Spotting a Mountain Goat by Colchuck Lake

On a gray early summer morning in the Seattle area, I drove east for two hours in search of sunshine and some exercise. Based on a friend’s recommendation and some research using the awesome Washington Trails Association website, I decided on the Colchuck Lake trail.

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This is a rather strenuous nine-mile round-trip affair off Icicle Road in Leavenworth, WA. The road to the trailhead is riddled with potholes and I was worried about whether my compact rental would survive. The trail starts off by following a fast-moving stream, and then it begins a rather steep ascent up a series of switchbacks. In my opinion, the most challenging part was that the trail wasn’t that much of a trail in some areas – there were times when I had to scramble across rock piles or step gingerly on stones to cross creeks. It was refreshing, but I wish I had anticipated these challenges before I started.

I had been hiking for over an hour and a half already and was starting to wonder why I hadn’t yet reached the lake. Just then, I spotted a large white figure about fifty feet in front of me on an open portion of the trail. It was a mountain goat! And behind the goat I could see the crystal clear waters of Colchuck Lake. The lake was stunning, but more importantly, this was my first encounter with a wild goat, ever! The goat stared at me for a good five seconds before resuming its graze on the lush grass that grew at the side of the lake. It didn’t seem to be shy and was in fact quite habituated to human activity.

I spotted a goat.

I spotted a goat.

I had great fun shadowing it for the next half-hour, snapping photos from various angles. Here are some of the pictures I took of the goat and of the lake.

I dipped my hand in the water and it was freezing! But I did see a brave soul strip down to his underwear and jump in (he stayed in there for about five seconds before shivering and screaming his way out in cold). Apparently Colchuck means "ice water" in the Chinook language. I did not enjoy the pleasure of a dip in the lake after my tiring ascent but the view was so mesmerizing that I think it was more than sufficient a reward for my efforts.