in elevation is more gradual. Although still a bit of a challenge at times with its share of high-water stream crossings and a few areas where rock and mud slides had come close to completely wiping the trail out, we found this to be a very pleasant hike and enjoyed occasional views of distant snow-covered mountain peaks along the way.

Rock slide . . . along the Upper Elliot Trail . . .

Letting us know that we were indeed still in a mighty wilderness, more than once, we came upon trees that had falllen over the trail.

Along the Upper Elliot Trail . . .

Plenty warm, somewhere in the mid-80s, as we hiked through dappled shade along the trail, with our heavy packs on our backs, the rare breeze was much appreciated.

Along the Upper Elliot Trail . . .

An absolutely wonderful trip for breaking in that new birthday backpack (see: Happy Brithday – Sweet Sixty), during the entire three days, we covered approximately 10.4 miles along the Upper and Lower Elliot Trails, plus another mile or two on the primitive trails around Goat Lake.

Goat Lake Trailhead . . .

For more information on hiking to Goat Lake, go here – http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/goat-lake/.

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Stopping to sightsee at the White Chuck Overlook along the Mountain Loop Highway during our drive back home, it was interesting to read about the early logging operations in the area.

White Chuck Overlook along the Mountain Loop Highway

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64 – Hiking Around Goat Lake (Day 2 – Goat Lake Backpacking Trip)

Having set up our tent on the edge of a wooded campground above Goat Lake in the dark the evening before, it was not until morning that we realized what a wonderful view we had from that campsite. What a delight to view the snow capped peaks forming the cirque surrounding the lake and the lake itself immediately upon unzipping the door of our tent. Minutes after finishing our morning coffee, we were on a trail through the meadow on our way to the lake.

Heading into the cirque . . . and on to Goat Lake

And wow, Goat Lake was stunning in the morning sun.

Goat Lake . . . in the morning light

We headed back to camp and retrieved our food bag from up in the tree so we could cook breakfast. Because we had to carry everything we needed for our trip in our packpacks, we took the weight of everything into consideration before putting it in our packs. We planned our breakfast and dinner meals in advance and placed their dry ingredients in individual baggies. Our breakfasts consisted of dried oatmeal with powdered milk, dried raisins, dried bananas and almond slices. All we had to do was add water to the cook pot, pour in the contents of one of our breakfast baggies, cook over the backpacking stove, and in minutes we were each enjoying a bowl of rich, creamy oatmeal.

Retrieving our food . . . high in the tree

Next we set off to explore the primitive trails around Goat Lake.

Along the trail . . . around Goat Lake

The view of Cadet Peak was stunning in the bright sunshine.

Hiking around Goat Lake . . .

A primitive trail runs nearly the entire length of one side of Goat Lake. While sometimes a little challenging, that trail was well worth the effort because of the stunning view.

Having a great time . . . hiking around Goat Lake

Kent could not resist diving into that icey cold water.

Going for a swim . . . in Goat Lake

We had plenty of time for fishing – and relaxing.

Fishing . . . at Goat Lake

A large number of logs have drifted in on the end of Goat Lake where Elliot Creek flows out, so after dinner we walked out on those logs. It was a little tricky walking as some of the logs were completely emerged, others sank down below the surface of the water as soon as they were stepped upon, yet a majority of the logs (well, at least the largest ones) felt completely solid and safe as we carefully stepped our way from one log to another in order to work our way to the middle of that maze of logs.

Log walking . . . at Goat Lake

Kent continued on much further than I until he reached the edge of that log jam so he could cast out his fishing line.

Fishing from the logs . . . at Goat Lake

Because we were backpacking and needed to keep the weight of our packs down, except for one canteen of water each that we started our with when we began our hike the day before, the remainder of our cooking, cleaning and drinking water for the entire three-day trip was purified on the spot with our water purification system. Light weight and easy to use, with just a few pumps on its handle, an entire canteen was filled with fresh, cold, clear water free from particulites and bacteria. Because it is so convenient to use, in the future, I am certain we will be including this water purification system in our packs on day hikes too.

Purifying water . . . from Goat Lake

After the hike up to the campgrounds the day before, how wonderful it was to have the entire day to explore all the trails around the lake, fish, soak up the sun and relax.

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63 – Lower Elliot Trail (Day 1 – Goat Lake Backpacking Trip)

Putting that new backpack and the hiking accessories received for my birthday (see: Happy Birthday – Sweet Sixty) to use, our first backpacking trip of the summer found us following the scenic Mountain Loop Highway to the Goat Lake trailhead. We registered for two nights of camping at the lake.

Registering at the Goat Lake trailhead

Described by Craig Romano in the book Day Hiking – North Cascades as follows:

A spectacular backcountry lake – one of the largest in the area – awaits those who walk this way. Once the site of a bustling mining operation, complete with company town and lakeside hotel, Goat Lake boasts plenty of history along with its fine views. Waterfalls too! So grand is Goat that the Washington Department of Transportation chose it to grace its official road maps in the early 1990s. But you can’t drive there, so millions of map admirers never got any closer than a dusty road. You, however, are on your way.

As we set off on the Elliot Creek Trail #647, we indeed were on our way.

(pic by Kent) Heading into the forest

Within a half mile, we had reached signs pointing to the Upper and Lower Elliot trails. We decided to brave the rockier, muddier, but more picturesque, Lower Elliot trail for our hike up to the lake. Thinking we might be a bit fatigued after a weekend of hiking and hiking, we thought we would save that easier-to-navigate upper trail for our hike back down.

Intersection for Lower & Upper Elliot trails . . . we took the Lower Elliot trail

The roar of Elliot Creek was almost constant as the trail led us through the beautiful Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. With temps in the lower 80s, it felt warm as the trail continued to gain in elevation and we carried our heavy packs on our backs. Kent dipped my rolled bandana in the glacier-fed water of Elliot Creek several times so I could tie it around my hair and be instantly cooled as we continued along in the afternoon sun.

Along the Lower Elliot trail

With several streams to ford, a bullfrog or two hopping along in front of us, plenty of wild flowers in bloom, huge rock formations and plenty of waterfalls along the rapidly flowing Elliot Creek, the Lower Elliot really was a wild and scenic trail.

(pic by Kent) Along the Lower Elliot Trail

The lower trail along Elliot Creek had led us through a beautiful old-growth forest for its first two miles, then tansformed into second-grow timber about where it rejoined the Upper Elliot, and we had another 1.6 miles to go to reach Goat Lake.

That way to Goat Lake . . .

Pretty as the summer sun shone through the alders, this trail started out smooth and level but became increasingly rocky as it gained in elevation.

Along the trail . . .

As our trail led us into the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness, the forest made another transition – this time, back to old-growth cedar and moss-covered fir.

Entering the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness

The trail led deep into the wilderness and finally an old stream bed full of rocks and rubble, had completely obliterated all signs of the trail, so the map was pulled out.

Trail washed out . . . checking map for directions

Looking around, we saw a pink plastic tie on a branch along the edge of that old stream bed, so we walked up that and managed to find the trail again. Before we knew it, we were back on track, and once again in the bright sunshine.

Back on the trail again . . .

With only a few more streams to ford and a few more hundred feet of elevation to gain, we finally reached the sign for Goat Lake.

Arriving at Goat Lake

With packs off (mine weighed in just under 30 pounds, and Kents, much closer to 40), we picked out our campsite.

Packs down . . . ready to set up camp

Quickly running out of daylight, Kent worked fast to get that new backpacking tent set up.

Setting up camp . . .

Packing in ravioli stuffed with butternut squash, they were boiled up with sundried tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil and shredded cheese, so after our camp was set up, we enjoyed a wonderful, gourmet dinner. Because bears find human food so tasty (and convenient), after dinner Kent threw a rope over a branch high up in a tree, attached a pully and secured our food up and out of the reach of any bears.

Hanging food in trees . . . above reach of the bears

Located in a cirque surrounded by Sloan, Foggy, and Cadet Peaks, the night sky was crystal clear over Goat Lake, so we walked down to the shore and picking out a few of our favorite constellations, star gazed.

Goat Lake at night . . . under a starry sky

To get to Goat Lake Trail #647 from the Darrington Ranger Station, drive south along the Mountain Loop Highway (FS Road #20) for 22 miles to Elliot Creek Road  #4080, turn left and continue to drive 0.8 miles to the trailhead parking lot. A U.S. Forest Service pass is required.

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Categories: Hiking, Nature, Photography, Snohomish County | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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