We found our first backpacking route using Craig Romano’s informative guidebook, “Backpacking Washington”. We chose the Green River and Goat Mountain trail. We knew it would be difficult at 20 miles and 3500 feet in elevation gain but we hoped that the views would outweigh the weight of our packs.

The hike is located in the southern Cascades surrounding Mount Saint Helens. Part of our hike actually took us through sections of the blast zone from the 1980 Mount Saint Helen’s volcanic eruption. Thirty years had done a lot for the area and it was difficult to tell whether we were in an area that had been logged, suffered an avalanche, or had been affected by the volcano. The wildflowers were stunning and the views were only rivaled by what we saw in the high Sierras and the French Alps.

Mr Romano suggested that we follow the 20 mile loop clockwise, due to some initial navagational difficulties we ended up going counterclockwise. The steep ascent at the beginning of the hike was incredibly difficult. It was Mr Romano’s recommendation to experience this steep trail on the descent, however, I prefer steep ascents to descents. So, while it was initially very difficult it ended up being all for the best. He also recommends the clockwise direction because then you get the most boring sections of the hike over with during your first section. Again, I disagree, the beauty of the difficult sections made it easy to keep going. Heading back to the car was an easy and flat hike, perfect for our sore legs and feet the following day. Not to mention that Saturday proved to be bright and sunny allowing us to take in the incredible scenery around us while as on Sunday it proved to be misty and cloudy, making us happy that we weren’t missing any views during the forested section of trail.

We drove to the trailhead parking lot located within the Green River Horse Camp. There were campers and equines present and the people were friendly and helpful! There were also privies available making it a perfect launching point for the adventure that lay ahead of us!

All ready to go!

All ready to go!

The incredible views that surrounded us were breathtaking and made the arduous journey all worth while.

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What did we get ourselves into?!?!

What did we get ourselves into?!?!

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A quick break to take in the views

A quick break to take in the views

Hoofing it up, up, up!

Hoofing it up, up, up!

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Latigo even enjoyed the scenery!

Latigo even enjoyed the scenery!

Bobby looking out at one of our first scenic viewpoints after a long trek uphill!

Bobby looking out at one of our first scenic viewpoints after a long trek uphill!

The mosquitos were unbelievable on the first section of the trail. They were so bad that quick stops for snacks or the bathroom were horrible and, therefor, short. The lack of a good break was difficult but the alternative was even more unpleasant. I would definitely recommend bringing along bug spray! While the bugs may have been unbearable, the wildflowers that we saw along the edge of the blast zone were beautiful.

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Beargrass that only blooms every 7 years!

Beargrass that only blooms every 7 years!

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There are several spots to camp along the loop. At 6.5 miles we reached Deadman’s Lake a popular spot to camp and swim along the trail. As we arrived so did two other groups. The mosquitos were still ridiculously bad but we were in desperate need of a rest and snack. We found a spot near the water that allowed us to let Latigo off leash for a quick swim and cool down while we munched on trail mix and hoped that the next camping spot would have fewer bugs.

Snack at Deadman's Lake before continuing on in hopes of finding less bugs at the next camping area

Snack at Deadman’s Lake before continuing on in hopes of finding less bugs at the next camping area

Latigo taking a quick swim at our stop at Deadman's Lake

Latigo taking a quick swim at our stop at Deadman’s Lake

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We reached the next good camping spot 10.5 miles in at Vanson Lake, elevation 41600.

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We were the only ones at this camping spot and the bugs weren’t nearly as bad! There was a stream running through our site and Vanson Lake was just a few short feet away.

Happy to be at our campsite for the night!

Happy to be at our campsite for the night!

Vanson Lake

Vanson Lake

Sleepy puppy

Sleepy puppy

We made some dinner and spent the evening sitting on the shore of the lake watching the fish jumped as the sun set.

Making some dinner!

Making some dinner!

Hobo BoBo eating some apple cobbler

Hobo BoBo eating some apple cobbler

The next morning the forest was shrouded in a chilly mist and fog. We supped on oatmeal for breakfast before heading out. We had 9.5 miles ahead of us. Our hike out was a breeze despite a wrong turn that had us going through a clear cut area for a time. We added on an extra mile or two but were soon back on the trail!

Back on the trail!

Back on the trail!

The majestic old growth we walked through on the way out made the trip that much easier as we wondered at the beauty of our surroundings.

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Thankfully trail crews had recently been through and had cleared many of the large downed trees in the area, making our hike much easier!

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We made it safely back to the car, sore, but exhilarated from our first backpacking adventure in the Cascades! Overall this was an amazing hike with everything we wanted, solitude, exceptional views, beautiful wildflowers, and a good, but doable, challenge!

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Green River Waterfall

Green River Waterfall

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About the author


I am the youngest of six daughters and spent my childhood vacations camping in the beautiful State Parks of MN. In 2009 I married my best friend, Bobby Marko. We have embarked on numerous adventures along with our Golden Retriever, Latigo, our son, Jack (born 7/26/2014) and our daughter, Rowan (born 10/25/2016). When not adventuring in the great outdoors I spend my time as a stay at home mom and volunteer. I am a Branch Lead for the Twin Cities Hike it Baby branch. My favorite pastimes include dog training, eating chocolate, reading mysteries and crappy romance novels, and creating paper crafts, my passion lies in writing.

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