Goat Rocks

Washington's Goat Rocks — and the ever-present Mount Adams

Mount Adams photo-bombed almost every picture I tried to take during my hike in the Goat Rocks a few weekends ago. I couldn't snap a photo of scree fields, glacial lakes, moss-covered trees — anything — without the 12,200-foot mountain creeping into the frame somehow.

The Lily Basin Trail (... and Mount Adams)

Ten trees (... and Mount Adams)

Golden trail-side grasses (... and Mount Adams)

Donnie and I started our 13-mile hike through the Southwest Washington wilderness at the Snowgrass Flats trailhead. We ascended about 1,600 feet into a bowl formed by various Cascades, then crossed alpine meadows and passed the partially frozen Goat Lake before descending back down toward Berry Patch. Though the marmots were less feisty and the wildflowers less plentiful than my last visit, earlier in the season back in 2010, we enjoyed stunning, wide-open views everywhere we looked.

Though Adams acted a lot like the drunk annoying guy at the party, I forgave it — and actually did manage to capture a few pictures sin mountain:

Fuzzy little mop head

A creek-side flower slightly past its prime

Whoops! Slipped in again.

Donnie and the valley, around mile 9

Descending along Goat Ridge trail toward the end of the day

In Washington's Goat Rocks Wilderness: the cutest warriors ever!

In the Goat Rocks Wilderness of southern Washington, the marmot population is acting particularly feisty these days. During the subalpine area's brief summer season, the groundhog-like creatures emerge from their rock piles to engage in epic pushing battles atop large boulders. On a recent backpacking trip, I witnessed multiple skirmishes between the pear-shaped creatures, who would stand nose to nose on their hind legs, shoving each other like 8-year-old boys on the playground.

A hoary marmot between fights

The 105,600-acre wilderness between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in the Cascade Mountain Range is absolutely beautiful during the summer. Glaciers melt into creeks and cascade downhill, catching sunlight as they ribbon through the grass. Red columbine, pink mountain heather, long-leaved phlox, lupine, shooting stars and red paintbrushes bloom in the meadows. And packs of musky-smelling mountain goats roam the high hillsides, dipping their large rectangular heads to munch the grass.

We saw around 10 mountain goats grazing on the hillsides above the trail. Here is one, for example.

My friend Tim and I started hiking at the Berry Patch trail head mid-afternoon on a Sunday and spent the following two days exploring. We passed through the flowered Jordan Creek Basin — a.k.a. Paradise! — and climbed up Goat Ridge to Goat Lake, which was still frozen except for a few crescents of melted turquoise water around the edges. We set up a base camp less than a mile down the trail in a hemlock grove overlooking Goat Creek Valley, executing, in the process, a picture-perfect bear-bag hang — high off the ground and far from the tree trunk. We proceeded to take numerous pictures of our work, and we're pretty sure other hikers did too, when we weren't in camp. The following day, we hiked across meadows, rock fields and snow pack to the top of Old Snowy, a 7,930-foot peak above our camp that afforded incredible views of Mount Adams to the south and Mount Rainier to the north.

Red columbine and raindrops

The seed pods of the Pasque flower, also known, appropriately, as mop heads

The mop heads kind of resemble furry sea anemones.

Here, the mature Pasque Flower, which likely wants nothing to do with its crazy-headed younger siblings.

The avalanche lily blooms one to two weeks after snow melt.

Tim climbing toward Old Snowy

Mount Adams from the top of Old Snowy. As we stood among the rocks on top of Old Snowy, misty clouds swirled into the valleys below us, where they hung for the remainder of the trip.

Sunset light from our campsite

Mount Adams

Look at that beautiful bear-bag hang! Let me know if you want a copy of this pic.