Rae Lakes Loop Trip Report

1979 Backpacking Trip

In August of 1979 I went on a backpacking trip with my cousins in Kings Canyon National Park. Our family had vacationed in Kings Canyon many times over the years, and I had hiked several of the shorter trails in the Park. In 1979 we decided we would hike the 45+ mile Rae Lakes Loop trail.

Although I have done several multi-day backpacking trips since then, this hike has a special place in my memories.

Pictures from my 1979 backpacking trip to Rae Lakes

Three Amigos
Randy, Nancy and Phil
Cedar Grove Village
Cedar Grove Village
Showers were NEW in 1979
No gas available now
The day before our hike
Morraine Campground
On the trail, day 3
Yep, those are jeans!
Nancy and Phil

John Muir Trail Junction
Day 3
Trail on Day 3
Cool tent!
Camp at Rae Lakes
How do we cook these??
Trout for dinner
Cotton, Cotton, Cotton
Who is this kid?
Release? Heck no, let's eat!
Phil with his trout

Snow in August???
Below Glen Pass
Randy and Phil
Snow in Aug
Shortys cabin
Shortys cabin

Preparation In 1979 Google was not even in the language, much less a global phenonomen. GPS hadn't been invented yet, cotton was still king and boots were all leather and 5+ pounds. We got our knowledge of the trail conditions and what to expect by talking to the Park Rangers in 1978. We took some basic compass navigation courses, and did some library research about backpacking the John Muir Trail.
  • Heavy external frame pack. I still used this pack until 2008!
  • Heavy (steel), fuel stove that required priming, and was difficult to use at high elevation
  • Heavy duty all leather boots. Took weeks to break in, and were heavy, but fit like a glove afterwards and lasted for 20 years
  • Cotton, cotton and more cotton. Levi's, socks, shirts and undies, all cotton
  • Total pack weight at start of trip: 78 Pounds - Yikes!
Physical conditioning What??? I was 18. Top of my game, indestructible and all that. Actually, we did do a 2 day practice trip to familiarize ourselves with our gear. That was about it for 'training'.
Day 1 We did the Loop in 6 days. Went clockwise, (Woods Creek Trail)
We got a ride with our gear to Roads End in the morning. Permits were required even back then, but no bear canisters were needed. We hiked to Mist Falls, and had lunch at the falls. Really enjoyed the mist after the hot hike. Continued on to Middle Paradise Valley to camp for the night.
Day 2 Hiked from Middle Paradise to Woods Creek. There weren't any bridges in 1979 so we had to cross via logs and wading!
Day 3 Hiked from Woods Creek to Rae Lakes. This was a tough day for me. Seemed like we would never get there... the elevation was getting high enough that it does interesting things to the plants and trees growing there. Can't remember exactly where we made camp at Rae Lakes, but it sure was beautiful. Met a Ranger who checked our permits before moving along. I don't remember there being a ranger station at Rae Lakes back then.
Day 4 Took a rest day at Rae Lakes. Didn't do any day hikes, just rested, and fished. Talk about fishing... Seemed like every cast brought in a trout. All smaller fish, but it sure tasted great! What a beautiful place to rest up for the hike to Glenn's Pass. It started to rain during the night, then it started hailing. It dropped below freezing, and we woke up to ice on the ground. It felt REALLY good to get started hiking to warm up!
Day 5 Rae Lakes to Vidette Meadows.
We Left Rae Lakes and climbed to the top of Glenn's Pass. I remember the absolutely fantastic feeling at the top of the pass. It is a narrow pass, and I really felt like I was in another world. Hard to describe... We then started down the other side heading to Vidette Meadows. This was actually the hardest day of the trip for me. My feet were pounded by the miles of downhill and this was the only day that blisters were threatening. I was amazed by several things on this hike. First was seeing snow and glacier ice in August. It had been HOT down in Cedar Grove. Second was the amazingly clear small glacier lakes along the trail. Colors of the water, enhanced by the minerals and sediments were spectacular and unique.
Day 6 Did the final 12.5 miles on day 6. Since we didn't have a ride when we got to Roads End, we were faced with the possibility of hiking all the way back to Cedar Grove. Not something any of us were looking forward to! We hitched a ride instead and ended up in Cedar Grove before dark.