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cascadetraverser
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PostFri Sep 06, 2019 4:22 pm 
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August 9-16; Rae Lakes Loop

We all decided to head south for our annual family trip (with a lineup change as well) and hopefully avoid the August smoke of Washington; fortunately none of that this year, but we beat the rain!

Flew to Fresno, ate some awesome Mexican food (Don Pepo`s) and then drove up to King`s Canyon NP to find practically every car camping site full.  Managed to find one, set up camp and watched the big family party (predominantly Latino) happen.  Entertaining, but not my idea of outdoor fun…

Day One:  Drove to the Road end, secured our permits (I filed for a permit online 10 minutes after it opened March 1st and was NOT able to get a permit for the loop clockwise so we were on for the counterclockwise version; sign up early!) and headed out at 9:00 which would be our latest start of the trip.  The first 2 miles are flat and loaded with tourists but that all changes real quick when the trail forks and the trail goes up.  Really pretty views up the Bubb`s creek trail looking back towards Kings Canyon and over to Woods creek and the sheer granite walls rising up to the Spinx. Hot going in the sun…. Passed a rattlesnake buried under a rock and eventually got to Charlotte creek camp and found a great site under big cedar/white pine trees.  Enjoyed a nice fire and dinner.

Day Two:  This day was gonna be long, so we rose early and were out of camp by 6:30 and plodded up Bubb`s creek in the cool morning air. What a beautiful valley with views of a full rushing creek, scattered erratics and sheer granite cliffs in all directions, followed by big views to Sierra peaks with meadows and forests with Manzanita underbrush everywhere.  The meadows/high country of the Sierra are a cool contrast to those of the Olympics and Cascades and a fresh change.  We made it through Junction and then Vidette meadows pretty easily.  The work really started from there onto the junction to Charlotte Lake; the trail is steep and elevation high as well as it`s hot…Fortunately it cools as you get higher and there is shade!  Finally after 3700 feet of elevation gain, we reached the pass and dropped into the big upper basin and then shortly thereafter dropped 400 feet to Charlotte Lake.  The advantage to early starts was you generally are the first to your destination and had the pick of the camps (not such a bad idea given the popularity of this trip).  Charlotte lake is cool, grassy shores, a nice breeze with pretty (not drop dead) views. We found the best camp and jumped in the lake.  Spent the whole day relaxing by the lake.  Tried to tempt someone to go climb up Mt Bago, but no one would budge so I stayed for the party.


Day Three:  Another early start, the lake looked particularly beautiful in the morning light and we headed up towards Glen Pass.  First through forest with views back toward Lake Charlotte and then into the stark rocky terrain up high, by two high rocky lakes (one an amazing jade green) and thence onto Glen Pass with little snow to interrupt our progress. Great views at the pass and a brief stop and then down to the Rae Lakes basin.  Two prolonged snow passages that gave a few people pause but didn`t seem too bad…It was a long way down, but the beauty of the Rae Lakes basin was undeniable.  Wow….
We got to the isthmus between the Upper and middle Lakes and per a tip from a camper we met previously, took a left to the less visited side of the lake.  Several designated campsites were occupied, so we traveled CC to a fabulous peninsula camp about a ¼ mile away from the trail (60 Lakes basin trail) to a totally secluded and about as perfect a campsite as you could ask for.
The hiking party had split on the way down; my wife, daughter and me ahead of our friends Deb and Will; and I went back to the junction to wait for them so I could show them the way to our secluded paradise.  On seeing the two coming my way, Will informed me that Deb had taken a tumble down the rocky trail, twisting and falling on  loose rock.  She wacked her head (no concussion) and knee and twisted her ankle as well as taking the full weight of her and her pack onto her outstretched hands and fingers, dislocating her right little finger and sustaining a deep laceration to the palm side of her right middle finger.  My wife is a PA and I`m an MD, so we looked at all her injuries, cleaned her up and was happy to see she was generally fine except for the deep wound on her finger which was hard to examine without anesthesia, but given the weakness of the finger and physical appearance of the wound, I was pretty sure she sustained a flexor tendon injury (likely partial tear).  Washing it was easy, splinting it not so much.  We MaGivered a flexible metal splint with a titanium spoon and wrapped it up.  Fortunately, we were planning on a day off so she could recover and hopefully hike out.  Her injuries were not so bad as to warrant a distress call but we were 20 miles from the trailhead.  She is tough (relocated her finger herself!) and insisted in a day she would be ready to hike out after a day to rest.  After that flurry of activity we all took it easy…..Later, Will and I dayhiked over to Dragon Lake, a super cool stroll north of the Rae Lakes.  It’s a really isolated place away from the hordes and takes a little savvy to find.  Upon returning, we all felt better as Debbie was moving well and felt pretty good.  After sunset, a big full moon came out and illuminated the whole lake basin.


Day Four:  We all slept in…Yay!!  After a leisurely breakfast and a wound check (all her wounds looked clean and good), Deb stayed put and relaxed (we set up our rain tarp for shade) and the 4 of us decided to day hike over to the 60 Lakes basin.  It’s a 400 feet or so gain to a pass and then down to an exquisite basin that parallels the Rae Lakes basin, it`s quiet compared but still gets quite a bit of traffic.  60 lakes is about right as there is one around every corner, each one with a unique character.  We had a blast wandering around, swimming and ogling the scenery.  Instead of heading back the way we came, we slowly headed down the basin via a worn old path and then found a CC (my favorite kind of travel!) route over the ridge and down to Arrowhead Lake.  A particularly nice diversion away from endless trail miles.  CC in the Sierras is pretty easy compared to the Cascades and everyone had a blast (my wife is a veteran of 3 traverses with me in Washington and I was pretty sure had retired from ever doing another one, but announced she might be game for another one in the Sierras! 😊) We rounded the lake, crossed the inlet stream and made our way back to the trail and then walked back our lake and this time let my daughter navigate the shore CC to our camp.  I need a family successor!  Back at camp, Deb had casually rehabbed and was doing fine.  We relaxed, ate and had a fine happy hour.  Did I say that is was sunny?  I can never get over the fact that camping in the Sierras in summer, it never seems to rain??  Seems a little counterintuitive to general mountain weather, but having done a ½ dozen or so trips here, I can barely remember a storm (I know they happen, but nothing like Washington).


Day Five:  Another early start and a somewhat reluctant departure from such a fine place.  Deb felt great and with her bandaged hand was ready to go.  The terrain west of Rae Lakes is so beautiful.  A gorgeous meadow, 2 more beautiful lakes and then a downward plunge into the heat of the day before arriving at the busy Woods camp.  I might have been tempted to move onto less visited camps but given our status, it made sense to play it safe and wait for the rest of the party, not traveling quite as fast (!) to arrive.  Once again getting to camp early paid off and we found a secluded neighborhood away from the tent city nearby. Having intersected the John Muir Trail, we were also sharing the trail with PCT through hikers as well as John Muir trail through hikers.  I suspect that a herd mentality sets in as they all camped together (probably fun to all hang out along the way), but we were happy to have our own space.


Day Six:  The hot day before made for an even earlier start as we made our way down Woods creek past amazing domes and spires and meadows.  This trail is very popular for good reason.  It sustains its beauty throughout.  20 years earlier, I had done a segment of the Sierra High Route north and returned via this trail; that trip had inspired this one.  The return trip was no less spectacular.  Eventually we got back into thick forest and arrived at the South King Creek crossing (no longer spanned by a bridge, although I believe the NPS is planning to build one in the next few years).  The crossing was relatively deep (low thigh) but not fast or with any sort of turbulence and pretty easy.  I could see where a June/July trip could be hard through here.  About an hour later we arrived in the blazing heat to the Middle Paradise Camp right next to the river and relaxed.  We bathed in the river and chilled out all day.

Day Seven:  Got up early and dropped down the final Woods Creek stretch which as this trail does not do, did not disappoint.  Falls and cascades are the order for the day until the last two mile retread that is kinda boring.  Before long we were back at the car.  Most of the the party was glad but Will and myself could have gone for more….

Trip notes:  This is a great trip, especially for families.  Barring the altitude (11,600 is the max) and the acclimatization it requires, there is such much to recommend.  I am going back to the Sierras (hopefully off trail!) soon….
Excellent hiking/camp dynamics in all ways on this trip through hardships and loads of fun.  Thanks everyone….
Kudos to Debbie for being amazingly brave and strong and making the best of a difficult situation.  I am happy to say she is on the mend, and her finger and all other parts are healing fine.
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raising3hikers
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PostFri Sep 06, 2019 4:57 pm 
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looks pretty nice down there!  that's a good out of town summer trip idea up.gif

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Eric Eames
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contour5
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PostFri Sep 06, 2019 5:07 pm 
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One of my favorite places on earth; thanks for posting.
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Malachai Constant
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PostFri Sep 06, 2019 5:49 pm 
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Been going there since the late 70’s when I was at China Lake NWC.

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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RichP
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here and there
PostFri Sep 06, 2019 6:45 pm 
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Heavenly.  up.gif
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Tshletshy Dreamer
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PostMon Sep 09, 2019 3:56 pm 
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Thanks for a great trip and thanks for the awesome medical attention to Debbie. Here a few more photos from the loop

Big Ponderosa, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Big Ponderosa, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Lizard, Paradise Valley, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Lizard, Paradise Valley, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Aspen on Granite, Bubbs Creek Valley, Kings Canyon National Park
Aspen on Granite, Bubbs Creek Valley, Kings Canyon National Park
Hiker on trail to Glen Pass, Kings Canyon National Park
Hiker on trail to Glen Pass, Kings Canyon National Park
Mule deer doe, Middle Rae Lake, Kings Canyon National Park
Mule deer doe, Middle Rae Lake, Kings Canyon National Park
Dragon Peak, Kings Canyon National Park
Dragon Peak, Kings Canyon National Park
Juvenile Black bear, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Juvenile Black bear, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Moonrise over Dragon Peak, Rae Lake, Kings Canyon National Park
Moonrise over Dragon Peak, Rae Lake, Kings Canyon National Park
Upper Paradise Valley, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Upper Paradise Valley, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Charlotte Dome, Kings Canyon National Park
Charlotte Dome, Kings Canyon National Park
Mount Brewer, and the Great Western Divide from Glen Pass, Kings Canyon National Park
Mount Brewer, and the Great Western Divide from Glen Pass, Kings Canyon National Park
Approaching Vidette Meadows, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Approaching Vidette Meadows, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Pyramid Peak, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Pyramid Peak, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Sixty Lakes Basin, Kings Canyon National Park
Sixty Lakes Basin, Kings Canyon National Park
Dusk, Fin Dome and Lower Rae Lake, Kings Canyon National Park
Dusk, Fin Dome and Lower Rae Lake, Kings Canyon National Park
Vidette  Meadows waterfall, Kings Canyon National Park
Vidette  Meadows waterfall, Kings Canyon National Park
Sugar Pine cone, Kings Canyon National Park
Sugar Pine cone, Kings Canyon National Park
Window Peak, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Window Peak, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Lower Paradise Valley, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
Lower Paradise Valley, Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
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Luc
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 8:16 am 
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Love this area - but I didn't read the whole thing.

You lost me by the irony in your second paragraph.

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GNGSTR
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cascadetraverser
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 10:16 am 
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Luc, I could see where my prose could appear elitist or even racist. That was not my intent, as I was just expressing my dislike for car camping....More power to whoever and however people appreciate the outdoors...
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bobbi
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 10:44 am 
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super!  I remember repeating (constantly) how happy I was that Joe and I hiked Rae Lakes Loop clockwise!

thanks so much for bringing back awesome memories of that trip!

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8017793&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

your friend is super lucky to have a doctor to render aid!  I would have been crying like a baby, ha ha

great photos!  oh, glad you did the side trip to Dragon Lake. totally worth all my #$%!

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bobbi ૐ

"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
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cascadetraverser
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PostTue Sep 10, 2019 5:37 pm 
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Bobbi:  Your report was the inspiration to get Will and I up to Dragon Lakes despite an eventful day...thanks!
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