Day 1: 14ish miles, 4500 ft
Day 2: 13ish miles, 2700 ft
Total: 27 miles RT, 7200' gain
(Elevation calculated manually from elevation profile, may not be exact.)
From: Goose Creek TH (8,200 ft)
I'll admit it. Sometimes I get a little too preoccupied with summits. Most of my hiking plans over the last couple years have revolved around what peaks are nearby, and not the area itself. Shame on me. A prime example of this mentality was the fact that I loved the Lost Creek Wilderness, yet had never hiked the Goose Creek Loop. This really needed to change. (However that didn't mean I couldn't grab some peaks while passing through…)
Day 1 (June 6th)
Starting out from the trailhead among the remnants of the forest fire.
Scenes from along the Goose Creek Trail
I pulled up to the Goose Creek Trailhead horribly late. My planned start time of 7:00 AM had turned into 10:00 AM and the parking lot was overflowing into the road. I was able to find a single spot in the lot, and I was grateful because I really didn't want to be parked on the road for 2 nights. (Yes, I was planning on two nights. More on that in a bit.)
I threw on my pack filled with overnight luxuries and headed down the trail towards my first intersection of the day: Hankins Pass Trail headed west, Goose Creek Trail headed north. I had decided to do the loop counterclockwise. I do not regret this decision because it turned out the Hankins Pass Trail was littered with fallen timber that would have been a damper to the beginning of my hike. While on Goose Creek Trail, I passed lots groups heading back to the parking lot. Most were day hikers heading to/from Harmonica Arch or the Shafthouse, however there were a handful returning from overnight camps in Refrigerator Gulch. I didn't come across anyone who stated they had done the loop.
I caught up with one hiker about 3 miles in who was out for a day hike with her dog. We ended up hiking together up until the McCurdy Park/Goose Creek trail intersection about 6 miles in. (The trail intersection is at 9,420'.) I took a breather here, but didn't linger long. It was already close to 12:30 and I still had many miles of up and down to go until I reached my planned camp in McCurdy Park. I parted with my new acquaintance and headed west on the McCurdy Park trail. The trail immediately began to descend into Refrigerator Gulch. After being on a steady incline over the past few hours, descending felt nice.
Looking southwest from the intersection of Goose Creek Trail and McCurdy Park Trail.
Looking west while descending into Refrigerator Gulch
I passed a few more groups returning from Refrigerator Gulch, and a couple of them stated that they were stopped by a river that passed over the trail without a bridge to cross. Huh? Out of all the trail descriptions I had read, I never recalled seeing anything about getting wet! (Although it was so hot that the thought of a quick dip actually sounded nice.) By the time I reached the bottom of the gulch, it was sweltering. It was bad enough that I broke my own personal rule of never hiking in shorts and zipped off my pant legs. Ironically, within 30 minutes I had two bee stings on my legs. I guess that's what I get…
After another couple miles of westward travel I came to the water blockade that some of the other hikers spoke of. Sure enough, it was deep, swift, and bridgeless. This really wasn't making sense, as I was sure that I needed to stay on the north side of the stream. After a few moments of hesitation, I finally discovered the true trail headed up a hill sharply to my right. No river to be crossed! I felt sorry for the groups that turned around because they thought they needed to cross. In their defense, it did appear to be a faint trail on the opposite side of the stream that was quite misleading.
Some interesting rock formations on my way through refrigerator gulch.
Looking back down into Refrigerator Gulch to the east.
UN 11,328 to the north just before ascending towards McCurdy Park.
On the road again.
By now my legs were starting to hate my heavy pack and the option to pitch camp before the final ascent into McCurdy Park was starting to sound good. It was a beautiful area and campsites were plentiful, however getting another 1500 feet of elevation that would not have to be done in the morning was too great a reward. Besides, my girlfriend had my "estimated camp coordinates" and I wanted to try and get as close to that area as possible. Ignoring the siren song from a final gorgeous campsite, I headed up.
It was getting close to 3 PM by the time I started the final ascent into McCurdy Park. On the way up, I passed one couple headed down to Refrigerator Gulch. These would be the last people I would see until getting back to Goose Creek TH. The views of UN 11,180' to the NW aided my tired legs and made me look forward to my attempt on this peak the next day. Finally, I strolled into McCurdy Park around 5:30. I found a nice campsite within 100 feet of my planned coordinates that was nestled right below the impressive McCurdy Tower. After a quick water fill up and some rice/easymac/tuna mix (mmm..) I went right to bed planning to get up at first light.
Approaching McCurdy Park from the north.
11,762A from near my campsite in McCurdy Park.
McCurdy Park Tower. My campsite is at the edge of the trees.
Day 2 (June 7th)
I was up at 5:30, ready to go by 6:00. My first plan was to grab PT 11,762A. About a year ago while doing a McCurdy/Bison shuttle hike with Greenhouseguy and Zoomie83 we had passed about 400 feet below the summit while on the approach to McCurdy, however due to other goals we had passed it by.
I was camped about a half mile north of the Brookside/McCurdy-McCurdy Park Trail intersection, so after a quick walk I was headed west towards the saddle of McCurdy and UN 11762A. After about 1 mile, I arrived at the high point of the saddle which is almost due north of 11762A. I left the trail and took a straight heading towards the summit. Nothing but easy class two and clear sailing. Around 6:45 I was on the summit being treated to some great views of the Tarryall's. I was unable to find any sort of register on the summit.
McCurdy Park/Brookside-McCurdy Intersection
UN 11762 from the Brookside/McCurdy Trail
The southern Tarryall's from the summit of 11762.
Looking down towards McCurdy Park from the summit of 11762.
While on the summit, I was forced to make a tough decision. I had planned on revisiting McCurdy on my way over to UN 11180' and bushwhacking my way back to camp from the McCurdy/11180 saddle. Taking into consideration the condition of my legs (still tired from the day before) and my Achilles (a pain which I had been conveniently ignoring since I tweaked it in the Dick's Peak quad a couple weeks prior) I decided to surrender any attempts on peaks that would require a lot of off trail hiking. This meant 11180 and 11328 were officially off today's to-do list. I guess I could have saved the weight of hauling my helmet!
I descended quickly back to the trail and returned to camp. I spent a good 15 minutes trying to locate my bear bag (this is a common issue for me) and packed up camp. Putting my heavy pack on was not the best feeling, but I got used to it again quickly. I headed back up the final portion of McCurdy Park Trail for the second time that morning, however went south instead of west on the Brookside-McCurdy trail at the intersection. The trail begins to descend for about a mile or so which enabled me to move quickly. Before long at was standing at the trail intersection for the Lake Park Trail. The mile after turning onto this trail represents the final "major" elevation gain on the Goose Creek Loop. The trail circles around the east side of "Tarryall Peak" and tops out about 200 vertical feet from the summit.
After an uneventful and unfortunately "scenically challenged" mile I arrived at the trail highpoint. Here I dropped my pack and headed straight up towards the summit of "Tarryall Peak". I couldn't remember the recommended ascent route to the summit so I just made a beeline straight up. After about 2 sections of class 3 scrambling I reached the top. (Had I spent time looking around I am sure I could have found an easier way up.) The views from on top were impressive all around. Lake Park Peak looked intriguing, and to the north McCurdy Mountain seemed to be oozing outward into its surroundings. There were two registers on top, an earlier one that was in rough shape and a newer one with a well intact notebook.
Working my way south with "Tarryall Peak" in the distance.
Intersection of Brookside-McCurdy and Lake Park Trails.
McCurdy Mountain from the summit of "Tarryall Peak".
After taking in the sights for a bit, I followed my ascent route back down to my pack and began descending towards Lake Park. The downhill was starting to bother my legs more than ascending had, and I decided that I would take a long break in Lake Park to figure out my next moves. My original plan had Lake Park as my second camp, however due to skipping some peaks that morning I was now here about 5 hours ahead of schedule. After debating with myself for a while, I finally figured I would take to conservative approach and skip the second night and make my way for the trailhead. (More than anything, I was worried about how my Achilles would feel after resting it overnight…wasn't sure if it would help it or push it over the edge.)
By now it was close to noon. I knew that I had plenty of time to make my way back so I could take it easy and enjoy myself. After all, I was here for the loop; I should at least enjoy the sights! As I passed over the north side of Lake Park Peak and began descending towards Hankins Pass, I couldn't believe the number of young aspens that were spread throughout the area. I will be making it a priority to get back to Lake Park sometime this fall to check out the leaves. The trail remained great all the way down to Hankins Pass.
Lake Park Peak from Lake Park
Descending the Lost Park Trail towards Hankins Pass.
Scenes from the Lost Park Trail.
More aspens along the Lost Park Trail.
If I have one major complaint about the trip, it was the southern portion of the loop on the Hankins Pass Trail. Trees were down EVERYWHERE. And I mean hundreds. Most of the falls looked recent, so it may have been due to an individual storm that recently occurred. The temps were really starting to rise as I descended, and jumping over tree after tree was not helping my mood. But before too long, I found myself standing in front of the trail intersection where I had begun my journey about 29 hours earlier. I was back to the parking area a few minutes later at about 3:30.
Along the Hankins Pass Trail
Downed trees along the Hankins Pass trail.
MORE downed trees....
Looking back west towards South Tarryall Peak while on Hankins Pass Trail.
Returning to the burn area near the trailhead.
Almost back to the trailhead.
Final look back at the Goose Creek area.
In looking back at this hike, I wish I had done one of two things:
1. Spent 2 nights and stopped in Refrigerator Gulch instead of pushing on to McCurdy Park.
2. Followed the exact same method that I did except planned for only one night to save some weight and make to trip a bit easier.
I feel bad that it took me so long to make it to the Goose Creek area, but I'm really glad I finally gave it a shot. I'll definitely be back, maybe even for an out-and-back trip to Refrigerator Gulch. This trip was just another scrap of evidence that you really can't go wrong anywhere in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Google earth track of Day 1.
Google earth track of Day 2.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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