Some last thoughts about my first-ever backpacking trip/ visit to a National Park…
Jared handled all of our reservations to obtain our permit, which is required during peak season – May 22 to Sept 26. Not only should you make a reservation in advance, but you also need to pick up your physical permit at your starting trailhead before you embark on your hike. There is a limit of 25 people/ day to hike either clockwise or counterclockwise, and 3/4 of those reservations are able to be made in advance. The rest are available as day-of walk-ups. My friends Justin and Stephanie were able to get a walk-up permit on 4th of July weekend last year. We were lucky to make and get our reservations for a clockwise loop well in advance – early May for our late June trip. Make sure to pick the correct entry trail for the direction you wish to go in. Going clockwise, your entry trail is Wood’s Creek; counter-clockwise, the entry is Bubb’s Creek.
Bubb’s Creek by our last campsite at Junction Meadow
Friday, 26 June 2015. Junction Meadow to Road’s End, 8,400 to 5,035 feet. 10.4 miles.
I didn’t take too many photos on this day, perhaps because we were all hustling and ready to be done with the hike. Visions of showers danced in our heads.
We woke to overcast skies and a certain mugginess in the air. We were a little nervous that it might start raining, so out came our rain gear and backpack covers to reside in the most accessible areas of our backpacks.
Thursday, 25 June, 2015. Rae Lakes, Summiting Glen Pass, Junction Meadow, 10,800 to 11,978 elevation, and back down to 8,400 feet. 8.6 miles.
We rose late again on Day 3. I woke with a dull headache, which I initially chalked up to sleeping poorly with a badly-stuffed pillow (Zpacks Cuben Fiber stuffsack filled with clothing). Breakfast was the chicken jook that was Danny’s idea — even reconstituted it was fantastic: chickeny and gingery and topped with bits of sweet-salty pork fluff.
The trail up to Glen Pass would take us around 1,900 feet in elevation gain to a summit of 11,978 all in the space of 2.8 miles. We left Rae Lakes around 9:15am, intending to take it relatively easy, with lots of breaks.
Wednesday, 24 June, 2015. Upper Paradise to Rae Lakes, 6876 to 10538 ft in elevation gain, 11-12 miles.
We left camp a little later than the day before at around 8:15am. In contrast to yesterday’s 7am start, it seemed very late, and it was already quite warm. A group of girls who had camped (but very quietly) at the campsite south of us had already left. We chatted with a couple of them yesterday and learned that they had made their way up to the lakes, but, at 10,000 feet, one of their group had gotten altitude sickness and they were compelled to turn back.
After having lived for nearly 31 years in the U.S., I have never been to a national park. No, driving through Yosemite (without stopping) does not count. Nor had I ever been backcountry backpacking, not even for an overnight.
Last week I did both, hiking some 41+ miles, going from 5k to 12k in elevation around the Rae Lakes Loop in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, accompanied by Danny and Jared. We had spent weeks in preparation. Since their Lost Coast trek, I had also gotten into obsessive perusal and research, poring over trip reports, maps, backpacking gear, backpacking foods, photos of the sierras, lightweight camera gear, etc. Danny had already done much of the research into ultralight gear, and so I also became familiar with Zpacks, Gossamer Gear, cuben fiber, and began weighing and tracking (some of) my stuff. We went on several traininghikes to test out gear and food and endurance.