Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Goat Mountain and Deadman's Lake, Washington - Backpacking

Earlier in the summer, Keith, Melissa, and I discussed the idea of backpacking near Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  We wanted to coordinate with our friends, Katy and John, so that they could join us from Seattle.  We knew the weather would be most ideal for backpacking in late September or early October, but the only weekend that worked for everyone was October 22-23.  We made our plans for that weekend and hoped for the best, despite a very rainy forecast.  I flew up to Portland on Thursday night, and we were off to meet up with Katy and John at the trail head on Friday morning.

Our drive to the trail was more of an adventure than we had planned.  A washout on NF-26, not far from the turnoff to the trail head, resulted in us driving back and forth, and then back again, before finally accessing the road we needed from the NF-99 side.  Amazingly, Katy and John were waiting for us at the trail head and hadn't been there long, despite it being hours past the planned meetup time.  It was a late start, but we were off to climb Goat Mountain.

Starting the hike up Goat Mountain
Katy and John on the climb up Goat Mountain
Ryan Lake
Clouds and fog limited the views on the way in
After a fairly strenuous climb, we reached the ridge line of Goat mountain.  The views opened up, but low clouds and fog prevented us from seeing much beyond the valley below.  It was interesting the see the pattern of trees and grassy fields, indicating the areas that survived the blast of Mt. St. Helens and the areas that didn't.

Along the ridge of Goat Mountain
Patterns of trees reveal the blast zone
Tonic, Melissa, and Katy make their way along the ridge

After traversing along Goat Mountain, we crossed over the ridge and began our descent toward Deadman's Lake, the planned camping spot for the night.  We arrived to find the entire lake to ourselves, with plenty of open space to spread out and set up our tents.  Not long after setting up camp, the wind picked up and light rain began to fall.  Keith's shelter kept us mostly dry as we made dinner, but the wind whipped the rain around and made for a chilly evening.  Fortunately, substantial quantities of wine kept our spirits up as the rain and wind increased in intensity.  After crawling into my tent, the rain came down hard and continued for the rest of the night.
My tent set up at Deadman's Lake
Enjoying wine and taking shelter from the storm
Tonic the dog enjoying her backpacking trip

I was surprised to see blue sky when I emerged from my tent on Saturday morning.  The lake was calm and peaceful, and rain from the night before had frozen on our tents and gear.  It was a chilly, but very beautiful, morning.  We made breakfast and decided to do a day hike to nearby Vanson Peak, leaving our camp set up for a second night at Deadman's Lake in case the stormy weather returned.

Deadman's Lake

The hike to Vanson Peak offered some stunning views of Mt. Rainier as we made our way through the peaceful forest.  As we reached the summit, we were treated to views of Mt. Adams as well.  The weather was perfect and we were  thankful to have clear skies to see these massive, snow capped volcanic peaks.

Keith at Vanson Peak
Mt. Rainier

Views of Mt. Rainier from Vanson Peak
Mt. Adams
Heading back to camp from Vanson Peak

The weather held out the entire day and we were able to made it back to camp before sunset to make dinner and start a fire.  Thankfully, Keith's fire starting skills and Katy's awesome fire starters combined to save the day.  We were able to enjoy a wonderful, warm fire despite the wet conditions.

Back at camp before sunset
A fire made the second night more comfortable

We expected Sunday to be a rainy day, so we were surprised to find dry conditions when we emerged from our tents on Sunday morning. We packed up camp and headed back the way we came, up and over the ridge of Goat Mountain.  Our original trip plan was to make a loop hike via the Green River valley, but our late start from the trail head and the wet weather made the shorter out-and-back hike a better choice.

Melissa heading back up Goat Mountain

Katy on the ridge on Goat Mountain

It was very windy on Goat Mountain, but the visibility was better than on our hike in.  We finally caught a few glimpses of Mt. St. Helens as we made our way along the ridge, and Mt.  Hood could be seen in the far distance.

Katy and John and the ridge of Goat Mountain
Goat Mountain
Mt. St. Helens peeks out from the clouds

We made it back to the trail head around mid afternoon and headed towards Randle, WA.  We had some good views of Mt. St. Helens on our way out, despite the haze and clouds.  We were happy to warm up and dry off, and enjoyed some food at the Tall Timber restaurant in Randle before parting ways with Katy and John.

Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens