3-Day Backpacking in Washington's Remote Goat Rocks Wilderness

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Kodak Portra 400, Ektar 100

Back to article
Fallback
Fallback

3-Day Backpacking in Washington's Remote Goat Rocks Wilderness

Film photography from a few days spent cowboy camping in the smokey remnants of a two million year old volcano

3-Day Backpacking in Washington's Remote Goat Rocks Wilderness

Author

Graham Hiemstra

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Kodak Portra 400, Ektar 100

https://www.fieldmag.com/articles/backpacking-goat-rocks-wilderness-wa-pct

Each year during late summer my father, uncle, cousin, and I get together in the Pacific Northwest to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. We’re not there to set records—no one would be impressed with our mileage—but simply to see a small stretch of the region we all grew up in, yet intimately know so little of. In past years we’ve visited Oregon’s Jefferson Park Wilderness, and Indian Heaven Wilderness in southwestern Washington. For summer ’17 we returned to the high country between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to spend a few nights under the stars in Goat Rocks Wilderness.

Though just 40 or so miles due north of Indian Heaven, Goat Rocks is significantly more rugged with impressive elevations in all directions. The 108,000+ acre area is the remnant of a large volcano, now extinct for over two million years. In the time since glaciation and erosion have carved steep valleys and towering rock walls, while an annual snowfall of over 25 feet ensures little grows, especially above the timberline. For a region defined by its well-defined peaks, Goat Rocks offers flowing, craggy terrain unlike any other in the PNW. And, if you’re lucky, plenty of huckleberries and wild blueberry variations too.

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-1
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-3

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-4

At the trailhead, before the trip even technically began, we had the pleasure of changing a flat tire, as the hour long drive in on gravel left our aging Subaru limping. From there we found smoke from countless local wildfires clogged all surrounding valleys, and our lungs. Elevation gain was plentiful, and miles ticked by slowly, but progress was made each day and we happily cowboy camped each night.

Though our time in the Goat Rocks was brief, and we didn’t quite reach the famed Knife’s Edge, we were treated to two absolutely stunning campsites (one of which surrounded by literally dozens of PCT thru-hikers), swam in glacial melt, and shared multiple meals with curious marmots and herds of wild mountain goats grazing nearby. All while being fortunate enough to fully disconnect from the outside world for 72 peaceful hours—a true measure of success in my book.

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-22

"Elevation gain was plentiful, and miles ticked by slowly, but progress was made each day and we happily cowboy camped each night."

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-5
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-6
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-8
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-11
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-9
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-10
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-14
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-19
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-13
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-15
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-17
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-21
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-18
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-23
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-25
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-29
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-28
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-27
Fallback

Related articles

A Top Level Guide to Late Summer Backpacking in the Wind River Range
12 Film Photos From a Sunny Backpacking Trip in the Wind River Range

Do's and don'ts, essential gear, and a trip report from the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming's second most famous mountain range

What 15 Days and 260 Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail Taught Me
Lessons Learned From 15 Days and 260 Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail

Film photography and insightful reflections from an attempted Oregon section hike along the 2,650-mile PCT

In Search of Vanishing Ice Border in Greenland's Arctic North
Stunning Film Photography Proves the Threat of Climate Change in Greenland

Following an old Inuit hunting path through towering ice floes and colorful villages to track climate change in the Arctic

A 35mm Love Letter to Freedom of Movement in the Mountains
A 35mm Love Letter to Open Borders and Freedom of Movement

Slovenian photographer Jaka Bulc shares B&W photography made across the Alps amid rising tides of nationalism

An Explorer's Guide to Sardinia, Italy's Island Paradise
An Explorer's Guide to Sardinia, Italy's Mediterranean Paradise

Dos & don'ts, where to eat and stay, and how to best navigate the region's many epic empty cove beaches (spoiler: it's a dinghy)

What It's Like to Fish for Salmon in Alaska as a Greenhorn
What It's Like to Spend a Summer Salmon Fishing in Alaska as a Greenhorn

Adventure photographer James Barkman trades his famous VW bus for a fishing boat for a summer of salmon chasing

More articles
Fallback
Fallback