3-Day Backpacking in Washington's Remote Goat Rocks Wilderness

Film photography from a few days spent cowboy camping in the smokey remnants of a two million year old volcano

3-Day Backpacking in Washington's Remote Goat Rocks Wilderness

Author

Graham Hiemstra

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Kodak Portra 400, Ektar 100

Each year during late summer my father, uncle, cousin, and I get together in the Pacific Northwest to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. We’re not there to set records—no one would be impressed with our mileage—but simply to see a small stretch of the region we all grew up in, yet intimately know so little of. In past years we’ve visited Oregon’s Jefferson Park Wilderness, and Indian Heaven Wilderness in southwestern Washington. For summer ’17 we returned to the high country between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to spend a few nights under the stars in Goat Rocks Wilderness.

Though just 40 or so miles due north of Indian Heaven, Goat Rocks is significantly more rugged with impressive elevations in all directions. The 108,000+ acre area is the remnant of a large volcano, now extinct for over two million years. In the time since glaciation and erosion have carved steep valleys and towering rock walls, while an annual snowfall of over 25 feet ensures little grows, especially above the timberline. For a region defined by its well-defined peaks, Goat Rocks offers flowing, craggy terrain unlike any other in the PNW. And, if you’re lucky, plenty of huckleberries and wild blueberry variations too.

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-1
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-3

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-4

At the trailhead, before the trip even technically began, we had the pleasure of changing a flat tire, as the hour long drive in on gravel left our aging Subaru limping. From there we found smoke from countless local wildfires clogged all surrounding valleys, and our lungs. Elevation gain was plentiful, and miles ticked by slowly, but progress was made each day and we happily cowboy camped each night.

Though our time in the Goat Rocks was brief, and we didn’t quite reach the famed Knife’s Edge, we were treated to two absolutely stunning campsites (one of which surrounded by literally dozens of PCT thru-hikers), swam in glacial melt, and shared multiple meals with curious marmots and herds of wild mountain goats grazing nearby. All while being fortunate enough to fully disconnect from the outside world for 72 peaceful hours—a true measure of success in my book.

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-22

"Elevation gain was plentiful, and miles ticked by slowly, but progress was made each day and we happily cowboy camped each night."

Goat-Rocks-Backpack-5
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-6
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-8
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-11
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-9
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-10
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-14
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-19
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-13
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-15
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-17
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-21
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-18
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-23
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-25
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-29
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-28
Goat-Rocks-Backpack-27
Related articles
Field Mag Releases New Film Photo Zine FMO2: WINTER
FM02: WINTER Is Here! Our Second Film Photo Zine Is Now Live

The follow up to our sold out SUMMER edition delivers 70 color pages of 35mm and medium format film photos from 35 of our favorite photographers

Experience the "Real Japan" by Hiking the 1,000 km Michinoku Coastal Trail
Michinoku Coastal Trail Guide: What to Know About Japan's New 1,000 km Trail

This scenic trail winds through rugged coastlines, dense forests, and historic towns, helping revitalize a region still reeling from the 2011 tsunami

Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Vans Pipe Masters on Oahu's North Shore
Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Vans Pipe Masters Surf Competition

35mm and medium format film photos from the legendary Hawaiian surf competition where the world's best surfers compete for $500k in cash—and glory

Searching for Surf and Safe Passage in the Gulf of Alaska
Photo Essay: Searching for Surf and Safe Passage in the Gulf of Alaska

A two-week boat trip through surfing's final frontier brings snow-capped mountains, icebergs and sea lions, hot springs and epic vistas

Battling Altitude and Ego While Hut Hiking in the Italian Dolomites
Battling Altitude and Ego While Hut Hiking in the Italian Dolomites

Faced with the unyielding effects of thin air, one hiker learns to let go of self expectations and what should be to enjoy what is

An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry
An Off-Grid Field Test with Amundsen, Deep in the Rugged Maine Backcountry

Exploring the North Woods by float plane, canoe and on foot to discover the Norwegian spirit of friluftsliv and turn a weekend in nature into eternity

More articles
3-Day Backpacking in Washington's Remote Goat Rocks Wilderness

Gallery Mode

Photographer

Graham Hiemstra

Camera

Contax T2

Film

Kodak Portra 400, Ektar 100

Back to article
Get Free Shipping on our New Photo Book!

Meet WINTER, a fine art photo zine full of adventure inspiration

  • 70 pages of beautiful photography
  • 35 international contributors
  • Limited-edition & hand numbered
  • Printed in NYC with love
  • Use code "ZINEME" for free shipping
Shop Now
Get Free Shipping on our New Photo Book!