August, what happened? I don’t even know. In the beginning I was still holding out hope, waiting for summer to arrive. Eventually. There were a few crazy hot days (in the 90’s), but that’s when I helped friends move. I kept thinking that summer will stick around, but it didn’t stick. A few hot days and then back to the gloom and chill.
I should’ve been hiking and biking and simply enjoying not being crazy hot, but instead I just got depressed. This isn’t summer! This year we went from a promising spring to a swift autumn. Summer, it seems, has been cancelled.
But I’m done crying over it. Now that it’s September and it feels like October, I’ve decided to just quit feeling sorry for myself and the entire PNW region. It’s time to get out of the house.
After a month of inactivity it was a bit difficult to get through nearly ten and a half miles on this Labor Day Sunday, but we did it. That is, Jae and I did ten and a half miles, while Zika must have run about forty.
To get to this Goat Lake (there is more than one Goat Lake. I was at a Goat Lake last summer that’s located south from us, in the Goat Rocks Wilderness; this one is north of us, off Mountain Loop Highway) you have an option of either taking the Lower Elliott Creek trail, or the Upper Elliott Creek trail. I was here with Ellena a couple of years ago and remember really enjoying taking the Lower Elliott first, then coming back by taking Upper Elliott. We did the same route this time as well.
This is a rather long hike and so we ran into a number of backpackers. I don’t know if there are other trails to explore beyond Goat Lake (I did an internet search, but didn’t find anything about any other trails you could take once you get to the lake), but there are many campsites around the lake and they seemed to be pretty busy on this Labor Day weekend.
From the trailhead (located beyond the Road Closed gate on Mountain Loop Highway. This is where the road gets closed once the snow falls and this is also where the pavement ends. Follow the beatdown gravel road for another three and a half miles or so. The trailhead is on the left hand side just after crossing the Elliott Creek bridge. Oh! We saw three bicyclists struggling on this gravel road, which gave me flashbacks to my Idaho/Montana trip and getting over the Lookout Pass. These bicyclists though did not have Long Haul Truckers. They were on road bikes! One, of course, was changing a flat tire. They all looked pretty defeated. Remember kids, don’t take your road bike, with those razor thin tires out on a gravel road!) the trail splits into two about half a mile or so from the very start. Here you can choose to either take Lower or Upper Elliott. I’d recommend taking Lower (prettier and about a mile shorter) to get to the lake and then Upper to get back.
The beginning of the trail is a moss covered fairy land forest with little wooden bridges and stone steps. It’s magical and lovely and it closely follows Elliott Creek.
Unfortunately, this is where Jae got stung by a crazy hornet. Apparently, there are some angry hornets in the area, who attack people for no apparent reason and on a cold day in September, no less! After we were done with our hike we found a note at the sign in, which read “For the love of God, do not take Lower Elliott. Hornet/wasp bites.” Dated: 9/4. We didn’t write that. But Jae got stung. Same crazy hornet/wasp? Who knows? A dead one now.
There’s very little elevation gain at this point. It’s really more of a stroll through the woods instead of a hike.
From the moss covered fairy forest you soon get to a lovely alder tree forest. There’s something magical about this part of the trail as well.
At mile 2.6 the Lower trail meets the Upper and you’ll see a sign for Goat Lake. Go there.
At first the trail remains fairly flat. It’s like that for another mile or so. But then, about a mile away from the lake, the switchbacks begin.
Zika, of course, didn’t mind the climb, but it’s not nothing…
Here’s also where the trail gets a bit confusing. Look for the ribbons, which indicate where the actual trail is. It’s pretty easy to get off track here.
Another trail indicator are these stacked up rocks. Look for those whenever you start to wonder if you’re going the right way.
When we got to the lake we were at mile 4.6. Naturally, I thought that the final count will be 9.2 miles, and it would’ve been had we taken the Lower Elliott back. However, we took the Upper Elliott and this route tacked on another 1.2 miles to the final count.
Even for a Labor Day weekend, the place wasn’t as busy as I was fearing it would be. Busy, but not crazy busy. The “blah” weather must’ve kept people at home… In fact, Jae and I were planning on joining our friends Megan and Collin for a backpacking trip this weekend, but then changed our minds, after we decided we didn’t want to be cold and miserable. It’s one thing to do a day hike and come home to a hot shower and another to stay out in a tent, shivering throughout the night.
Oh, and if you’re camping at the lake, be aware that the advertised “toilet” provides neither shelter nor privacy.
Yeah… I’ll take the bushes, thank you very much.
Coming back on Upper Elliott Creek trail was longer and perhaps not as scenic, but also very pretty and very different from Lower Elliott. Here you’ll see waterfalls and giant boulders. Pretty cool route, either way.
10.4 hiking miles, 1,718 ft of elevation.
YTD Hiking Miles: 86.3