With Barbara Lowell
I would dream of Goat Rocks through the year, waiting for the one or two months of the open season and planning my escape…
In the south Cascade Mountains in Washington State the Goat Rocks area is super popular, although a remote haven for those who love the mountains. There is virtually no cell signal here, the nearest town is miles away, and the forest roads are seemingly a labyrinth... so, bring a map.
Snowgrass Flats trail is a favorite, not too far from Walupt Horse Camp (with plenty of primitive options). This ride crams as many “Wow Moments!” as it can in a 12.1 mile loop.
As you start on the trail, you’ll notice the smells change as you enter the forest - a rich smell of pine, earth, and whatever is still trying to bloom. The season here is short, and usually heavily delayed. Lupine growing in September, snow late into the year - You just never know what the seasons will bring.
We’ve always ridden the trail counterclockwise. We climb along the creek, with several crossings, and then into the meadow. Here, the views begin. Ahead of you is Old Snowy Mountain. Behind, Mount Adams, and not too far is Mount Saint Helens. Wildflowers surround you, regardless of the season. Maybe it’s lupine, maybe it’s paintbrush... but it will always be some palette of beauty.
As you get to the cutoff with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) you have a choice: You can continue the loop or do a short spur cutoff. This is an easy choice for us, and we always follow the PCT north for a mile or so.
It will take you to a pass where you can stare at the Knife’s Edge (so narrow, the horse and hikers’ trails are separate!) and lends a gorgeous view of Mount Baker, and many other peaks of the Cascade Range.
Returning back, you cross the Packwood Snowfield (once a glacier flanking Old Snowy), and are treated to some weird, volcanic rock formations from long, long ago.
Back at the divide, deep in meadows, the trail to Goat Lake beckons. It’s one of the narrower sections, leading into a bowl. Slide Falls will be on the right.
Goat Lake will come up quickly, and the mountain goats can sometimes be spotted before you get there. Sometimes dozens of them dot the Meadows at the lake or approaching the lake.
Goat Lake itself is, of course, beautiful. A clear cold lake with a mountain and meadow backdrop.
From here, you ride the wide crest of a ridge down, with more views, and more flowers until you return to the trailhead again.
This is the sort of ride you dream about in cold dreary months, and the kind of scenery that’s etched forever in your memory.
Born in Poland, Barbara Lowell is convinced the Arabian horse is in her blood. Barbara is married to Titus, a USMC airman, and have relocated their-now-herd of Arabians to different states where they have ridden at AERC and NATRC events, as well as a lot of riding on the beach, and as many National Parks and Lands as Barabara can get to. Barbara works part-time as a farrier, and full time as a catering service to their three horses. Their hope for the future is to explore as many national parks and take the horses camping as much as possible.