A scheduling fluke provided me a four-day weekend, and I made tracks for the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Unsettled weather was forecast, I was pretty certain my horrid mood was going to turn into a migraine, and my I made some poor packing choices leading to a rather heavy pack - it was going to be a great weekend!
And it was - even if shorter than expected. I spent Thursday night at the Lily Basin #86 trail head, at the empty horse parking lot. The lower, hiker trail head was vacant, but there was more room to park at the horse trail head.  I was on the trail by 8:00 AM after a quick trip down to Packwood for a hot mug of coffee and an i-phone charging cord (I'd left my one and only cord at home, and wanted a shortie to leave in my GoalZero charger.) The trail to Lilly Basin is great - no damage, only one tree across the trail, great tread, excellent grade - and I had it all to myself. 
The wildflower show began immediately, and just kept getting better, and cloudy skies kept temps and bugs down - before I knew it, I was rounding the shoulder of Johnson Peak and crossing into Lily Basin. Wow! Simply wow.
Crossing Lilly Basin, one finally encounters flowing water, and at this late date, just a couple of very soft, small snow fields. Dozens of species of wildflower in rioutous bloom, and the massive cliffs of Johnson Peak always above dominate the rest of the trail to the Angry Mtn Trail junction, and on to Heart Lake.
I lunched at Heart Lake, and checked out some campsites beyond the outflow - there were to parties camped at the lake, so of course, I continued up. I crossed over the North Fork of Johnson Creek, finding a beautiful campsite, then continued along the flank of Hawkeye Point almost to the pass - the soft snow finally became a barrier, and I turned back.
The camp at NF Johnson Creek was gorgeous and cozy, perched on a cliff over the stream. I could not find a good hang site tho, so left my hammock packed and set up my tarp and pad. A herd of about two dozen ountain goats - billies, nannies and kids -  literally gamboled on the green slopes above me as I prepared and ate my dinner, the bugs were not too bad, and the sunset provided a subtle light show. It was at this point that I realized my pad was deflating. I slept on the ground - it wasn't as bad as I was expecting, but I did begin to think I might not  spend a second night out. The ridge-line, some 800 feet above me, was catching a lot of cloud, and the moon and stars played peak-a-boo until my eyes just couldn't stay open any longer.
The (thankfully moderate) migraine in the morning rather gelled that decision to make it a 1-night adventure, but a handful of Excedrin and some strong coffee made some difference.  I had a lazy morning of absolute sloth. The trail was a bit more populated on the trip out - I was passed up by a trail crew that came in over the pass I had turned back from - they stated they had a tough time cutting thru a lot of soft old snow. I was glad of my decision, they looked bushed, and it wasn't even lunch time yet.
My fears of unsettled weather were overblown - while there was a lot of cloud, and some breeze, I stayed perfectly dry and comfy.  Over all, the bugs were not bad, and keeping in motion made a big difference. It ended up being a gorgeous and lonely weekend, even if only half as long as I expected. 
Overall, I hiked 16 miles with 3,142' gain.
Images taken July 12 & 13, Lilly Basin Trail #86, Goat Rocks Wilderness, GPNF.
Back to Top