What started as an overnight excursion to the lake north of Castle Domes became a quick hike of the Rae Lakes Loop. After a late start (9:30) from Cedar Grove I made my way past Mist Falls and through Paradise Valley (both aptly named) arriving at Woods Creek at lunch time. I stopped for dinner just shy of the John Muir Trail at about 5:30. During a check of the map during dinner, I became inspired to try to complete the loop rather than explore Castle Domes.
The bridge over Woods Creek was washed out, so I crossed downstream on a fallen log. A little more than an hour's hike brought me to my camp next to the south fork of Woods Creek.
My bivouac bag was covered with frost the next morning. The anticipation of completing the entire loop spurred me into action and I was on the trail before six. The view to the north of Castle Domes and the falls spilling from the basin was beautiful, and I felt a little torn about the change.
Castle Domes from the South
I moved quickly up the trail past the falls from Baxter Lakes and soon arrived at Dollar Lake, the lowest of the Rae Lakes.
Fin Dome dominated the skyline to the southwest and as I continued up the valley I began to understand why so many claim this area is the lovliest of the entire Sierra Nevada.
By mid-morning, I left the upper Rae Lakes
Upper Rae Lakes
and began the ascent of Glen Pass.
Since I was hiking in light running shoes, I tried to stay clear of the snow that covered much of the trail near the top of Glen Pass.
The trail became covered with snow so I skirted the largest field by climbing rocks west of it. After the steep and rocky climb to Glen Pass, I was rewarded with spectacular views in all directions.
View to the north of Rae Lakes Basin from Glen Pass
After lunch on Glen Pass, I took a self portrait with the Great Western Divide for a backdrop.
On Glen Pass with South Guard, Mt Brewer, North Guard, and Mt Farquhar in the background
The lake south of Glen Pass was still iced over and was a lovely shade of aquamarine.
My vintage 1970 Kelty Pack in front of the lake south of Glen Pass
The descent to the lake took me to a good viewpoint of Glen Pass from the south.
Glen Pass from the lake to its south
Soon I passed Charlotte Lake and had a great view down the glacial trough that makes up the upper Charlotte Creek valley.
Charlotte Creek valley with Charlotte Dome in the distance
On the descent to Vidette Meadow, I had a great view of the Videttes and upper Bubbs Creek.
Upper Bubbs Creek canyon, the Vidette Peaks and Deerhorn Saddle
The remainder of the trip consisted of a quick dash down the Bubbs Creek Canyon
Bubbs Creek Canyon from above Vidette Meadow
with a brief break at Vidette Meadows for a cup of soup.
I returned to the Cedar Grove trailhead at 7:20. A sign there indicated that the loop is 43.1 miles long. I had covered it in a little less than 36 hours and , yes, I was tired.
Click here for a TR of this trip with my daughter Jane.
For a report of Leor Pantilat's 12.5 hour completion of the route with 80 photos, go here.