Angry Mountain (Goat Rocks)

November 11-12, 2007.

Angry Mtn Trail | 9 miles (?)| 3409′ ele. gain | 6.5 hrs. total

The Angry Mountain trail is located off FR 21 in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Snow falling steadily at higher elevations forced me to begin my hike here, where only rain fell. I had planned to spend the night in the woods so I crammed all my overnight gear into my pack and set off into the dark, wet woods.

Lumbering slowly with a heavy pack over countless blowdown strewn across the unmaintained trail, I zigzagged up numerous switchbacks promising to bring me to the top of the ridge. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. Hoping to climb Old Snowy this weekend, and enjoy luscious alpine views of open fields and crystal clear lakes, I found myself working extra hard to slosh through wet leaves and weave through a blank, brown forest devoid of sparkling character and wildlife.

As I gained elevation, the rain turned to snow and brought some joy to my exercise today. Walking in the white stuff is much more pleasant; it also makes the surrounding trees more beautiful. I kept on the lookout for possible camp sites. Since my hike was a last minute decision, I had no research and little idea of what to expect. There were a few flat, open spaces near the bottom of the trail, but as I continued along, the prospect of camping looked rather uncomfortable. The mountainside was steep and thickly forested. Where the terrain began to flatten, heavy underbrush covered the ground between evenly spaced trees. I moved on.

After one major switchback that cut across a sorry little stream, I began traveling southeast, skirting above the rocky cliffs to the south. I passed from the windward side of the ridge to the leeward side as I began losing some elevation and entering a more sparsely vegetated forest. Tall spruce trees reached high above the forest floor before the first tiny T-rex arms sprouted needles. Faint glints of sun reflected through the white clouds and snowfall, illuminating my surroundings in a soft light. It was here that I decided upon a camp site for the evening.

I all too happily dropped most of my gear here, powered through a thermos of soup, and reveled in the feeling of sitting down. With only a few more hours of daylight, I picked up my lightened load and continued up the Angry Mountain trail.

The trail dropped slightly before veering up the slopes again. According to my map, I was now ascending the last section of switchbacks that would put me near the high point on the mountain. The trail doesn’t actually cross over that point, and I had no reason to scout around for it, so I just walked until the trail became obscured by snow. At this point, I found myself in an open meadow. The views on a clear day here are probably breathtaking. According to the guide book, this is where the best hiking begins, but not today. I turned and followed my footsteps back to camp.

I napped in the comfort of my down bag for about an hour before gathering enough energy to cook dinner. Temperatures were probably hovering just below freezing, since the snow wasn’t melting and it didn’t feel bone-chillingly cold. Layered in fleece pants and a sweet, cotton candy-colored down jacket (it sure is ugly but it sure is warm!) I got the stove burning and put water on to boil. With only a dusting of snow on the ground and no streams nearby gathering water posed a minor challenge. I found that by using a cup to scrape the minuscule accumulation of snow off of a myriad fallen logs into a pot I could melt enough snow for today and tomorrow’s water supply.

The sun set at 5pm so I ate by the glow of my headlamp. Trees creaked eerily in the background and the sky was black as ink. I lay in my tent, wishing I’d brought some music or a book. Instead, nothing but the wanderings of my imagination and the cold darkness. I had 13 hours of night ahead of me, so I turned over, and over, and dreamed.

The next morning I awoke to a very light dusting of new snow. It was a short hike out to the car so I took my time eating cookies for breakfast and stuffing my bag full of junk. Somehow it always seems to take up more space on the way out than it did on the way in.

Although this was not the introduction to the Goat Rocks I’d wanted, I was able to test run my new hiking boots and troubleshoot a couple of gear issues along the way. Each trip, no matter how pretty or ugly; long or short; successful or unsuccessful; on trail or off, presents a unique learning opportunity. I anticipate doing a 8-10 day backpacking trip this summer, so each chance I get to spend time overnight in the woods is a training experience.

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