Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park

Doug and I have spent the last few months training for the John Muir Trail this July, and this last weekend we went on a little warm up hike to test out some of our new gear, new methods, and get our feet wet at altitude.

Actually, now that I think about it, that isn't accurate.  I talked Doug's sister, Nancy, into a 45 mile hike in three days as "training" for our Machu Picchu hike in Peru this winter.  Somewhere in there I mentioned to Doug how much fun we were going to have and suggested that he come along.  And then Nancy ended up using all of her vacation time going to Germany, so Doug and I ended up doing the trail by ourselves and I chalked it up to a JMT warm up.  Yes.  That's how that happened.

In any event, Doug and I hiked 45 miles in three days.  That's really the meat and potatoes of what I am trying to say.

The venue was the lovely Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park, and if you have never been there you should seriously consider taking the time to do so.  It has all of the majestic appeal of Yosemite without the crowds.  Being a loop, you can nab permits for the trail going clockwise or counter-clockwise.  The thing is that Glen Pass, the high point of the trail at 11,970', is not exactly half way through the loop; rather, it falls on the counter-clockwise side.  Which means that if you go counter-clockwise, you climb the pass in 17 miles, whereas if you go clockwise you climb it in a luxurious 26 miles. It also means that Clockwise permits are hard to get, because no one really wants to deal with how steep that 17 miles is.

Naturally, I could only get permits for the hard way.

But that's okay, right? After a few weeks of telling Nancy and Doug that the hard way was carved out of fire and brimstone and that we would never, EVER go that way, I got to tell them that really, I was exaggerating.  It's not that bad.  We will be fine. I mean, I know that I"m the only one that really likes hiking uphill, but don't' sweat it because it will be SO MUCH FUN.

Nancy having bowed out, Doug and I set off on Friday morning to the park in order to camp over night in an attempt to get semi-acclimated to the beginning elevation. We got our permits early so we could get up and go the next day. And, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we did just that.

And OMG the first day was hard. 15 miles all freaking uphill. We climbed from 5000' something to 9500'.  Over the course of 15 miles hat doesn't sound so bad, but it was a little brutal that day.
Here is Doug being not too happy with me.  A common theme when I talk him in to backpacking trips.
But the Rae Lakes Loop is seriously a beautiful loop guys.  if you ever get a chance to do it, you really should.  Though by the end up the trip, I decided that four days was really the way to go.  Split the first day up into two or something.
I'm in a freaking meadow!

Doug being super fancy as we climb out of Vidette.

King's Canyon is full of this. 
King's Canyon really is on par with Yosemite, but without the tourist zoo.  The rangers are also really friendly and considerably less stressed.

On top of Glen Pass, 11,924'.

Rae Lakes from Glen Pass.

Panorama from the top of Glen Pass.

 As you come down from Glen pass and Rae Lakes, you go through a perfect little meadow on your way to the suspension bridge at Woods Creek Crossing.  This is probably our favorite part of the trail, and Doug is a little in love with this stream crossing right here.
Crossing the creek into Upper Paradise Valley. 

Okay, this spot is just below Lower Paradise, and it is MADE for swimming.  Crystal clear.  Deep.  Beautiful. And absolutely frigid. 

And coming down the mountain.  Hot and Hungry. 
Doug and I have decided not to hike this patch of trail again for awhile, as we hike the Woods Creek Crossing to Vidette Meadows bit again while we were on the JMT.  We felt a little too familiar with Glen Pass this last time around. But I have to say, I think I prefer the counter clockwise version.  It gets the uphill over with faster, and the downhill is a little gentler on your knees.  In some places. 

I know I am a few weeks late in getting this adventure up, and I have already had people asking me to get the JMT trip posted already. I will, I will! Be prepared for probably TMI in that post, as we were on the trail for 16 freaking days with limited showers and laundry services. 

So tell me, were has everyone been hiking this summer?  Tell us about your adventures this season!