Goat Lake and Jordan Basin

Standing in camp and looking out, I could see it was going to be another smoky day.

It was our last day in the mountains and to be honest I was having rather vivid fantasies that involved a shower and soap in my hair.

Since it was our last day, I didn’t need to be careful about supplies anymore, and we had extra rich cups of Peets coffee. I set everything up for coffee and left Pedro to finish it while I went foraging. Up the hill from camp, near the place we called the Golf Course, I had found a large area of huckleberry bushes loaded with berries. I took an empty container and filled the bottom with berries for our breakfast. On our final morning we ate oatmeal loaded with extras that I had packed: almond slivers, brown sugar, dried cranberries, and the topper: fresh heaps of huckleberries. It was so good I think I should have doubled the amount of oatmeal, and we would have eaten every molecule of it.

Fresh huckleberries
Pedro making breakfast.

We must have both been eager to head home, because we got a very early start that morning. We went to our beautiful ice-stream and filled both water bladders full (his 2L, mine 3L) so we wouldn’t have to get water again that day. Then we turned uphill toward our first trail junction.

Looking back down the trail toward our home for the past two nights, the Golf Course, the icy spring water, and some pretty awesome memories.

Uphill only a short bit, we reached the first trail junction where we would leave the Pacific Crest Trail and take a short bypass trail to the Lilly Basin Trail. We stopped on the bluff to take a look around and say goodbye to everything that had been our neighborhood (and our neighbors – there were SO many people up there!) for three days. A hopeful Whiskey Jack sat in a tree, lit up by an orange sunrise, and waited to see if we would drop any crumbs.

Sunrise through wildfire smoke cast an orange glow.
The Whiskey Jack (Canada Jay) gave up on us when we did not display any food.

We set off due West, in the direction of the Lilly Basin Trail, which parallels the PCT in that area. After the junction, our next big landmark would be Goat Lake. I told Pedro that after four days of up up up, after Goat Lake we would be going downhill all day long. Because of this, we were eager to check the lake off our list of future destinations.

Not Goat Lake, but an exceptionally pretty tiny little lake beneath Old Snowy, the mountain we had climbed the day before. I think this is my favourite photo of the trip.
At this wide open space we spotted the Lilly Basin Trail, tucked along the base of that line of trees. We would connect to it soon.
This is a sight that is especially pleasurable to a hiker, because of the reassurance of drinkable water next to the trail. Though we did not need to collect any, it was nice to know there was water right here for us if we needed it. I took off my pack and splashed my face in it, to cool off and refresh.
Here is another.

Though we were in our fifth day in the mountains, the fields and bunches of wildflowers never failed to capture our attention. On this day I finally tried getting photos of butterflies, which manage to evade me with great skill. I did capture a few good ones though, with help from Pedro who would spot them for me.

Pedro gets some close-ups of wildflowers.
This one was drinking at the stream with us.
This butterfly had an unusual pattern, but always kept a profile so I could never get you a shot of its full back. See the little fly to the left?
These two were the most common type of butterfly: we saw them everywhere.
I caught this one before it escaped.

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Then I photographed this grasshopper, which held perfectly still and was a dream model.
We grew closer to Goat Lake. Though we could not see the lake, we could easily spot the cirque that contained it. See the shelf up there in the center, and the waterfall spilling from it?
There are camping restrictions next to the lake to protect the environment, so before we reached it, we began seeing campsites.

We finally arrived at the lake. It was mostly melted and I was concerned because not only had the snowfield we walked on yesterday been smaller than I recalled from an earlier hike, but also I recalled the lake being entirely frozen over in a previous August hike. Granted, it’s only two data points, and I know how to properly use climate data more than many people, but the data support what the UN Climate Change Report says. No matter what we tell ourselves, no matter how many excuses we come up with, the data all support rapid climate change. It’s distressing.

When we first arrived at Goat Lake, we were level with it.
An artistic shot for Derrick at derrickjknight – Ramblings.

Pedro and I decided not to stop at the lake. First of all, it was practically crowded with people. I’ve done a pretty good job implying with my photos that we were alone in the wilderness, but this is the second most popular wilderness area in Washington, AND it’s still a pandemic, and the pandemic has packed trails all over the world from what I understand. Anyway, the second reason we did not stop is because it was a hot day and there was absolutely no sun beside the lake. We vowed to keep going till we found shade. As we climbed higher, the lake changed. It was rather fascinating how different it looked as we climbed past it.

You probably can’t see them, but there is a group of hikers in and near the water on the left. I did not get into this lake, but my guess is that it was damn cold. The trail wound up this hill a bit, before dropping again. We stopped for a rest in the shade from that clump of trees at the edge of the photo.
From the place where we rested in the shade. A last look at the lake before we turned away and headed toward Goat Ridge.
We spotted more precarious campsites on the other side of the lake.

Pedro and I generally chatted with everyone we met. It’s sort of the culture up there: you make eye contact, greet, and exchange a word or two with everyone. If you are interested, you stop and talk some more before moving on. We saw a couple of women at Goat Lake when we arrived, they moved up the hill faster than us, and when they stopped for a break at Goat Ridge, we caught up with them and got to talking with them. We all agreed that we were too old for the mattresses we had brought. “I’m sleeping on something that’s meant for a 20-year-old,” one woman said. I agreed and explained that the foam pad I carried was purchased when I was in my twenties. Later, as we were hiking on our own again, Pedro commented. “When I bought my sleeping bag, it was rated to temperature. Some sleeping bags are rated to 50 degrees, some are rated to 20 degrees, etc. When they sell camping mattresses, they should be rated to age. Buy this one if you’re in your twenties, this one is for your forties, etc.” Brilliant.

Standing on top of Goat Ridge, about to cross over and down into the Jordan Basin, which is behind us. Goat Lake is behind the ridge on the left. Old Snowy is there, fading into the smoke.
Jordan Basin was just as smoky as everywhere else. See the trail at the bottom right? The trail Pedro is on will switchback a couple times and end up there.
And here we are, standing on that part of the trail. This drop-off is shown in the photo above. You will recognize the trees on the right.

I stopped taking photos in the final miles. It was a long day and my feet were killing me. We had climbed 500 feet to Goat Lake, then dropped 2000 feet to get to the trailhead, all in about 7 miles. It wasn’t so much any specific kind of foot problems as my feet were tired of cooperating. As he had been all week, Pedro was in much better shape than me, and patiently acquiesced each time I begged for a few minutes to sit down and take weight off my tired feet. We both noticed that when we lifted our feet, the soles throbbed. Swichbacks took us down, down, down the mountainside, mile after mile. Earlier in the week I would have insisted on a full lunch stop and a good rest, but I knew we were close and kept pushing despite sore feet. As we dropped in elevation, the ground below our feet turned from granite and slate crumbles to actual soil, and the forest closed in densely around us. The views were obscured and the temperature climbed. You see, that week in Portland there was another heat wave, with temps near 100 degrees (38 C), and we had missed most of it, but were now dropping back into it. I mentioned to Pedro that one of the most exciting things for me to see is the glint of sunlight off parked cars while I’m descending a trail. Moments later, that’s exactly what we saw.

One of the only times in my life that I get excited to see cars. Here, Pedro seems to share my sentiments.

7 thoughts on “Goat Lake and Jordan Basin

    1. Soap is a wonderful thing. ÔŁĄ Thank you for the compliments on the photos. The camera is one of the heaviest parts of my gear, and it always catches my attention when I'm packing and trying to eliminate everything unnecessary. But…the camera is necessary.

  1. always glad to see Whiskey Jacks. Many years ago I was stranded in Algonquin Provincial Park and was befriended by a pair that visited daily to watch me carve, and accept their due in the form of Oatmeal cookies. What a lovey trek you had!

    1. That is a nice memory – except for the part about being stranded. Our Whiskey Jacks also ate the huckleberries, diving into the same bushes that I was picking from. They let us know that they would vastly prefer oatmeal cookies however. It was a lovely trek, Lou, thanks for coming along.

  2. You did so much and so well and so pretty. I was up there with you and felt your joy (and pain, and flies). It was a good exercise. I’m so glad that your feet didn’t complain (until the end). Sleeping bags for the 50-year-olds sounds good! It’s been decades since I slept on the floor, or in a tent listening to wild wildlife outside (even if it was just a hedgehog).

    1. Thank you for the support! Yes, there was joy and pain. All together it reminds us we are alive, right? I expressed my worries to you before I left on this trip and I was incredibly relieved and a little surprised that my left foot ended up being fine. And you know what? I’ve barely felt it since the hike, too. What a relief since I begin my relay race tomorrow. I find that when it’s been a long time since I slept in a tent, I stay awake all night thinking about wild animals. Imagining wolves and bears and whatever else. It must be natural to humans who sleep outside to think of animals – probably kept our ancestors alive.

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