Monday, September 8, 2014

Rae Lakes Loop Part 3: Woods Creek Crossing to Rae Lake

Woods Creek Crossing to Rae Lake: 8 miles - 2,096 feet elevation gain

This is, and I think will always be, my favorite part of this route. If I enjoyed the first 2 parts of our hikes on this loop, this part I was in awe. 

After hiking up a bit, we entered a very dense forest of ferns. The colors were beautiful, colorful wild flowers were in bloom highlighted by the lush greens from the ferns. It was lively and alive! And so were the mosquitoes, hungry and newly hatched, I'd suspect!

On one season, we had to quickly whip out our head nets to protect our faces from all the mutant looking mosquitoes that just swarmed around us. We only had a short period of time to admire all the greens and colorful flowers sans head nets. On another season, we just ran through this portion, waving our hands in front of our faces like lunatics. No photos for that one, thank goodness!

About a mile in our hike for the day, the trail started to climb up on some switch backs before eventually getting to a quick short climb down to a wooden platform leading into a lush green meadow. Watch out for more mosquitoes!

Further along and climbing up from the meadow we passed through, there's a good spot to take a quick meal break, on the left side of the trail. A huge flat topped rock provides an expansive view of the gorgeous valley we climbed out of.

It was difficult to tear away from sitting and enjoying the scenery before us but more beautiful things await us for the day. And not too long after leaving that little break spot, we reached the 10,000 foot elevation mark reminding us of the fire restriction at this elevation in Kings Canyon National Park. And then, it was just a tad bit of a climb before we can get to our first lake of the trip!

At 10,300 feet elevation, by the (not maintained trail) Baxter Pass trail junction, Dollar Lake came into view. The flat terrain by this side of lake is closed for camping and have signs from the park service that they are restoring vegetation in that area.

The trail continues and skirts around the lake, opening up to a picturesque open space of lush greenery with a creek meandering through it. Eventually crossing the creek that feeds the Dollar lake, Arrowhead Lake comes into view. There is a bear/food locker by Arrowhead Lake but vigilance may be needed if staying. Keep an eye out for those fluffy, adorable marmots as they abound this area.

It is a gradual climb beyond Arrowhead Lake, then Lower Rae Lake will eventually come into view. It's a lake galore kind of day! Spaces to camp can be found, along with a bear/food locker. Though, it is a bit exposed along the trail but guaranteed will not be as crowded as at Middle Rae Lake.

Lower Rae Lake camp site with bear/food locker
Beautiful Rae Lake from along the trail.
The back country ranger station can be found on a spur trail up to the left side, a little ways pass Lower Rae. We popped in to say hi and was only able to catch the ranger once. But the cabin itself is worth a visit! It's an adorable tiny house, fit to be occupied by the ranger throughout the hiking season. I wouldn't mind living there in solitary.. ever!

Pass the ranger station, a sign pointing to where the food locker is located will come up to the left and then it's a walk down where the camp sites and a couple of bear/food lockers can be found, closer to Rae Lake.

Rae Lake with the Painted Lady in the back drop.

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