Rae Lakes from Onion Valley July 2019

We went on a week-long backpacking trek to see the Rae Lakes.  We started from Onion Valley, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada in the John Muir Wilderness, and climbed over Kearsarge Pass into Kings Canyon National Park.  We then climbed over Glen Pass to the Rae Lakes Basin, and hiked on one of the most scenic sections of the John Muir Trail.  Along the way, we day-hiked to the Sixty Lakes Basin and also climbed to see the rarely-visited Dragon Lake.

Vicki and I on top of Glen Pass with the Rae Lakes Basin down below us

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Paiute Pass July 2017

We hiked up the Paiute Pass Trail into Humphreys Basin over the long July Fourth Weekend.  We stayed the first night at Paiute Lake, and the second night on a high ridge between Desolation Lake and the Humphreys Lakes.  There was plenty of snow and very deep sun cups everywhere up in the basin.  The snow was melting everywhere but many of the lakes were still frozen.  It was a challenging and beautiful hike.

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Horseshoe Meadows Loop June 2017

I spent a day acclimating to elevation by hiking a ten mile loop out of Horseshoe Meadows.  I began by climbing up to Trail Pass, hiked along the Pacific Crest Trail to Cottonwood Pass, and then descended to the trailhead, completing the loop.  The weather was perfect and there was only a small amount of snow, so it was a fun hike.

Horseshoe Meadows Loop June 2017

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Bristlecone Pines August 2016

While on our annual summer vacation we decided to head back to see the Schulman Grove in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  This was the location of the world’s oldest tree(s), with one of them being over 5000 years old.  We visited the new visitor center and learned a lot about these amazing trees.  Then we hiked the “Methuselah Walk” trail which took us down to the site where the oldest trees of all were living.  It was humbling to be in the presence of living things one hundred times older than yourself.

Vicki posing with the dolomite ridge behind her where the oldest tree in the world lives, the Methuselah Grove

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Onion Valley August 2016

After our original plan to hike in the Cascades was derailed by a forest fire (after we drove all the way up there) we decided to recover from the shock by spending a couple of impromptu nights in the High Sierra.  On the way back to California, we stopped at the Bishop Ranger Station in late afternoon and started inquiring about a wilderness permit.  Our top choice was already gone, but our backup option was available: We got a permit for the Kearsarge Pass Trail out of Onion Valley.  We’d day-hiked the trail back in 2011, but we certainly hadn’t exhausted the exploration possibilities in the area, and we knew that it was exceptionally beautiful.  We were only planning to spend two nights, which was much less than the ten-day trek we had planned for the Cascades, but being in the Sierra would make a big difference mentally, and would put us back on track.

Panorama view looking down on the Matlock Lake basin from the west near Bench Lake

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Mount Langley Sept 2015

This trip report is about a proud moment in fatherhood: I got to watch my son become a fourteener!

It should have happened a month ago, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, my wife (who always accompanies me when backpacking) at first decided that she didn’t want to go hiking, so I invited my son for a three day hike. We set our sights high on Langley’s summit. My wife, meanwhile, got jealous. Suddenly she wanted to join the hike in a “support” role. But she hikes really slow and doesn’t like high elevation. She was stubborn and insistent, and eventually I gave up. I told my son not to bother taking that Friday off, and instead my wife and I lowered our sights to hiking to the Cottonwood Lakes. And we had a great time, as we always do. But my son still wasn’t a fourteener.

So we made new plans for Labor Day Weekend. My wife was not invited. We arrived at the Lone Pine Ranger Station before 8am on Friday morning, drew a low number in the lottery, and opted for a slightly more challenging route to Langley, a roundabout route via Cottonwood Pass, rather than the typical, shorter Cottonwood Lakes route. We would take the PCT north from Cottonwood Pass to Soldier Lake, camp overnight, then take our big packs up the New Army Pass Trail. We would stash the big packs at Old Army Pass, dayhike to Langley’s summit, return for our packs, and then descend to the Cottonwood Lakes Basin and find a campsite there. We would exit on Sunday.

Happy Fourteener on the Summit of Mount Langley

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Cottonwood Lakes July 2015

It sure was great to be back in the Sierra Nevada after two years of backpacking in what could arguably be called “lesser” locales, in terms of both elevation and beauty. But we didn’t originally plan on being there at all this summer, especially not for a measely three-day weekend.

Vicki and I originally had a permit to hike in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, but then the Lake Fire ruined everything. So I had to scramble for something backpackable. Something fun! With available water, preferably. And that pretty much removed Southern California from the list of options. Which is sad, because we live in San Diego, about as far south as you can get. It’s a long way to the Sierra from there.

So I stared at the maps, read some trip reports on the internet, and came up with a plan to hike the Cottonwood Lakes, which is about as far south in the Sierra as I could find, while still being wet enough, and up high enough, to make it worth the long drive. And if we were feeling particularly gung-ho once we got up there, we might even be able to bag a 14er!

The two of us posing with the John Muir Wilderness Sign on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail

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