This was the first venture for Sam and I into the wilderness of the US. We had done a lot of hiking over the last year on the North Shore of Vancouver and up towards Whistler so we thought we would try something new. My goodness, what a treat we were in for.
Sam and I hadn’t hiked together since the Brian Waddington hut in March so this was as much over due boys trip. We didn’t know much about Goat Mountain but it had been recommended to us by a colleague of Sam, so we thought we’d go for it. We were excited for this trip not only because we hadn’t been out hiking together in nearly 5 months, but it was next to Mount Baker (which we can stare at from Vancouver now and again) but it was also going into the States. The novelty of having America hadn’t quite worn off so it still felt like we were going on holiday.
After crossing the border at Abbotsford, BC we were only an hours drive from the trail head, which was pretty easy to find. Park Permits on display and boots swapped, we were raring to go.
The Trail starts off going through the all familiar forests that we come to expect at the base of mountains so this was not so new. All the same it still felt like more an adventure than BC for some reason. This section was full of switchbacks and it wasn’t too steep so we made pretty good headway. This was my first backpacking trip of the season (I’d left it pretty late) so I was a little out of practice. Sam was of course ploughing on full steam ahead but although I was dripping from Minute 2, I was keeping a close distance behind. That chatter was pretty good to begin with but as my lack of hiking this year began to show, the breathing got heavier and the talking quieter!
The switchbacks were rather uneventful. It was only after about 60 minutes, once we were gaining some elevation that we could see the local monster of Mount Baker peeking through the trees. THIS is what we had come for, we thought. This in itself was exciting, but little did we know what else we had in store.
After another 30 minutes we had got to a nice open area to have lunch. The trees had thinned into a beautiful Alpine meadow. It really opened up to give us the most spectacular view of Mount Baker. But now we are up here we could see Mount Shuksan and Sefrit to the East. As we were pulling together our Falafel Wraps we thought that this would be an ideal place to camp, and it was only 2 hours hike or so. We had read on various blogs that we must not stop here. We MUST continue all the way to the top as it really is worth it. I did wonder how much more of a beautiful view could we get?
Also with heavy stomachs we pulled our packs on and continued. This second half really highlighted my lack of hiking this summer. It was a slog. It certainly wasn’t the hardest hike that I have done, on paper but I was really feeling it. My shins and hips and knees were all feeling sore. The hiking poles made an immediate appearance. The terrain here was a lot steeper than the switchbacks through the forest, and the path was much narrower. We took this slow because the footing wasn’t so sure and a slip would clearly result in rolling down the steep meadows back to the lunch spot which none of us really wanted to do.
There weren’t too many hikers that we saw up here, which is always nice. We come on these hikes for a physical challenge but also to escape. Nothing more annoying than a crowded path. We did come across a couple and we had a good chat. They were local so gave us some tips of other mountains in WA to check out so we left with an ever longer list of hikes to do. It also brought forward the idea of mountaineering. Sam did most of the talking as I was out of breath and concentrating on not passing out. This allowed me to take in my surroundings and observe. Once the couple left I said to Sam “Did you see that?”
“See what?” was his reply.
“His pistol. He had a gun… in the side pocket of his pack… a gun” I confirmed.
“Oh shit, no?!”
It never ceases to surprise me when I see someone with a gun. I can only assume it was instead of having bear spray but I found myself staring at it, knowing that I shouldn’t be. I was nonetheless slightly weirded out…
Although difficult (for me) this part of the hike was just incredible. Not often do we have a hike that has such a view. Sure, we get the views at the summit, jsut not whilst we are actually hiking. This was made even better as I was taking a break every 10-20 steps. I was really feeling it in my hips now. I was OK with this because we had all day, the views were incredible so we were in no rush. We found the last source of water which I filled up on in my filter sack. We had read that water was a bit of a problem once at the top so I was much happier knowing that we found this and collected enough for the rest of the day and the next morning. This did make the final push that much harder, with 4 kilos extra weight in water.
FINALLY, we get to the ridge line that takes us up to the summit of Goat Mountain. This was the first time that we saw the ‘other’ side. THIS is why we had continued. Looking North we could see the endless mountains in BC as well s Mount Baker et al to the South. We paused a moment to take it in. Surely it can’t get much better than this. . . Read on.
We push along the ridge and we pass the snow field which we had read about in the other blogs. As soon as we walked past it we got the most refreshing blast of cool air. It was excruciatingly hot (and I’m terrible in the heat) so this was very much welcomed. We had finally arrived. 5 minutes later we were at the false summit. This, my friends is where we set camp for the night. We arrived at 15:18, and we didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the day. From the false summit we nearly had a 360 degree view, marginally blocked by the real summit. We dropped our bags, and stood in silence for about 5 minutes, just looking around. We turned on the spot just trying to take in the place we were calling home for a night.
To the North was Canada, to the South was Mount Baker, to the West we could see Vancouver Island and the Straight of Georgia, to the East endless set of Mountains that make up the Cascades.
The False Summit was pretty small, have a drop 3/4 sides and was pretty much rock. We tried to find somewhere for 2 tents and it wasn’t really going to happen – It was just flat rock, and nothing to tie down corners of the tent to. So, we decided, fuck it, lets just sleep under the stars. Whip out the roll mats and sleeping bags and let that be it. And so it was. We stuck one tent up for our gear just in case it started raining but that was it.
Once set-up we just enjoyed the afternoon. We went over to the true summit, and posed, took photos, videos, and more photos. I took a wee off the edge. We were just marvelling at the full 360 degree view that we had. To get there we had to walk across that snow field which was easy enough. It was a life saver actually as I grabbed the snow and had a cold snow wash. It had been so hot and dusty that I was filthy and just so warm so it was just perfect to stick ice under my hat, and wash my body.
Back at camp we just chilled. I think it’s the earliest we have been somewhere in summer to camp so it was a novelty. I attempted to read but fell asleep pretty much straight away. I woke up, did a little writing and found some shade in the shadow of the tent so I rested more there and did some note taking. It was just a perfectly slow and relaxing afternoon with the most incredible views that you could want.
As the sun slowly started to dip we decided to have dinner. I had my one and only camping meal that I ever make, Moroccan couscous… with wraps. We watched the sun set over in the west and we could see the glimmer on the Straight of Georgia, a ferry crossing the reflection. In the air swallows were flying around and we could hear a surreal ‘whoosh’ as they did so. It was just incredible.
And we just sat, and watched. Taking the opportunity to see a sunset from the top of a mountain. Enjoy the ever changing sky. Looking back East we could see 3 layers of darkness descend on us and it really felt that the sky was pushing the light away. As the sun disappeared we could see the lights of Vancouver easily now, radiating and poking through between the mountains. Below us there were cars crawling down from the Mount Baker Ski Resort, their lights poking through the trees. and just to the left of Mount Baker were the lights of what had to be Seattle. This was a real strange feeling as we knew that as the sun was disappearing our end, it was rising back at home in an hour or so.
There was nothing left for us to do now but crawl into the sleeping bags and watch the stars come out. There were a couple of satellites running across the sky. There was one I was convinced was a satellite. I held my finger in front of my face and watched it move towards the tip of my finger. Sam just said to me “Scott, you’re moving your finger”. My mind was playing tricks on me. We saw a shooting star or two. As it got darker I could see deeper and deeper into the sky and I don’t think I have seen anything like ti before. Well, I have, but it was -20 and couldn’t stay out that long to watch!
I dozed on and off throughout the night, just looking at the stars. I needed to pee a lot which didn’t help with Sleep. We had a rule that if we heard the other one get up to remind them not to go far and walk off the edge. I only walked 2 or 3 steps from my tent – down hill from my sleeping bag! I took the time here to try my hand at some night time photography. I had some success but there’s plenty more to learn. I spent maybe an hour trying to get THAT photo of Mount Baker and the Milky Way – but it’s hard when you have no tripod and relying upon a flat stone.
Around 5:30 the sun began to rise from where the darkness had been pushing only a few hours before. We were both awake and witnessed the colour change. The mountains were throwing some incredible shadows across the valley. Again the cameras were out.
Sam made coffee and bacon English Muffins. This was the perfect start that we needed. The air was fresh and cool, and the smell of both food and drink just felt right. There was no better way to start the day like this. We took in the sights as much as we did the night before, still in awe that we had come to this place. We usually know what we are getting ourselves into with these hikes in terms of views, but we were totally unprepared for the beauty we were now witnessing. It was the best surprise that we could have wanted.
The hike down was super quick. It was tougher than coming up as is always the way with a steep decline. The knees and hips were still sore so that continued. Because we were not hiking a loop but an Up-and-down we were keen to just get back to the car as we had seen all of this already. The pace picked up even more once we were on easier ground of the switchbacks and forest. Soon enough we were back at the car, looking forward to get into some clean clothes.
If you are ever in the area you must visit the Wake n’ Bakery for sweet goods and coffee. It was the perfect stop to supply us for the trip home.
There is no doubt that I will be back here again, this time with my Girlfriend!