Goat Rocks Wilderness - Packwood Lake

Entering the Goat Rocks Wilderness

During my month off in July, I did a lot of hiking. Sandy and I went to Vancouver Island. After that trip, I did trips on my own to the Eagle Cap Wilderness and to Olympic National Park. That doesn't even count our trip to Peru. By the time I went back to work, I was ready for some time at my desk to get some rest. After my first week at work it was nice to have a weekend at home. I organized a wargame night, the first one for several months. Sandy and I even took Abby for her first hike, up to Table Rock.

But by the beginning of the second week back at work I was thinking about going back to the mountains again. Even though I had done a lot of hiking this season, it was still only the middle of August. Some years I don't even start hiking till after Labor Day when the bugs are gone. There was still time to do a lot of good hikes.

On my trip to the Olympics I was hoping to do a hike in the Goat Rocks Wilderness on the way home. It's a large wilderness area in the Cascades just south of Mt. Rainier National Park. Although I have hiked in Rainier quite a bit I haver never hiked in the Goat Rocks. But on that trip I had done enough hiking by the time I left the Olympics and didn't make it to the Goat Rocks. I wanted another chance.

The toad that hogged the whole trail

I talked to Sandy about going along. She was interested but didn't think she could make it on such short notice. We needed to make arrangements for Abby. But our friend Sara turned out to be available to stay at our house with Abby. So Sandy was able to go. Although forest fires were bad again in the west this year, the southern Washington Cascades looked to be clear of smoke. I was able to find a place to stay in the mountains over the weekend. We were set to go.

I had Friday off because I had worked two evenings and a Saturday morning the week before. We left Thursday and I think we set a record. We made it to Yakima, on one tank of gas and with only one potty break, in just five and a half hours. By the time we got there I was really hungry. I spent the last part of the drive trying to decide if we should eat at Denny's or Shari's, which are both right next to the Super 8 where we were staying. But when we got there Sandy wasn't interested in going out to eat. I guess she thought that I needed to get ready for our hiking by cutting back a little. She was probably right but it made for a tough night.

We have Packwood Lake all to ourselves

The weather forecast for Friday was for clouds and a chance of showers, with sun for the rest of the weekend. Sure enough, as we drove over White Pass early Friday morning the mountains were in heavy clouds. For our hiking destination we picked Packwood Lake. It was a nine mile round trip but mostly flat. Even with ups and downs it only had four hundred feet of gross elevation gain. Of course, that meant the same amount going back. It was mostly through the forest to a large lake surrounded by mountains. It was a good hike for a cloudy day. We didn't feel like a tough climb to reach a viewpoint with no view. A moderate forest walk sounded just right. The trailhead was easy to reach, at the end of a six mile road from Packwood that was paved all the way. It was pleasantly cool as we started out, a nice change from my hikes in Olympic National Park two weeks ago. After a short climb it was a nice walk through the forest. Cool, cloudy, and in the forest so no hot sun. And to my surprise there weren't any bugs.

A quilt shop in Packwood - in the liquor store

We were on the west side of the Cascades, an area that gets a lot of rain. Everything was green. The trees, the rocks, even the ground was covered with moss. The soft light on a cloudy day really added to atmosphere. It was a pretty walk through the rain forest.

On the way to the lake we had some wildlife encounters. Several times we saw really large slugs in the middle of the trail. We took care to step around them. Then as I was walking along I saw a blur of motion across the trail right under my feet. I twisted as best I could and almost went down, trying to avoid stepping on whatever it was. I looked back and there was a big toad sitting right in the middle of the trail. Yup, we were in the rainforest.

We got to Packwood Lake in less than two hours. We found a big rock to sit on right on the shoreline. By now the fog had lifted enough that we could see the whole lake, although the tops of the surrounding mountains were still in the clouds. The lake was a pretty green, the color of lakes that are fed by streams filled with glacier melt. Although Packwood Lake has a reputation for being a mob scene we had it all to ourselves. We hadn't seen a single person on the way in or at the lake.

Take your time shopping dear - I'm doing wine tasting

That changed on the way back. We saw a lot of parties going in as we were going out. Most of them were backpackers, probably going in for a three day weekend. The hike back was less than two hours again. Although we did nine miles we still felt strong when we reached the car.

We drove back to Packwood and were ready for lunch. It's a small town and there are only three choices. We picked the Spruce Goose Bar and Grill. It was pretty much a typical bar but they did have good hamburgers. It was entertaining too as we got to sit at the bar and listen to two old guys who were locals talking to each other (loudly). In less than an hour they seemed to run through their entire life stories.

After checking into our hotel we went to the grocery store. We figured after a big lunch that just snacks would be enough for dinner. I also thought it was a good chance for Sandy to check out the local quilt shop.

Our new wine rack - it looks like Abby posed for it

A quilt shop in Packwood? Yes, when I had stayed there two weeks ago on my way back from the Olympics I had seen a sign for a quilt shop and duly reported it to Sandy. She was skeptical. It didn't help when we saw that it shared a building with the local liquor store. When we walked over we even had to enter through Packwood Wine and Spirits. But Sandy changed her mind when she went inside. The store was very small but had some interesting stuff. It got even better when we found out that on Friday night they had wine tasting. For five bucks each we got three glasses of wine. It was a mystery tasting, where they didn't tell us what we were drinking until after we finished. They were all reds, which aren't our favorite, but we still thought they were pretty good. Our favorite was Lucky Duck Tempranillo, a Spanish varietal from a Chilean winery. Afterwards we bought a bottle to take home with us.

We chatted with the lady who owned the quilt shop while we drinking our wine. Even though the shop was very small, Sandy found a lot of things to buy. She got a jelly roll, a layer cake and two patterns. But it was also a really nice wine gift store. We bought a Packwood wine glass, and our best find, a yellow lab wine bottle holder. Then it was back to the hotel for a light dinner, some more wine, and a Seattle Seahawks preseason game on tv.

Even though it was a cloudy day we had an excellent hike. The quilt shop/wine shop was a surprise and a lot of fun. We didn't expect to have a fun evening out in Packwood, Washington. It was a good start to our weekend.