Day 2: The ‘Wow’ Lakes

Unnamed lake below Glen Pass to Middle Paradise Valley
(17.7 miles, +700/-5,300 feet).

We got up this morning and had to say goodbye to our lovely little lake.

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Until next time, Coyote Bowl!

The 700 foot climb up to Glen Pass was relatively easy on fresh legs in the crisp morning air.

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Just below Glen Pass

We stopped at the pass to take pictures and eat some breakfast.  For me it was milk (well, Nido) and cookies!

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View south of Glen Pass
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North side of Glen Pass

The trail down the north side of Glen Pass switch backed for a few hundred feet, then flattened out to pass through some tarns where more wildflowers were in bloom.

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Wildflowers!

 

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Half Cookie strikes a triumphant pose

We then made our way down some gentler switchbacks to the southernmost of the Rae Lakes.

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South Rae Lake

Wow!  These lakes were even more beautiful than I thought they would be.  It’s no wonder they are so popular that the Park Service only allows camping for one night in this area.

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Half Cookie crosses the stream between Middle and South Rae Lakes

We made our way across the stream connecting the middle and south lakes and found a nice spot for a break and a snack.

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Middle Rae Lake
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These lakes are amazing!

We then made our way between the lakes, taking in the most spectacular mirror lake Sierra views that I have ever seen.

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Panorama of South Rae Lake
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Fin Dome reflection in Middle Rae Lake

As if that weren’t enough beauty, there were also brilliantly colored wildflowers.

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More wildflowers!
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Middle Rae Lake
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Trail near Middle Rae Lake

 

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Middle Rae Lake panorama

We continued our descent to Arrowhead Lake, which on any other day would have been the highlight, but I didn’t even snap a single photo of it after taking so many at Rae Lakes.

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Whee!
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Half Cookie below Fin Dome

Eventually we arrived at Dollar Lake, where we lunched and swam.

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Swimming in Dollar Lake

After lunch the trail started dropping faster, from 10,200 feet at Dollar Lake down to 8,500 feet at Woods Creek.

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Heading north on the John Muir Trail towards Castle Domes

At Woods Creek on the John Muir Trail there is an impressive wooden suspension bridge with a sign that warns “One person at a time!”

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One person at a time!

Shortly after the bridge we turned off the John Muir Trail to hike along Woods Creek.

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Hiking below Castle Domes

Just above Castle Domes Meadow we met some hikers who said they saw a bear in the meadow.  We were very excited and somewhat tentative as we continued down the trail.  Once we got to the meadow we scanned all around. Some parts were in high grass with low visibility, so every now and then I called out “Yo, bear!”  But we saw nothing.  We passed the meadow and gave up searching, when suddenly we saw him!

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Bear encounter!

An adolescent bear was napping under a tree in clear view of the trail.  Half Cookie called my attention, and the bear picked up his head lazily to see what was going on.  Unimpressed, he laid his head back down and dozed off.

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Hot and buggy — are we there yet?

After that, the trip was all downhill, both literally and symbolically.  Although it was a nice change to walk in the verdant forest understory, as we got lower, it got hotter and buggier.  We even pulled out our mosquito head nets to use towards the end.  We ate a quick dinner in Upper Paradise Valley and then finished up with 1.7 miles down to Middle Paradise Valley where we set up the tent and dove inside to escape the mosquitoes.

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How did my toes get a tan?
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