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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Goat Lake (North Cascades)

Early rise, and near solitude on a very busy trail! Even though we left "late," the Mother's Day festivities of others must of made the hordes arrive late. Arriving at the parking lot and only having 2 other cars present was surprising! Mia was geared up, and along we went.

Taking the Lower Elliott Creek Trail at the first split we began meandering up the trail. Shortly after a small decrease in elevation, you get down to the creek and slowly climb up the drainage. After climbing up and away from the creek you intersect with the Upper Elliott Creek trail and start to walk a flat stretch of old road bed (which the Upper trail follows the whole time...). After meandering on this flat bench for awhile you will start in on the majority of the elevation gain towards the lake.

You cross a small creek just before the few gentle switchbacks begin. There is one section that almost appears that the trail is going straight toward the creek passing a big root-ball. The trail actually switchbacks left, while going straight you can go off trail over some windfall to the creek. This really would only come into play if you are have a bad sense of direction, or aren't paying attention as you are walking. There is a mini-cairn next to the stump as well. On the way to the next switchback you cross the open avalanche run out and get a view to the mountains across the valley. The second switchback has a small cascade down a granite slide, giving a view up towards the mountain north of the lake. At the next left switchback there is a slight flat area, if you go off trail to the right instead of switch backing left with the trail you can find a trail down to the outlet falls. After the outlet falls view area, you are pretty much at the lake.

Staying right at the camp junction we continued alongside the lake and passed the only other person we saw other than the trail runner on his way back to the car. From this point you are passing through brushy avalanche run outs and a few windfalls on your way out to the falls on the far side of the lake. We had lunch with a view of the falls and headed back.

Up and to this point we pretty much had the most amazing views completely to ourselves. On the way back I joked with Lyss about how it would be a mob when we got back to where the trail meets the lake. About halfway back to the main trail and past the big down trees in true northwest fashion every little opening by the lake had hoards of people. To include one group of 20 plus...

From here we headed back down the Lower Elliot trail to the car. Another beautiful day on the trail, and surprisingly quiet on the way up!

The camp at the lake is kind of a free for all, with an open privy tucked away in the back. If you can find a flat spot big enough for your tent you can camp... There's spots up the hill and through the trees, even a few that have a view of the privy... I've camped at this camp once, and it wouldn't be a bad place to do one of your first backpacking trips without the help of someone experienced with you, or taking someone that doesn't want to walk more than 5 miles to camp. You are close enough to the car, so it's an easy hike downhill back to the car. The time I camped here some people had cast iron pans, bacon, eggs and were boasting about how heavy their packs were coming up the hill...

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