Monday, September 15, 2014

Rae Lakes Loop Part 4: Rae Lakes, Glen Pass to Charlotte Creek

Rae Lakes, Glen Pass to Charlotte Creek: 13.5 miles - 1,434 feet elevation gain/ 4,718 feet elevation loss

Up and over! Best to leave early and avoid the scorching sun
climbing up to Glen Pass at 11,978 feet.
Hopping back on the trail from our camp site, the trail circles around the middle lake and eventually comes up to the Rae Lake crossing, where the upper lake feeds the middle. I've heard on other, previously wet seasons, that this can be a hard crossing to navigate. The logs serving as a bridge to cross were open for us to use on both our separate trips.

Upper Rae Lake in the morning sun.
Just beyond the water crossing is the trail junction to Sixty Lakes Basin. Might try to camp out there on my next visit! Solitude seekers would have better luck spending the night here, as what we've been recommended by several hikers on separate occasions and trips.

It's not long after, the trail begins to ascend. The grueling 2.5 mile climb up to the pass starts. Every clamber up was either a beautiful lush green trail or a beautiful view of the lake we left.

Then we started leaving the greenery and entered the steep rocky terrain.  It's a slow and steep climb. Climbing up on mostly exposed switchbacks with rocks obscuring where the next switchback is located. Occasional dots of other hikers above help see where we were headed.

Usually around early to mid July, even though it is well in the summer months already, the pass may still be covered with snow. But on the 1st week of July in 2012, the whole trail was clear. Small patches of snow can still be found  around, but none to be too concerned about. Might be significantly different if the winter that passed had been a big snow season.

Views of Rae Lakes slowly become smaller and smaller, making it a bit incredible to believe we were just there a few hours ago. It was starting to feel far and away. But to our amusement, were replaced by finding other alpine lakes along the trail produced by earlier snow melts. Their colors remind me of blue crystal jewels!

Slowly but surely (more like processional pace for me!), we got to the top of the pass. The view is spectacular. That 360 degree view? Yeah, got it! A 180 degree view of where we came from and a 180 degree view of where we were headed for the rest of the day. It seemed so surreal. Stopped for a few photos and considered a long meal break, but it seems most folks coming from both directions have the same idea, so it became just a short snack break. It got crowded pretty quick. It is, after all, a spectacular view to take a good long break.. as long as storm clouds don't start up!

Atop Glen Pass!
We flew on our downhill getting off the  pass. Enjoying our speedy momentum, the exact opposite of what we were doing not too long ago, sluggish and slow. We passed a few more unnamed alpine lakes with beautiful blue hues and colorful little "gardens".

Start seeing Charlotte Lake.
It was an almost never ending switchback before the steep downhill climb lets up a bit to a more gradual one. We would start to see Charlotte Lake in the distance below us. A beautiful blue lake surrounded by lots of trees and if we'd look carefully, we could see the Charlotte Lake ranger station below, somewhere between us and the lake.

Charlotte Lake is an optional spot to camp for a night. It is only a marked 0.7 miles veer off the Rae Lakes Loops route and offers a bear/food locker and a ranger station.

After 7 miles and 3,000 feet later from where we started is Vidette Meadow. We found a bear/ food locker here but beware of getting mauled by mosquitoes in case of planning to camp here. We merely stopped mid-afternoon for a quick map check and we got pounced on!

A couple of miles along is Junction Meadow, where it is marked by a sign indicating a.. wait for it.. trail junction! How fitting the name was, hahaha. There is a trail that veers off from here to East Lake and Reflection Lake, some 3 and 5 miles, respectively.

Passing through beautiful Junction Meadow.
Some 13 miles later, arriving at Charlotte Creek in time to set-up camp and have an early dinner. Like most spots we camped in, there is one bear/ food locker here to share. And the closest water source is Bubbs creek, towards braving the forest of ferns close to camp, that are swarming with mosquitoes or back on the trail passing the camp site, is Charlotte creek that cuts across the trail.

Similar to Paradise Valley, this "opposite side" of the loop is also known for a very active bear area. We caught a glimpse of one in the late afternoon, back up on the trail, strolling.

Tried to capture at least the butt-end of a cinnamon colored bear.

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