On Sunday, Mary and I took the dogs on a six hour, seventeen mile hike in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. I didn’t really intend it to be that long of a day and, in truth, I didn’t have any specific intentions when we left the house, other than to find a trail where we could run the dogs without bumping into anyone else. I figured the Conrad Meadows trailhead would fit the bill (long, kind of boring trail where you have to put in a full day for any sort of payoff). After an hour and a half drive we arrived under slightly drizzly skies and were met by one other car in the lot. The dogs hurtled from the back of the Tribute and were sniffing and romping in no time. Crossing a couple of streams and bounding through the tall grass and careening into mud puddles.
We watched them run in the meadows for a bit then headed off into the woods. The last time I was here I nearly ran into a black bear, but I figured we probably wouldn’t see much wildlife this time with the dogs rumpusing about. We hiked on and the skies started to clear, eventually breaking into full sun.
After a while I started to get the idea to head up into the basin below Curtis Gilbert Peak, a place I’ve hiked before, though never in the fall. Above the tree line with massive views. Pristine and gorgeous. The two times I had been up previously, I had climbed up steep cliffs, slippery with snow runoff. I was pretty sure my four companions weren’t in the mood for that scramble his time though. I knew there was a somewhat official trail off the main loop (I stumbled across this while coming down on a previous excursion) and figured I would recognize it once we were close. So with promises of grandeur I coaxed Mary to keep stomping up through the mud while the sun inched toward evening. Sadly I never found our trail. I did detour off the main path at one point into an area the felt right, but ended up in a small soaked clearing. Trammell enjoyed the detour as it gave him time to destroy some nature.
Later at home I checked a map I realized that I had been on the right track, but to find the side trail we would’ve had to cross the trail-free swampy clearing we had been standing in. In the end I guess it was probably for the best given the miles the hike up would’ve added and how close we ended up cutting the sunset. So, with no side trip, we settled for completing the Surprise Lake Loop. Still pretty, but a bit too much tree cover for my taste. At Surprise Lake the dogs splashed about and did their best to knock Mary and me off of a bobbing log. Nora fell off and went for an unplanned swim.
Then it was back down hill, back toward the car (Gilbert Peak pictured below through the trees as we returned). Seventeen miles didn’t do much to break dogs’ exuberance and as we returned to Conrad Meadows they galloped around chasing chipmunks and birds. Back at the car we toweled off their muddy paws as much as we could and the dogs were asleep within minutes even as we rumbled down the dirt road.