rae lakes backpacking

may - 2015
kings canyon national park

the 'rae lakes loop' is a classic backpacking circuit in kings canyon national park.  the loop is a 42 mile trail that climbs from the roads end ranger station up to glenn pass (11, 970ft).  with some friends, we decided to try the trail over memorial day weekend 2015.  after driving up to fresno after work on friday, we arrived at the roads end ranger station in SEKI as it opened. our goal was to try to score a walk-up permit for the popular trail.  we were fortunate to secure a cancellation permit for our group of 6 and set out on the trail.  our intention for day one was a 15 mile climb from the ranger station to the jmt-woods creek trail intersection. 

tomas and eva starting up the woods creek trail

the clouds gathered overhead as we hiked the beautiful trail.  they caused some stress about potential storms, but provided a beautiful atmosphere to the surrounding peaks as we hiked thru paradise valley and up past the castle domes. 

clouds rolling into castle domes meadow

  after a grueling day of climbing several thousand feet along the woods creek trail we arrived at our camp.  we were stoked to get our tents up and a fire started before the rain arrived.  we were quick to eat our burritos fireside before retreating to the dry warmth of the tents.  the drumming of the rain on the tent lulled us to sleep.  

maya, tomas, and eva dry their kit out in the sunny morning

in the morning, we discovered a wet 2" of snow.  also, some of our friends had suffered a collapsed tent in the night, which had led to a wet and uncomfortable night's sleep.  

crin, maya, eva, and bnna work their way up towards the rae lakes with light packs

due to this, and the overal vibe of the crew, we revised our plan to dayhike up to the rae lakes and return to our camp at woods creek.  after a leisurely morning, we set off with delightfully light packs.  the snow caking the surrounding peaks made for a spectacular setting. 

after a few hours of toiling in the thinning air, we arrived at the rae lakes, which were sparkling in the warm mid-afternoon sun.  crin created a beautiful lunch of montes tortas lakeside, and then everyone had a beautiful half hour nap. 

eva and bnna enjoying a well-earned nap

we quickly made our way back down to camp where we enjoyed another campfire and dinner (the effort of carrying wine up the trail payed off here), and settled in for a peaceful and storm-free night's sleep.  

maya and eva starting the grind down valley

the next morning we started down on what we knew would be another difficult 15 mile day.  everyone was starting to feel the cumulative effects of the previous day's labor, and we knew the decent would be a grind.  

despite the struggle, we made great time down to the ranger station, arriving around 2pm.  we poured water on each other in lieu of showers, and discovered that you can cool a sixer of beers in a bear canister quite quickly with cold snowmelt water.  everyone was worked and proud of the weekend's effort.  despite deciding to skip the complete loop by stopping short of glenn pass, the 40+ miles over 3 days, combined with massive elevation gain, was a really cool physical achievement for everyone.  most notably for maya, for whom this was the first backpacking experience ever. 

arriving at the ranger station

after celebrating with snacks and beers, we piled in the car for the long drive back to LA, arriving perfectly at 10pm for a good night's sleep.