Rae Lakes Loop Trip Report

Day 3

July 15, 2009

Woods Creek to Rae Lakes

6.1 miles
Elevation Ascent: 2035 ft
Elevation Descent: 545 ft

Day 3 Profile
Day 2 Profile

Temps got down to 48 degrees last night. We were up by 6:30 am and we were back on the trail by 8:42am. Once again I am amazed at how well I slept. If you are using one of the closed cell pads and find it uncomfortable, give one of the air pads a try. I am still a little leery of puncturing one while out on the trail, but I have a repair kit and from what I have read, it isn’t a big deal to repair small punctures. The first .5 miles after leaving Woods Creek was a gentle uphill, but the rest of Day 3 consisted of steeper uphill hiking with just a few breaks in the terrain along the way. It was a hard day, but not nearly as exhausting for Elena and I as day 1. This was a "wall day" for Revan. By the time we hit Arrowhead Lake, he was ready to drop.  Actually, he sort of did… 

I GPS'd a couple of additional spots where water was available on this section of trail.

Past Woods Creek
Just past Woods Creek
Stunted shrub
First time we spotted snow
Water locations
Click on the picture for a full size image
Water location 1          N36 52.096 W118 29.605
Water location 2          N36 52.326 W118 28.921

I found the hike between Woods Creek and Rae Lakes to be the most beautiful section of the trail. All in one day, you get fantastic views, streams, meadows, mountain peaks, Fin Dome and finally the series of beautiful mountain lakes at the end of the days hike. It is on this section of trail that you get to really notice the effects of the higher elevation on the plant life. The vegetation starts to thin, and you can see in the shapes and appearance of the shrubs and trees that they must struggle to exist in this environment.

Trees were getting thin above us
SEKI meadow
Beautiful Meadow

Revan approaching 10,000 ft

Around noon we hit the 10,000 foot elevation marker. It was pretty amazing to realize that we had climbed 5,000 feet already. No pictures of Trail Bunny. She was way ahead and had passed this spot a long time ago!

Revan at 10k
Revan at 10,000 ft
SEKI 10000 ft
10,000 ft

Randy at 10k
Randy at 10,000 ft

Once you pass the 10k marker, it's less than a mile to the Baxter Lake trail junction and Dollar Lake. I think my favorite photo of the entire trip was at the junction between Dollar Lake and Arrowhead Lake. Just incredible. It's interesting that Elena and I both took pictures of the exact same spot, but I like her photo better. I don't know if the angle was slightly different or perhaps she has a better camera... It is also here that we got our first look at Fin Dome, and I saw my first trout of the trip under the surface of Dollar Lake. The water is so clear that the fish can be seen swimming along the bottom.

Dollar Lake SEKI
Randy's photo
Fin Dome SEKI
Elena's Photo - my favorite of the trip

Dollar Lake SEKI
Dollar Lake
Dollar Lake SEKI
Meadow by Dollar Lake
Trout in Dollar Lake
Trout in Dollar Lake
Elena and Revan

At 1:38 pm we reached a little knoll above Arrowhead Lake and we all rested for a bit. We almost decided to make camp right on the knoll, but since I knew we were close to Rae Lakes, and there was no water close by, Elena and I decided to scout ahead and see how much farther we wanted to go to setup a camp site. Revan was exhausted so we let him nap under a tree on the knoll. I was amazed at how much energy I still had. I switched to my trail shoes, we dropped our packs, and practically ran down the trail. It was much more level now that we were at the same elevation as Rae Lakes. We found the first decent spot to setup camp at the edge of Lower Rae Lake. The mosquitoes were there, but not really bad (they fooled us). Elena and I hiked back to Arrowhead Lake to let Revan know we had found a spot, and to grab our gear. We started hiking again at 3:13pm.

Dollar Lake SEKI
Revan at Dollar Lake
Arrowhead Lake
Rest stop above Arrowhead Lake
Revan crashes

At 3:37 pm we all made it back to the site we had selected to camp, and the mosquitoes were unbelievable. I wanted to see if I could find a spot that was less infested, and I still had some energy left, so while Revan and Elena setup a tent to hide from the mosquitoes, I hiked another mile down the trail. I really didn't find anything along the trail that was any better than the spot we had already picked. After I got back to Revan and Elena, we scouted the hillsides to see if we could get above the water and maybe avoid the majority of the swarms. Nope. They were everywhere.
We finally setup camp. Revan and Elena moved to a little rock hill, and I stayed in a meadow below the rocks. The spot was incredibly scenic, and was as close as is allowed to the lower Rae Lake shore. We actually measured the distance just to make sure we were being good backcountry visitors. You could see Fin Dome across the lake, and the reflection of the mountains in the water of the lake was beautiful.

Rae Lakes SEKI
Campsite at Lower Rae Lakes
Tarptent Contrail at Lower Rae Lakes
Elena and Revan chose higher ground

For some reason, I hit a "wall" at this point. I was so exhausted that I crawled into my tent and went to sleep. It was still early, and I hadn’t had any dinner, but I really felt 'off' and needed to lie down. I could hear Revan and Elena laughing and having fun while hiding in a tent. I was glad they were still keeping a sense of humor! The fact that here we were at one of the most beautiful spots on earth and that we had to hide in our tents was one of those moments where you had to choose how you were going to respond to the challenge. It would have been so easy to become frustrated and upset. They chose well!
I only slept for 30 minutes or so, and felt much better. I joined Revan and Elena to get dinner going. It was odd that I really wasn't hungry. I am usually famished after hiking all day. I forced myself to eat a little of my dinner since I knew not eating was a bad idea... Eating was interesting. You would lift the mosquito net, and try to get a bite before any mosquitoes flew under your net and joined your food as extra protein. I live in Minnesota, where the state bird is a mosquito. I am no stranger to dealing with the little vermin. However, I have NEVER experienced swarms like this.
(Really, really dumb, I left the tent open while I made dinner. It took longer to kill all the mosquitoes that had come to visit me inside the tent than it did to set up the tent!)
After dinner, just as the sun was setting, I got out my fishing gear and gave it a try. It was a little too late in the day, but I was successful anyway! Caught a 12 pound, 36 inch trout. OK, so maybe it was closer to 12 ounces and 8 inches, but it was fun anyway!!! We had already had dinner, so I released the trout back to swim another day. Since we were supposed to rest tomorrow at Rae Lakes, spend time at Charlotte Lake and then camp at East Lake, I thought I had plenty of fishing opportunities still left ahead.
Rae Lakes are above 10,000 feet, so no campfires are allowed. Once darkness descended, we all retired to our tents. I read for a while, and enjoyed the quiet and solitude around me before falling asleep.

SEKI Rae Lakes
Time to eat!
No mosquitoes in here
But bazillions out here!
SEKI Fish Rae Lakes
Caught one!
8:29 pm (getting dark)

Day 4

Videos from Day 3

SEKI Video
Start of Day 3
  7 MB
SEKI video
10,000 ft
  10 MB
Dollar Lake
Dollar Lake
  7 MB
Rae Lakes
Beautiful spot
7 MB

Additional pictures from Day 3

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