Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

The view from the porch of the Rae Lakes Ranger Station. (Click arrows for additional photos.)The Rae Lakes Ranger Station perch.Looking south at Painted Lady with the last sun of the day. Passing by Dollar Lake early in the hiking day.Creek crossing on the way to Rae Lakes with the first glimpse of Fin Dome.Evening view from the campsite looking north as the wind was calming.

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Day 21

By: 
Sarah Elliott

 

This is a continuing series about a mother-and-daughter thru-hike on the John Muir Trail (north to south) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains from July 19 to August 13, 2015. 
Previous installments and more photos are online at here.
 
Day 21: Saturday, August 8
Woods Creek Junction
to Rae Lakes
7 miles
 
We stood on the trail and waved goodbye to our campmates who joined the morning lineup to cross the Woods Creek suspension bridge to return to Cedar Grove. They would be home by nightfall.
 
Jennie and I, on the other hand, were continuing our journey southward and would be on the trail for another week.
 
From Woods Creek, it is a 2,000 foot ascent to Rae Lakes. But as is the way so often with this laborious uphill hiking there is a bright side.
 
The trail wanders through some incredible scenery. Water descending from sheer rock faces, green meadows and meandering streams, deer and ducks, and colorful, jagged, precipitous peaks were pleasant distractions.
 
Although we had been up and out of the tent since 6 a.m., due to our reluctance to leave the companionship that had met us unannounced at Woods Creek, we didn’t embark on the day’s hike until 9 a.m. But we only had a seven-mile day — we were calling it “a half day” — so by 11 a.m., when we realized we were hungry, we found a sunny granite slab on which to lounge and have a leisurely lunch. 
 
Feeling satiated was becoming more difficult, we noticed. We were hungry all the time.
 
After lunch, we continued the climb, passing the Baxter Pass trail junction and skirting the rocky west side of pretty, little Dollar Lake. Next up was Arrowhead Lake, then we entered the wetlands plateau that would lead us to the Rae Lakes basin.
 
This is a popular area and the trail gets a lot of use, maybe the most of any wilderness route in Sequoia-Kings Canyon. The JMT/Pacific Crest Trail through here is also a section of the 46-mile Rae Lakes Loop, which begins and ends in Kings Canyon’s Cedar Grove area.
 
Upon approaching the northernmost shore of the Rae Lakes chain, directly beneath the striking Fin Dome formation, we felt as though we had entered another realm. The beauty is intense.
 
We set our packs on a boulder and sat down just off the trail, enjoying the warm sun and spectacular view. It is such an alluring place.
 
Back on the trail, we met John Blakely, the Bench Lake wilderness ranger, who was temporarily  staying at the Rae Lakes station. He was heading out on patrol but turned around to walk with us to the ranger station, where he gave us a tour of the cozy one-room log dwelling.
 
The structure is hidden away on a knoll with a grand view of Rae Lakes and the Fin Dome and Painted Lady knobs. The locale would lure anyone to spend a summer here.
 
After visiting with Ranger John and a Texas backpacker with an injured knee, we went our separate ways. We found a private campsite on a rock ledge between the upper and middle lakes with a dazzling view to the north of the water and Fin Dome.
 
It was early afternoon as we went about our normal routine to set up camp, and what had been a warm, sunny day quickly clouded over and a brisk wind commenced. The water that had been enticing us to swim turned into waves lapping at the shoreline and convinced us otherwise.
 
This is such a tempting area to spend a great amount of time. It’s apparent that a lot of people feel this way because camping is limited to just one night.
 
There is a metal bear-resistant food locker at Rae Lakes, where bears can be active. We weren’t close enough to it to use it, however, we were informed that it is reserved for JMT/PCT thru-hikers; Rae Lake Loop’ers are responsible for storing food in their required canisters.
 
This was such a relaxing hiking day. As the sun went down, we cooked (okay, rehydrated) dinner and enjoyed the evening light over Glen Pass and Painted Lady where we would be headed the next day.   To be continued...
 
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