Digging Deep ~ White Pass to the Golden Goat Rocks and a Little Shimmy Through the Land of the Losts

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/shoe-lake, https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/old-snowy-mountain-elk-pass, https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/coyote-trail-79, https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/clear-lost-trail-to-lost-lake-lookout

Once you’ve wandered through the mountains, over long and laborious miles, climbing and descending time and again – you will never see vibrant vistas and far off peaks the same.  You’ll realize that strong and determine strides can take you places you have never been before.  And that distances that once seemed unsurmountable are actually quite possible, if one is only willing to put in the work.  To be brave enough to push one’s self beyond its comfort zone and just keeping going. However they can.

This is a story about an adventure, where I ‘almost killed‘ my friends a few times.  Or so they thought. Where the miles we crossed tested their bodies and minds and they came through smiling, most of the time.

They will never see a far-off peak the same again.

Everything is reachable.

To be fair, this story first began when Jen asked me if Mikey and I wanted to hike the PCT with her and her hubs from White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass.  We didn’t have the days to cover that many miles. So, I came up with what I ‘thought’ was a lesser plan that we could squeeze into our four-day itinerary. Our starting point would remain the same, but we’d head South instead and venture into one of the most proclaimed portions of the WA PCT, the rugged and glorious Goat Rocks Wilderness.  As adventures go, the miles ended up being a tad bit more than I thought.  And the path, a tad bit more strenuous than they thought.  But the beauty that unfolded before us was breathtaking. And their resilience was pretty awe-inspiring as well.

Anyways, here’s the story…

Once upon a time four friends set off on an adventure.

The first leg of our journey was magical and mild. We took two cars to the fine town of Packwood, and camped out in a field where the elk roamed free.
After a dinner of Jimmy John Sammies we meandered down some overgrown paths and rustic roads to…

the Cowlitz River.
Where we sat on rocks.
And. watched the mountains swallow the sun, transforming the sky into a shimmering display of wonder.
Early the next morning we dropped one car at the Clear Lost Trail Head and parked the other at the White Pass Trail Head where we stepped onto the proclaimed PCT heading South.
And this is where our journey really began.
The first few miles were spent steadily gaining elevation among the pretty pines.
And before we knew it, we were entering the Glorious Goat Rock Wilderness.
But, just when we thought we couldn’t take one more bite, the ceiling opened up and a sweet breeze swept in.
At this point the trail opened up as well, allowing us a birds eye view of the road ahead.

(Near death experience #1)

Finally, after fourteen miles – we made camp amidst a huddle of tall timbers.
All nestled inside this big bowl of beauty.
The next morning, I was the first to rise. So I slipped back on down to this tenacious trickle and lost myself in some pages for a bit.
We took the morning slow with a much shorter hike ahead of us. Then packed up and said farewell to the majestic McCall.
For the first couple miles she pulled us up into the mountain tops.
And then down into a vibrant valley strewn with streams and wildflowers.
Nestled next to a stream of our very own.
At this grand viewpoint the PCT carries on along what it is called The Knife, or you can veere off and connect with the Coyote Ridge Trail. Coyote would be our turn-off the next day. This day was all about The Knife.
And Mikey lead the way.
And then he and Royce headed back the way we had come to chill at camp.
We posed and applauded ourselves and then we turned around and did The Knife again:)

(On a day without haze Mt. Rainier would be sitting big and bold off in the distance as you head this way along The Knife.)

It’s always fun to look back and see how far you’ve come. Here you can see Old Snowy – that tippy top poignant little point just off to the right of Jen’s left shoulder.
As we dropped back down towards our pretty meadow-land haze that hid Mt Rainier from us along the way filled the foothills creating a lovely layering effect; a copious collection of grey hues hovering off in the distance.
The sun dropped along with us as we approached our sweet resting place and those fine fellas we get to call our own.
The high that carried Jen along the knife dipped quickly into a low once were back at camp. The heat or the miles or the combination of the two hit her pretty hard. She climbed into her little Marmot abode and I spent the rest of the evening with the boys.

(Near death experience #2)

And wouldn’t you know, that ridiculously ravishing Rainier showed up for dinner.
And then, just as it was ending,
That white and woolly creature that gives the Goat Rocks their name showed up to tell us goodnight.
I rose early, once again, to have coffee with my BeeKeeper, who matched the morning sky pretty perfectly.
The day that lay ahead promised to be a long one again. So my pals didn’t rise too far behind me.
The Coyote Ridge Trail is a sneaky fella. He dipped down into some pretty meadow lands all mellow and mild like making us think this leg of our journey was going to be pleasant.
Then as soon as we passed through the Packwood Saddle he turned on us.
Up and then down and then up again and again and again.
With dust on our feet and the hot sun on our backs we’d occasionally step off the path to catch a breeze and our breathe up on the ridge.
It was scenic way up there.
But as we walk among the mountains don’t forget to zoom in and catch the looks on these faces. This was hard.
We stopped for lunch in the shade of the trees where the skeeters had finally peaced out but annoying little black flies took their place. So in the heat of the day, we layered up and ate fast.
So we did.
But it sure was pretty.
I loved this next section of the trail. Golden rays of light were streaming through the clouds and the scape was all rugged and rough. It felt like the heavens were trying to shed some light on the jagged parts of this earth and it made me feel like everything – far beyond this trail – was going to be ok.
Our pals didn’t feel the same.
By the time we got to this little turn in the path they were both just about to ‘almost die’ their fourth death.
And Rainier was still fighting her way through the heavy haze.
Jens smiling here, but when we got to the top and our lake was nowhere in sight she might have cursed the ground we walked on:) She walks out loud. You always know where she is at and how she is feeling. And even when its rough, I find it refreshing. Because she always finds her way back to that smile. You can see Roycie in the background, head down and quiet. That’s how he gets through. He also is dying his fourth death. But, you’d never know. You have to listen to his deep purposeful breaths and look for that tip of his brow to know he’s struggling. Which is novel as well. High above the crazy world we live in I can see how their individual and contrasting cadences work together, balancing each other out. And it’s lovely.
I have learned that when the path that sits beneath you is hard, often times the only thing to do is push on. To keep on walking. But it’s important to look up as you move forward. To not let the difficult parts of life rob you of the beauty that consistently and persistently lingers off in the distance – just waiting for us to witness and remember – there is so much good to see along this way.
At long last we arrived at Lost Hat Lake – and delightfully found that we had the place all to ourselves.
In just a bit, camp was set.
And then the light began to fade away with the day.
Morning broke quickly.
And with an early rise, we all got to sit back and watch the sun rise radiantly through a fiery haze.
There was one last pack up.
And one last section of trail to blaze.
The heavens spread out wide for our departure.
There was a celebratory lunch at The Mint in Enumclaw, where I am pretty sure Royce silently ‘almost died’ his fifth death, with a smile on his face. And then we set off again in two separate cars to two separate destinations of which we call home, a rugged and glorious path all its own.

They say the best views come after the most difficult climbs. And I believe this is as true in life as it is on the trail. We’re all walking down or up a rugged and rough trail. It’s not always hard. But, when it is, it can be really really hard. But if we push through – however we can, out loud and on fire or in our own silent resilient way, I believe we will look back, proud of where we came from and what we went through and how we were willing to keep on moving forward. Just don’t forget to look up along the way. Because even the most difficult dirt path is strewn with beauty – just waiting for us to see. It’s that kind of contrasting goodness and grace that draws me back again and again.

And reminds me nothing is unreachable.



Day One ~ White Pass Down to Shoe Lake and on to McCall Basin, 14.3 miles

Day Two ~ McCall Basin to the Meadows Below Elk Pass, 3.2 miles

Day Hike Along the Knife ~ 5.8 miles

Day Three ~ Meadow Camp Along Coyote Ridge to Lost Hat, 11 miles

Day Four ~ Lost Hat Lake to the Clear Lost Trail Head, 6.5 miles

Total Trip Miles ~ 40.8

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