Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bear Creek Mountain

Peaks of the Goat Rocks Wilderness

I always figured Washington's Goat Rocks was named after goats clambering on the rocks. Webshots buddy Jim (who resides in nearby Yakima and who also agreed to tour-guide Dollie and I into the Rocks) even stated we might see some goats on this hike. However, after driving on one of the worst forest roads ever (with much oil pan banging, bumper scraping, and wife sighing) I am now of the opinion Goat Rocks was named for all the rocks and boulders in the road and for the fact the road is suitable for high clearance, four-wheel drive goats only.

But the main thing is we made it and therefore we set out on the Bear Creek Mountain Trail, passing a wet puddle in a meadow that went by the simultaneously grand and bland name of Section 3 Lake. It wasn't long before the trail entered a series of alpine meadows, the grass being just an inch or two in height like a putting green due to recently departed snow. A mile or two ahead loomed a snow-flecked ridge which would be our destination.

Happiness is a flat trail in a meadow

Ever get that sinking feeling?
About halfway through the hike, we started to enter intermittent snowfields gone slushy with the onset of summer. The thawing snow ran downhill, proliferating many mud holes and rushing creeks. I stepped into a muddy spot and my foot kept sinking and sinking, virtually all the way to my knee before I pushed off with the other foot. I probably would have appeared in China the way I was sinking, blasted quicksand.

At the base of a rocky and snowy wall, Jim stopped and said, somewhat sheepishly "This is where Dollie will start to hate me." The trail, which was sketchy at this point, disappeared under a large patch of snow so we just scrambled up the scree and talus towards the top of the ridge, kick-stepping our way carefully through the snow. Maggie, our dog, was cavorting merrily in the snow and swimming in ponds of glacial melt. She had to wait for us quite a bit as we were nowhere as nimble and agile.

Humans are, like, so slow

Blame them all!

Dollie hates stepping in mud, scrambling up scree slopes, sloshing through wet creek fords, and kick-stepping in snow; Jim delivered all of these things, totally unaware of the peril he had placed himself in. Of course, my fall-back defensive position was "Hey, it's Jim's hike, blame him!"

Mount Ranier, from Bear Creek Mountain

No worries, though, as we made it to the top of the ridge and were able to resume walking on bona fide trail tread again. A short walk brought us to the top of  Bear Creek Mountain and a view for the ages. Bear Creek Mountain was situated equidistant between Mount Adams and Mount Ranier, each with clouds draped upon their snowy cones. A jumble of snowy peaks marked the Goat Rocks Wilderness with the actual Goat Rocks mixed in with some of the other mountains.

Another reason it's called Goat Rocks

Such a view requires a lengthy taking in thereof and we obliged, snapping pictures while Jim and I talked peaks, hikes, gear, cameras, and wildflowers like a couple of hiking geeks. We could see a couple picking their way up the same slope we did but the guy did not appear to be afraid of his wife. To be fair, the views were so awesome and stunning that Dollie was (as was I) quite grateful to Jim for being gracious enough to take us up here.

Good thing I have the car keys!
All good things must come to an end, though, and we commenced to picking our way carefully off of the mountain. Dollie three-pointed quite a bit, putting one hand on the rocks, mud, and/or snow each time she slipped but never actually completing a fall. We made it safely out, despite the oil-pan banging and the bumper scraping, and this wound up being one of the best hikes I've ever been on. I need to come back to the Goat Rocks again, only next time in a high-high clearance vehicle.

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