Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goat Rocks Wilderness

This past weekend we celebrated my birthday with one of my favorite new birthday traditions: a backpacking trip with friends.  This was the 4th year that I've gone on a long camping trip over Labor Day weekend for a "birthday celebration" - it's really just a good excuse to get some friends together to do something that I love to do!  Most people invite their friends to a nice dinner downtown or maybe a cookout at their house, but I ask my friends to give up a holiday weekend, drive several hours to the wilderness, strap on a heavy pack and hike to a camping spot where there is no running water, electricity, cell phone service or bathrooms.  And what do you know: every year, some of my friends actually do it!

My best friend, Megan, is the brains behind the birthday backpacking weekend.  She has planned the whole thing for the last three years.  It is her gift to me, and it is the best gift she could ever give me.  She plans every detail including who's bringing what gear, what each meal will be, where we're going and how to get there, and there is always a surprise (and quite creative!) birthday dessert that she carries into the wilderness with us.

This year we went to Goat Rocks Wilderness.  The group included Megan, Jason, Robby, Valerie and myself (and Drew in spirit bc he was unable to make it at the last minute).  I had never heard of Goat Rocks, but a couple of Megan and my coworkers camped there this summer and couldn't say enough about it.  It's in central Washington about 3 hrs away from Portland right in between Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount St Helens (talk about amazing views!).  This place is incredible!  I highly recommend it.

We arrived at the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead a little before noon on Saturday and hiked about 4 miles (which took about 4 hours since it was uphill) until we found an amazing camping spot in a field next to a creek.  We set up camp in this perfect location and as we were walking over to the creek to filter some fresh water, we were amazed at the view of Mount Adams.  Yep, this weekend was going to be epic.  Saturday evening we roasted sausages over a campfire and made couscous with vegetables for a delicious dinner (the fact is that everything tastes extra delicious when you're in the wilderness eating by the campfire).  After chatting over smores and gazing at the stars, we crashed in our sleeping bags.

hiking in
the only negative part of this trip: there were tons of flies on the lower portion of the trail
setting up camp and getting a fire started
our view from our camping spot
We made coffee and oatmeal on Sunday morning, before heading out for a long day hike.  We hiked along the Berry Patch Trail which lead us through fields of wildflowers, with amazing view of Mount Adams along the way, to Goat Lake.  I desperately wanted to take a dip in the lake, but my conscience (and more loudly my hiking buddies), told me that was a bad idea since the water was snow melt and quite frigid.  We enjoyed a nice lunch (best peanut butter, honey and granola wraps ever!) before continuing on our way to Hawkeye Point, our final destination.  It was quite a steep hike up to the point with some rock scrambling towards the top, but the view from the top were definitely worth it.  It was a clear day and we were able to see all three mountains.  Unbelievable!
hiking through a meadow of wildflowers
group shot to capture the amazing view of Adams we had the whole day
Goat Lake - yes, that is snow and ice
the group on the right is actually a hiking group from my church that happened to be at Goat Rocks this weekend, too! it was fun running into them.
Jason and Megan making the final push to the top
Megan and I enjoying the view from Hawkeye Point
(Mount Adams in the background)
the whole group at the top of Hawkeye Point (Mount Rainier in the background)
from left to right: Hudsey, Blade, Trillium, Chaco, Firefox
panoramic view from Hawkeye Point - yes, this is real
Robby hiking back down

We made it back to our campsite a bit exhausted after the 9-mile hike.  We boiled some water on the camping stove and made some delicious tortilla soup (best soup ever!) and then Megan surprised me with a delicious peach cobbler cooked in the peach can right over the stove - complete with candles for me to blow out.  We stayed up a bit late talking and laughing and just enjoying being outdoors under a sky full of bright stars - even shooting stars!
We took it easy on Monday morning: eating another delicious oatmeal breakfast, finishing off the smores so that we didn't have to carry them out with us, and packing up our gear.  We loaded our packs back onto our sore shoulders and hiked right back out of the wilderness (downhill this time).  Immediately after stepping off the trail and back into the parking lot where our car and civilization awaited us, we were ready for the comforts of our normal lives: "I need a shower, stat!", "where's the nearest Starbucks?", "don't they have valet service out here?"

We were oddly excited to use a real bathroom, even if it was at the TacoTime in Longview, and get a bite to eat (best burrito ever!).  This weekend was such an incredible weekend.  I would even go so far as to say it was epic!  Thanks to my great friends for joining me for a long weekend in the wilderness.  I can't think of anywhere better that we could have been!

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