Goat Lake

A dark and rainy November day was at hand. Snow at higher elevations. Where to go? Kim joined me for a low elevation hike to Goat Lake. As it turned out the last time either of us went to Goat Lake was a trip we did together in late November 2008. The walk alongside Elliot Creek is alone worth the trip. This time of year the crazy crowds of summer are gone. With clouds and no views the forest walk and lake would make for a fine trip. Post daylight saving time it gets dark by 5:00 pm so we met in North Seattle at 7:00 am. On to Everett and Granite Falls then the Mountain Loop Highway. Funny thing, the morning rain didn't happen. In fact we had some blue in the sky on the drive. A little snow plowed to the side at Barlow Pass but none on the road the entire way to the trailhead. A nice new sign at the turn off the Mountain Loop since my last visit. The 1960' trailhead has been reworked too. It is now wider with a turn around and an outhouse. Two cars in the lot when we arrived. It was chilly and we quickly got moving. We were on the trail at 9:10 am.

A short walk on the old road and we took the right fork at the junction. The trail dropped down to near Elliot Creek. The first boardwalk had a thin layer of ice that made it difficult to cross, at least upright. Thankfully that was the only one all day. As I have been saying for many weeks, the mushrooms were copious and colorful. This really has been an amazing fall for them. The trail is on the route of the original puncheon road from Sauk City on the Skagit. It was a heck of a journey 100+ years ago for miners heading to the mine above Goat Lake. Bits and pieces of the original wood that made up the road are still there. Always fun to see some history preserved. It was cloudy but did not feel like rain was imminent. The side creeks were running pretty high and there was mud but with heavier boots my feet stayed dry all day.

Lots of water in Elliot Creek. The sound and sight of the creek was just as good as I remembered. The trail is medium long but very easy to hike. From the 1960' trailhead to the 3166' lake there is only 1206 net feet of gain. Even with ups and downs it only adds up to 1400'. The 10 miles round trip goes by quickly. It was very clear when we left old forest and entered old clear cut. Smaller trees and deciduous trees. Still much different than my first visit some 25+ years ago. Forest is returning. Most of the years I hiked this trail it met the road route just beyond the old parking lot. The last half mile or so was through the worst of the clear cut. Devils club and sticker bushes all the way. It was hard to keep clear. Now, and on my 2008 visit, the trail meets up with the old road before the parking lot. The bad brush has been bypassed.

Once through the parking lot we met up with the puncheon road once again. A little more logged area and we plunged into the old growth. The trees along here are really spectacular. Enormous trees. Well worth the hike all by themselves. Just like the creek walk, just like the lake, and just like McIntosh Falls. Lots of reasons to hike this trail. We looked for but did not see the wilderness sign. Maybe we missed it. Maybe it is gone. After being far from the creek the past couple miles we were alongside it once again. Alongside but well above it. After crossing a landslide from about 20 years ago we began the final switchbacks up to the lake. The old road crossed the creek right before the landslide. It recrossed and met our route at the first leftward switchback. We met the second and last group heading out on the switchbacks. There was nobody ahead of us now.

McIntosh Falls was roaring. We chose not to visit until our hike down. Even at 3000' there was only a few small patches of snow. Bare dirt trail all the way to the lake. It was perfectly calm on the hike but the last guy warned us about wind at the lake. When we reached the outlet we felt what he had said. A very icy breeze blowing down the lake. The lake is not frozen but Foggy Peak behind has a fresh coat of snow most of the way down to the lake. We headed up the lake for better views of Foggy Peak and to get out of the wind. There is a big tree down across the trail. We crawled over and under but it needs to be cut out.

We found a spot in forest that was calm. A short trail led down to the gravel shore. It was about 38 degrees. Not too bad without the wind. While we ate lunch a group passed by heading farther up the lake. We reached the lake at 11:40 am. We did not leave until 12:40. Photos were difficult. The lake was dark, the mountains were white and so was the sky. Shots look like they are in black and white. We went over to the top of McIntosh Falls right near the outlet. Lots of noise with high water. After the first few switchbacks we were near the bottom of the falls. A boot path goes off the switchback to the base of the falls. Once again, this spot was worth the effort by itself. The rain stayed away as we hiked down. At the road/Elliot Creek trail junction we chose to take the road route back. It is a little longer but easy walking. On my early visits it was a gravel road. It is still rock hard on the feet but is mostly grass covered. With all the fallen leaves it looks pretty good now.

We saw a few more groups but overall it was as lonesome as I was expecting. We did see a group of guys that would be spending the night. That would be an adventure with rain and cold coming. We made it back to the trailhead at 3:45 pm. The first drops of rain hit as we drove away. This was a really fun day. So much green and so many mushrooms. No rain at all. Only a few snow patches at the lake. The creek part was great. The old growth trees were terrific. The lake was scenic with snow on the peaks. The falls were loud and powerful. All in all a great trip.

Leaf Covered Trail
Bright White Mushrooms
Colorful Mushrooms
Low Clearance
Fast Flowing Creeks
Elliott Creek
Puncheon Road
Roaring Creek
Idyllic Green Scene
Mushroom Colony
Lit Up Ferns
Kim & Big Tree
Snowy Peaks
Nearing The Lake
A Little Snow At Lake
View Up Lake
Foggy Peak
Peaks Up Lake
Best Existing Puncheon
Upper Falls
Mackintosh Falls
Kim At Falls
Last Mushrooms
More Big Trees
Log Border
Leaf Covered Trail
Small Falls

Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013