Rae Lakes Loop
On a recent trip back to my homestate of Florida I was kayak fishing the beautiful Mosquito Lagoon with an old friend of mine. Passing the time in converstation I mentioned to
him that if he came out to visit me in California I would "blow his mind" with an adventure of epic proportions. As I imagined he would, my friend (Doug) instanstly replied,
"When should I show up?"
The game was afoot. I told him July would be a great month to show up. I was planning on the Sierras being fairly melted off by then and hoping to show him the amazing high
Little did I imagine that while I was enjoying a 85F day on the sunny flats of FL, the mountains back home were getting hit with record breaking amounts of snowfall.
Around May I started trip planning. I was oringinally planning on doing the BackPacker Magazine High Sierra Loop, a nice 5-6 day adventure along the peaks surrounding Yosemite.
During the research for this route I stumbled upon a route I had been eyeballing ever since I first moved out to CA and got into backpacking. The Rae Lakes Loop. I first read
about this loop on Kevin Gong's site, highly recommended well organized site. http://kevingong.com/Hiking/RaeLakesLoop.html
Rae Lakes Loop is 50 mile long loop that climbs from 5035Ft at Roads End (trailhead) all the way up to ~12,000ft at the top of Glen Pass. It is considered one of the most scenic
backpackinig trips in all of the Sierras. It surely stood up to the hype. Bears are also very active along this loop and bear canisters are mandatory gear.
Normally in July the snow has mainly melted off and this hike does not pose any real techincal threats aside from the elevation climb. However this was not a normal year, snow
was still reported to be holding anywhere above 8000ft, we were headed to 12,000Ft! I scoured the internet for any information I could find, unforuntaley there was very little
out there. A few hikers had made it to Glen Pass and turned around, high swift river crossings and deep snow seemed to be the only info I could glean. Undeterred I decided to
stick with our plans, knowing if things got too crazy we could always turn around and head back the way we came.
After wrestling with the massive bastards of canisters that the park rents to hikers I decided to purchase my own. I picked up 2 Bare Boxer canisters which luckily arrived 2
days before our trip. I also wanted to trim down my baseweight before this hike, I ditched my awesome Marmot Limelight 2P (~5lb) in favor a lightweight Tarptent DoubleRainbow
Dougs plane landed at SFO around 945AM on July 2nd, 2011. I scooped him up and we headed back to my place in Orinda for some last minute packing and weight-culling of Dougs
pack. I think we trimmed at least 5Lbs of gear out. After the packs were set we loaded up the Jeep and hit the road.
Doug was getting a good tour of the wild and wacky climates of Northen California as we left Aiport (75F), headed into SF (55F), headed to Orinda (85F), then eventually made it
to Fresno (106F!) then all the way up to Kings Canyon (75F). ..And he thought I was crazy when I told him to pack for everything from freezing snow temps to scorching desert
We wound up the 180 crossing the central valley before heading up into the Sierra mountains. Eventually arriving at the Ranger station for Kings Canyon.
I finally broke down and
purchased an "America the Beautiful" annual pass for the all US park systems for $80. I figure I have spent at least $100+ or so in the past months on various park admission. It
was a painless process, just pay for it and receive the card. Highly recommended if you spend as much time as we do bouncing around our Nations parks.
The day was getting late as we wound our way up the mountain and eventually back down Kings Canyon headed toward Cedar Grove. The road turned from deep woods into a gorgeous
deep canyon lined with high sierra peaks, the sunset lighting was perfect, we pulled over and took a few quick snaps before heading further into the canyon.
Knowing we werent going to make it to the trailhead in time to hike to a campspot before nightfall we started to scope out some of the "established" campgrounds. Well good luck
trying to find a campspot on 4th of July weekend. Every single campsite was full to the gills with weekend warriors, BBQ grills, and boomboxes. No thanks.
As we conitnued our search for a campsite I spotted a bear meandering through the woods from the car. We flipped a quick Uturn and jumped out to snap a few pictures. It was a
momma bear and her 2 cubs. Unforutantely the sun was going down and they were too far away for a flash shot.