Key: 2011-07-19:     2011-07-20:     2011-07-21:    
2011-07-22:     2011-07-23:    

Kings Canyon - Rae Lakes Loop (Cali pt.2)

The second part of the Cali NP tour. The Rae Lakes loop in Kings Canyon NP.

Begin Date:

End Date:

2011-07-19: 10.29 mi
2011-07-20: 11.44 mi
2011-07-21: 7.34 mi
2011-07-22: 10.81 mi
2011-07-23: 4.39 mi

Total: 44.27 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
11985.12ft (3654.789m)

Minimum Elevation*:
4880.64ft (1488.519m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

* This is derived from GPS data and can have major discrepancies due to poor GPS reception.

Trip Report:

07.18.11: Lassen NP to Sequoia NP

Up and early yet again as we would be on the road for a majority of the day. Our lunch time destination was in Chico, the home of Jason’s favorite Brewery; Sierra Nevada. It was certainly worth the drive as lunch was delicious along with the tastings of beer. We also treated ourselves to a self guided tour and a little bit of shopping in the gift store.
Good food and good beer!

The break was short lived however and we were soon back on the road heading for Fresno’s REI. Tracy not only forgot her camping pillow but she forgot Tevas too. Two items she could probably do without for a few nights, but since we had another 14 days of backcountry, those items would be needed and get well used. After the stop in Fresno, we made our way to Sequoia National Park. Again, being the middle of summer, the campground was packed. Thank god for reservations. Jason found a website that allowed one to view the campsites before you reserve them and he did a great job picking us the best spot in the area. We would spend the rest of the night reorganizing and repacking as well as attempting to get everything that had an odor out of the car. Black Bears are a big problem in Sequoia, especially in the campground. Apparently they will essentially pry open car doors of campers that don't take them seriously. As a result, the belongings needed to be locked up in the provided bear bins. After what seemed like a few hours, we would finally have some time for a fire, dinner, and of course beer that we bought at the brewery earlier that day.

07.19.11: Sequoia NP to Kings Canyon NP and Upper Paradise Valley

Tracy quickly learned that sleeping in doesn’t happen too often on these trips! It was yet another early morning due to the fact that we needed to drive about 2 hours to get to the Kings Canyon ranger station as early as possible. The rangers there would start giving away unclaimed permits to folks without reservations after 10AM and we did not want to be stuck without a permit. Jason was worried that the ranger might not let us do the Rae Lakes Loop due to the snow that was still on Glen Pass. However the ranger said we would have no problem, especially since she found out we were from Washington and had experience with glacier travel. We hit one last quick shower back at Cedar Grove (The main little village in Kings Canyon) and away we went.

It only took about a mile of hiking before we encountered our first and only Kings Canyon Rattlesnake. That wasn't something we really wanted to see, but we knew they were around especially in Paradise Valley. Not being too accustomed to Rattlesnakes, we spent the next hour or so thinking just about everything that even remotely looked snakish was most certainly a poisonous snake ready to strike. The paranoia eventually faded as the afternoon set in.

The weather was much warmer here than in Lassen, which made us stop frequently for water as well as shade as we worked our way up the rather steep canyon. The views back down the canyon were growing more spectacular with each step but eventually would be obscured by the canyon walls as we made our way into Paradise Valley proper.

Within Paradise valley the grade lessens to almost flat and the river here flows calmly back and forth between the steep sides of the canyon. The foliage also becomes much more temperate which is quite a departure from the entrance to the canyon where it was much more desert like. It is no wonder why this area is named Paradise Valley. Simply put, it is heavenly.
More gorgeous river.

Later that evening and 10.29 miles later we finally reached our destination of Upper Paradise Camp. As luck would have it, as we approached we noticed campers watching a golden bear cub across the river. We joined them for a minutes watching, but soon the bear moved on to other bear activities. With that we moved on to the last remaining site and set up camp for the night.

07.20.11: Upper Paradise Valley to Arrowhead Lake

Finally not up so early! Breakfast and coffee were enjoyed in the cool morning and we got a move on because we knew the heat of the day would get us if we didn’t get started. The trail here was in great condition aside from a hard to follow section early on.

The first part of the hike was rather uneventful, just heading up the valley created by Woods Creek until the junction with the John Muir Trail. Once there we crossed a beautiful suspension bridge and made lunch near the creek. We took advantage of the cool water and soaked our aching feet while we ate. After lunch, we made a steady climb up the JMT towards Arrowhead Lake. We would actually remain on both the JMT and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) for the next day and a half.

Just in case you aren't familiar, the JMT starts/ends in Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia NP, King’s Canyon NP and starts/ends at the highest peak in the continental US, Mt Whiteny at 14,496. There were several hikers we encountered along the trail that were attempting to do this route, at that point all still seemed to be good spirits.
Trail Sign near Dollar Lake.

Later that afternoon we reached the beauty of the Rae Lakes Area. Arrowhead lake would serve as our camp for the evening. The usual camping chores were finished and before long we found ourselves in the tent with no fewer than 100 buzzing mosquitoes wanting inside. Of all the things people told us that day, why did not tell us about the bugs at Arrowhead? In retrospect, it wasn't a surprise that we were the only campers there that night. Eventually the sun went down and the temperature dropped enough to send the bugs into hiding. We could finally leave our tent for a late dinner and so Jason could set up another star trail.
End of Dollar Lake and the beginning of Arrowhead Lake.

07.21.11: Arrowhead Lake to near Bullfrog Lake

Being up so high in elevation (just over 10K), it wasn’t long and the sun was shining brightly down on our tent. Packing up was short and sweet and before long we were at the actual Rae Lakes. We stopped a few minutes to fish, but the bugs kept us from getting too serious so we kept on moving. Near the end of the lake, the mosquitoes seemed to be a little thinner so we set the packs down and did a little more fishing, this time without being eaten alive. After Tracy’s fishing itch had been satisfied, it was time to begin the climb up Glen Pass.

It didn't take long before we hit snow but it remained off and on for awhile. For the parts that were snow covered there was a pretty decent boot path heading up to the the final steep section of the pass. It took a few minutes, but with the help of the GPS, we picked up the switchbacks heading up and over. There was a fairly significant snow covered traverse near the knife edge ridge of the pass that looked pretty intimidating, but there were plenty of old boot paths across and no indication of any serious danger. Jason went first and kicked fresh steps and a path for Tracy and it wasn’t long and we were on the other side enjoying the view from nearly 12,000 feet! We had a quick lunch and took some panoramas and we were again on our way.
The view from the top of Glen Pass.

We really didn’t have an exact destination in mind, Charolette Lake was sounding promising, but it was a bit out of the way. Luckily we ran into some older hikers who knew the area quite well and suggested a couple of great spots for us that wouldn’t be too far off the trail and had decent water. Taking their advice, we found a great spot just after the Bullfrog Lake junction. The views of from an outcrop above our camp were nothing short of amazing. The valley below and the peaks above were aglow with golden sunlight giving us one of the most amazing dining locations we've ever had. Freezed dried meals, may not be great (they really are better than most would think), but one would be hard pressed to enjoy a meal more than we did that evening.
Sunset on Vidette.

07.22.11: Near Bullfrog Lake to Sphinx Camp

Everything was all down hill for today! A nice easy 10.81 miles down hill to the Sphinx campground. We arrived at camp around 2PM and selected a nicely shaded river side site. Unfortunately, Fishing wouldn’t have been be too great as Bubbs Creek was extremely swift in this area as it begins its rapid decent down into Kings Canyon.

Not long after we had setup camp we had a young black bear pay us a visit. Jason noticed him about 20 feet from the tent as he was digging into a rotten log presumably looking for grubs. Thankfully he didn’t want our food or more importantly, us. We made a good amount of noise in hopes that the bear would take off, but it would seem this particular bear was too accustomed to humans and simply didn't pay much attention to us. He eventually gave up on his log and headed back across the trail in search of something else to occupy his time. Jason spent the next half hour watching and attempting to photograph the bear but never really got anything of interest, just a bunch of blurry bear shots. After dinner, we settled into the tent for some cards and called it an early night. We would have a quick hike, followed by yet another long drive.

07.23.11: Sphinx Camp to the Loop TH

We woke up early and broke camp as quickly as we could, knowing only a few miles were between us and the car/showers. The short hike was pretty uneventful and before long, we were back at the car, eagerly anticipating the showers at Cedar Grove. Once all cleaned up we hit the road and bid a fond fair well to King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.