Fog it. Continuing without goats.
I don't know about you, but when I get out of bed after surviving a night of gales and hail-like showers coming along in wave after wave like rampaging freight trains, the thing I really enjoy seeing is bright, warm sunlight.
I got fog.
Which immediately confused my tiny mind.
First, having come in late the night before, I assumed that I was where I wasn't. Goat Lake wasn't that little pond in the basin below me, but was actually over the ridge and around the corner in the other direction.
But there was a trail headed north, and I was supposed to go that way, so I did what you do when you find a fork in the road – I took it.
The sign sitting right atop the ridge confirmed that I was going the right way because it referred to a landmark that was not on my map. I paid $12.95 for the map, so it had to be right.
Looking backward, I could just barely see the general area where I camped, which, since I'd just come from there, had to be out there, though in the fog the evidence suddenly seemed overly sketchy.
Moving felt good, since there was nothing else to do anyway. Trudging upslope and around a few bends I came to another ridge, and began descending its far side, glad to be on the trail to my next camp. Then I came to a long snowfield which disappeared over the mountain's shoulder and became lost in more fog lower down. Heh.
I gave up without a fight. One slip and it would have been a long tumble into darkness. Foggy darkness, but still darkness. With rocks.
Even though there were footprints leading across the snow, it was too early, too dark, too foggy. The snow was too hard to cross over safely, and the fall was too long and too deadly. So I quit and turned around.
Oddly, I found bear poop on the trail, though I'd missed it coming up, and there were two occupied campsites, which I also hadn't seen – the fog was that thick. But no one was around either, which was even more spooky.
But then some sunshine came along, so that was a good excuse for breakfast. The time by now was around 10:30, and I'd almost made it back to the day's starting point. Breakfast, though – that's always a good deal.
Food did nothing to unscramble my thinking. I have an almost infinite capacity for getting lost in obvious places and no matter how many times I looked from the map to the landscape and back, I still didn't know where the hell I was.
So what the hey. Let's go see what Lily Basin is. It wasn't on the map but the stream flowing out of it looked to be headed south, a direction I was going explore in a couple of days anyway, so how bad could it be? I'd be ahead of schedule.
Not that bad, as it turned out. By now, somewhere on the way to noon, the fog was shredding and swirling, with intermittent sun breaks – things were looking up as I moved down.
At least the trail looked good, and it was downhill, one of my favorite directions in nature.
(Insert more trudging here.)
Obviously, even if this was the wrong way to go, I thought, the trail is well used, so how bad could that be? (More trudging.)
I was starting to enjoy this. Who cares where it leads anyway?
I didn't. I could have kept this up all day, as long as the weather continued improving. I'd sort out where I was later – even if I was technically lost, there were trails and other people all over and all the distances were short. No probs, really.
No hey – I don't really know. Someone probably named it, but it's not on my map.
Way down there. I'd camp there, I thought, if I ever got there, but why worry?
Then something odd happened. I found a lake where there shouldn't be one. So what was going on here?
Time for more map study. Yes, I had been looking at it right-side-up, but the lake I was sitting alongside – what was that?
After eliminating all the obvious solutions – that I'd been abducted, transported to another planet, was having an out-of-body experience, an out-of-mind experience, and several other things, I concluded that I'd finally arrived at the real Goat Lake, which explained a lot. Such as how bright I really am, which is sometimes quite thoroughly debatable.
Given that this is a restricted area where camping and fires aren't allowed near the lake, there was an overabundance of campers. Which made me glad I'd spent the night on the wrong side of the ridge, huddled against the wind and rain.
There was nowhere I could have camped anyway, so hey. Lucked out again.
By the time my thinking recalibrated itself, it was too late in the day to pick up my original route. Half the day was gone, and the previous trip had been a killer so this one was designed for comfort, not for speed, and I continued going with the flow.
Now this was nice – sun, greenery, peaks, open views. I almost felt semi-human again.
Much later, I thought I'd gotten to Snowgrass Flat. It had to be. Magical.
A waterfall high up cascaded into a talus slope where it vanished, only to reappear hundreds of feet directly below as a spring. The whole meadow around it was soft and lush, full of flowers, and not boggy.
But that was fine. I made a short side trip to investigate the stream and the meadow, and sat there a while, satisfied that I'd finally made it to a spot I hadn't bothered with 13 years ago..
Wrong but happy.
(Insert more mindless sitting here.)
(Still enjoying the mindless sitting...)
After a while I moved on and found the real Snowgrass Flat, which isn't. Not snowy nor grassy nor flat, but did have a half-decent place for my hammock.
Mountain Wildflowers: 57 common species in the Cascades and Olympics