Camping: Rae Lakes PCT mile 793.3
I had one thing on my mind when I woke up this morning, and it was shockingly breakfast. I had bought the ingredients to make banana pancakes with real maple syrup and homemade chicken apple sausage. It’s been a while since I have cooked, and the only way to fulfill my cravings is to make them myself. I was the first up in the hostel, so I put on some music and started making breakfast. It felt good to make food, and I made enough to share with the next few people to come downstairs. It was all I had dreamed it would be, and I was able to feed Terrible, Horrible, Tink, Pockets and Will as well. I love feeding people, including myself!
After breakfast, Pockets and I went out to hitch to the trail. It seemed to take a long time, but finally a nice man in a truck pulled over. He took us to the road that leads to the trailhead and we wandered across the street to Subway to grab sandwiches to eat on trail. We then walked back to where we would need to grab our next hitch. No cars drove by for a while, but the first one to pass stopped and let us ride in the bed of his truck. That was super fun, winding up the mountain road, wind in our hair, giggling like school girls.
We rather dreaded the hike today. We had come down Kearsarge Pass two days ago, and it was a steep 2700 ft loss in 4 miles. It was easy with empty rations and the motivation of town treats, but now we had 7 days worth of food, and other refilled items. Our packs were nearly 40 lbs. It’s never so much the hike, as it is a hike with a heavy pack. Without much choice we set up the pass, happy to be headed back to the trail. We were going home.
We passed lots of day hikers, all super enamored with our trek. “You’re hiking from where to where?” Maybe it makes their short journey seem easier to hear what we are up to. Surprisingly, we had a pretty easy time going up. We both had to stop to give our shoulders a rest halfway up, but our bodies are strong and the climb posed little challenge. The altitude gain had us pause to catch our breath periodically, but that’s to be expected.
The hike was beautiful, passing gnarled bristlecone pines, alpine lakes where fish jump freely, cascading waterfalls, and of course giant rock monoliths and mountains. Parts felt like different scenes in Lord of the Rings. We magically landed on top of the pass within 2 hours, where we ate half of our sandwiches and admired the view. It was less windy than 2 days prior, so we were able to really enjoy the top.
We knew there was another pass in 7 miles, which if we cleared it tonight would make tomorrow more productive. We had heard mixed reviews on it’s difficulty but were up to the challenge nonetheless. Glen Pass is said to be the steepest and scariest, rising to 11,979 ft. As a low snow year, we had heard it wasn’t so bad, and were even told Forrester was harder. We both found Forrester to be kind of easy so went on to Glen Pass assuming we would be up and over in a couple of hours.
The hike up was no big deal. As gorgeous as all passes, with the obligatory turquoise alpine lakes, snow fields and epic views. We sat on top, eating more sandwich and looking at the dozen or so lakes, mountain passes and snow. We could see the lakes we hoped to camp at, and watched two other hikers traverse the giant snow field we would have to navigate to get there. We figured we could be at camp in a little over an hour, and took off to finish the day.
The initial approach through the snow immediately set us straight. It was steep and soft with not a lot of set steps to use. Instead we had to sort of slide down on our feet like skiing, and use trekking poles to navigate. Pockets squatted down and took it low, where I stayed upright and relied heavily on my poles to not slide out of control. Fortunately, the path was well worn, so if we fell it wouldn’t be down the mountain but through a sort of chute in the snow. Because the snow fields were so long and steep, there was a new “trail” forged down the mountain, steep and rocky but safer and easier. We had to take our time sliding on loose rock with heavy packs, carefully placing our feet only inches from the previous step. It took an hour to go a mile, and it was turning dusk. The navigation took time, patience and great care to insure our safe arrival at camp tonight. We worried about Pathfinder trying to negotiate the pass in the morning, when the slushy snow would be turned to ice and exponentially more treacherous with no possible traction. There is a reason it is cautioned not to clear that particular pass in the morning. We were happy we did it in the evening.
Arriving at camp was another postcard moment. Large, beautiful lakes etched into granite valleys with fish jumping everywhere. The only downside was the arrival of mosquitoes that would begin to swarm whenever we would stop to take a picture or admire a view. It didn’t stop us from enjoying the beautiful place we had arrived though, and we happily greeted friends who were already there. We watched the sun set red over the lake, putting itself to bed behind the mountains. Tomorrow is Solstice, aka “hike naked day.” We have no designs on hiking naked, but there may be a morning skinny dip if we are feeling brave.
Until tomorrow. Goodnight.