Goat Lake Hike

Time for my weekly hiking report. For further accountability, I'm planning a week-long PCT hike from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass in early September, and that's a big reason why I'm trying to stick to this weekly training schedule. The hike I'll attempt is a 63-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail with a total elevation gain of over 15,000 ft, so it makes sense to give my best shot at shorter and easier hikes at first, and gradually increase difficulty. Unsurprisingly, ever hike is much easier to hike than the one a week earlier: it's like my body really missed this kind of thing, and soaks it all in. Also, there's certainly a kind of low base effect: my fitness level is barely above zero, so it's fairly easy to make progress :)

This week I hit a trail that was marked as moderate in difficulty and heavy trafficked. It was one of the most enjoyable hikes I had so far, and while I wouldn't consider it "easy", it's probably on the easier side of "moderate".

The trail goes over Sauk-Suiattle ancestral land — it's basically next door (right across the ridge) to the Monte Cristo trail I hiked last week. It gently eases you into gradual ascent, offering some truly stunning views along the Elliot Creek. The creeks flow out of the Goat Lake, originally called Sweetleehachu by Sauk-Suiattle people. As soon as you get to the top of the waterfall, you've reached your destination.

There's a section of the trail where you can choose your own adventure: hike like a normal person on a bunch of switchbacks but miss the bottom of the waterfall, or go straight to the bottom of the waterfall.

If you choose to check out the falls, you'll have to then climb (and I mean climb) about 150 feet, pretty much vertically, over about 130 yards of distance. It's fun, a change of pace and it was a bit of a challenge for me. Just a couple of switchbacks later you get a first glimpse of the lake:

The lake is absolutely gorgeous. It's quiet, serene, clear, and ice-cold. Although the trail is marked as heavily trafficked, I only met, like, 5 other parties along the trail, one other group at the lake, and when the left, I got the whole lake to myself.

My lunch spot this time was right on the lake shore, but I was not hungry enough to cook. I munched a few strips of bacon jerky, refilled my hydration pack with filtered lake water, chilled for a bit and headed back, leaving this view behind.

On my way back with about 1.7 miles left to the trailhead, I had my first wild bear encounter. We didn't exchange pleasantries but gave each other a nod: two apex predators, one — stinky, grumpy and dangerously hungry, and the other one — a friendly American black bear.

Encountering a bear was a fresh experience. Throughout this hike, I heard weird noises more than a few times. Snapping branches, strange grumbling sounds, random tree shaking and such. So I was well aware that there's wildlife around me and was actively scanning and making occasional noises to make sure I don't startle an animal. As a result, this little fella knew I was nearby when our eyes met. The bear had a look of something between mild curiosity and indifference, so I braved taking this grainy picture from about 30-40-yard distance and was on my way back to the trailhead.

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