Rae Lakes Loop Backpacking Trip

Trip Report

July 13 - 18, 2009

49.2 miles
Elevation Ascent: 7000 ft

One of my favorite trails and backpacking trips was the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park. That was in 1979. 30 years ago.
SEKI 1979

Fast forward to 2009. I was playing with Google Earth, and found a really cool fly-through of the Rae Lakes Loop trail. Got me thinking....... Wouldn't it be cool to hike that trail again?

The idea took hold and became a goal. I talked to my son and daughter about the trip, and was really excited that they were both able to work the time off from college and work and were going to be able to join me! I knew that if I wanted to do this, I would need to prepare for this trip. At the time I decided to return and do the Loop again, I was seriously out of shape, and climbing a flight of stairs was enough exercise to wind me. I knew I couldn't make it to Mist Falls, much less complete the entire Loop. Since I was planning the trip for three people, I also needed to outfit three sets of gear. Since my son and I had done some backpacking over the years we had most of two sets of gear. For the third set I basically started from the ground up. I had a goal to lighten my pack weight, and researched all of the major gear categories and purchased what was called "lightweight" gear by the major vendors. (Tent, backpack, sleeping bag, etc). I had pretty much finished with the outfitting, using the "be prepared" along with the "be comfortable" mentality. "Be prepared" means bringing every item that may possibly be needed, even if it is unlikely, and "be comfortable" translates to lots of items to create a home away from home in the evenings and nights. Add the two together and what you get is a miserably heavy pack.

I did have a goal of keeping my total pack weight below 50 LBS. Since my total pack weight had topped 70 LBS in the past this seemed like a great goal.
Heavy pack

As I trained for the trip, I eventually started carrying 35 LBS in a Scuba weight belt and taking practice hikes carrying my full pack . (see Rae Lakes Trip Preparation). On a 2 day trip on the Superior Hiking Trail, I realized that carrying 50 LBS for 6 days over the kind of terrain on the Rae Lakes trail was going to be rough. I started researching what I could do to get my pack weight even lighter. I knew there were "fringe" diehards that claimed to carry 25 LB packs (total weight) for a 7 day trip, but I had dismissed them up to this point. About a month before I left on the trip, I started researching lighter weight alternatives, and did a lot of reading at BackpackingLight.com. I discovered that the "fringe" were in many cases guys as old or older than I was, who backpacked safely and comfortably while at the same time, lightweight. I had to adjust the way I was looking at comfort. Every extra pound I carried would translate into many many hours of backbreaking labor on the trail. Was it worth it to carry a "lightweight backpacking chair" for 50 miles? (The chair didn't make the cut!)

I cut another 9 Lbs out of my total pack weight before I hit the trail, and wound up with a 41 lb load (see Rae Lakes Gear)    My only regret is that I didn't cut more!

Rae Lakes Trip prep