One of our goals we set for ourselves when moving out west was to photograph certain animals in the wild. This list is composed of:
- Rattlesnake (completed)
- Bald Eagle (completed)
- Golden Eagle (completed)
- Mountain Goat
- Big Horned Sheep
- Black Bear
- Mountain Lion
So last weekend I set off to track down mountain goats to photograph. Doing some research online, it appeared my best opportunity for success would be in Washington instead of Oregon. So I pinpointed a trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I choose the Gifford Pinchot National Forest as it is the closest location with mountain goats to where we are located (Oregon). It is also a beautiful national forest with views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Hood.
Unfortunately after about 3 hours of driving, the forest roads leading to the hiking trailhead became extremely rutted. At this time I am driving a VW Golf and it was to risky to proceed without damaging the car. I really need to start looking into upgrading to a vehicle with high clearance.
So last weekend ended in disappointment.
This weekend I was determined to try again. I researched online and determined the Olympic Mountains have a large population of mountain goats. A little longer of a drive from my house but I was determined to photograph mountain goats at all costs this weekend.
Around 4 am Saturday morning my alarm started screaming for me to get up. I grabbed my hiking bag, loaded the camera with newly charged batteries and hit the road. The location that I determined for the highest probability of mountain goat sightings was Mt. Ellinor in the Olympic mountains.
Now Mt. Ellinor is widely known as being a great site to view mountain goats, but the mountain doesn’t make it easy. The hike to top is 3.3 miles and climbs 3,200′. Add that elevation gain with the fact that I will be carrying 40 pounds of camera gear and you get a heck of a workout.
As soon as I arrived at the trailhead, I had doubts about going forward. I am very used to solo hiking by now. I solo hike almost every weekend. But if you look at the picture to the left, that is what I was staring into. It was about 7am in the morning, on a trail that warns of bears, cougars and aggressive mountain goats, and I can only see a few yards ahead. The only thing that helped me overcome my fear was that there were already 3-4 cars at the trailhead. So most likely the bears and cougars would already be full by the time I made it to them haha.
I pushed forward up the trail trying not to think of the things that go bump in the dark. The trail was steep but well maintained. After about a mile of hiking, I scrambled up a rocky section of the trail and emerged above the cloud line.
As I sat there resting and enjoying the breathtaking view, I hear some rustling to my left. I glance down the path and see three beautiful mountain goats chewing on some bushes! From this point on, there were mountain goats EVERYWHERE. I must have seen 30-40 total mountain on the rest of the hike.
The rest of the hike was challenging. Extremely steep and exhausting. I ran into some several snow patches and was thankful that I had my microspikes to slip over my boots. But with mountain goats all over the place, my mind was fixed on photographing them rather then my burning legs from the climb up. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a detailed overview of this hike in the adventures page. In the meantime, enjoy the many goat and hiking pictures I took.
- Mountain Goat (completed!!!)