Looks like my 2012 hiking season hasn’t ended yet! My buddy, Sang, called the other day and offered to go on “one last hike” for the year. Inspired by an article in the latest issue of Backpacker Magazine and the fact that we could potentially get a break from the rain, we decided to check out Goat Lake. The dry spell we had all summer that extended well into October finally ended and it had been raining almost every day since I had returned from Utah. Typical weather for this time of year, so we didn’t set our hopes too high. What we really went for was to see some of last remaining fall colors before winter sets in.
I met up with Sang and his friend, Daniel, in Granite Falls and we headed off down the highway to the trail head. The weatherman’s predictions were accurate for once and we were blessed with some patches of clear sky and mild temps–very pleasant hiking weather. There are two trails to choose from–an upper trail and a lower trail. The upper trail is actually the remnants of an old road that led to a small, but bustling mining town close to the lake. The town is now long gone, but cedar planks that marked the old wagon road are still visible in the ground in various places. I’m not sure if any of the structures are still standing, but it would be fun to find them…maybe another time. The lower trail is more rugged and parallels Elliott Creek, which was flowing pretty good at the time of our visit. The unique thing about these trails is that they pass through deciduous forest (mostly alder), which are uncommon in this part of the country. The last 1.5 miles or so to the lake also takes you through old-growth forest, with towering cedars and firs with trunks so wide it would take several people to wrap their arms around them. Due to the region’s extensive logging history, these original forests are also uncommon. There are also several large waterfalls along the way worth seeing.
We arrived at the lake and were greeted with some nice views. There were a few clouds here and there, but most of the adjacent peaks were visible. I was expecting to see more snow on the nearby mountain peaks but they only had a light dusting on them. While Daniel painted, Sang and I explored the opposite shore via the log jam to see if we could make it to the nearby glacier. There’s no real trail on the other side, making travel over the steep slopes slow. We ended up turning around, but not before I found my very first salamander hanging out on a boulder. Before I could get a picture of it, it jumped off into a deep hole between the rocks, probably to its death. Sad day.
We made it back to the trail just in time to meet up with Daniel and headed back. Over the course of 10.5 miles, we only saw 5 other people making this the least-crowded hike I’ve done all year. Even though it was dry and partly sunny, I would consider this a great rainy day hike for those of you who are itching to get on the trails this winter!