Rae Lakes Loop August 2016 – Day 1 – Road’s End to Charlotte Creek

Previous: Day 0

Today’s Miles: 7 Miles  Total Miles: 7 Miles

We woke up slowly, snuggled in our sleeping bags together in my REI Quarter Dome 3.  By the time we got up, it was already pretty light out.  We had brought real breakfast food to eat during our last day of semi-civilization – eggs!  Mindy and Evyn were also drinking some chai tea to warm themselves up in the morning.  We were packed up and headed to the restrooms/small store in Cedar Grove at 9 AM.  All we needed was a canister of isobutane fuel, but they didn’t have any!  We were concerned – Mindy and Evyn definitely wanted water for chai tea, and I had dehydrated most of our food, so we clearly needed warm water for that.  We figured someone nice might help us out if they had some extra fuel.

We drove the ten or so miles to the Road’s End Ranger Station and started dividing up our gear.  I took a moderate amount of weight and my pack wound up weighing about 30 pounds.  I’ve hiked with that amount before, and though it’s not pleasant, I knew it would be temporary, as we’d eat through (literally!) a good portion of it on the trail.  At the ranger station, we got briefed on bear safety, leave no trace principles, and where the legal campsites were.  Although we were pretty sure we’d be able to fit everything in my bear can, the ranger said we needed to rent another because we’d be on the trail so long. Because we’d gotten our permit relatively late, we had to go counter-clockwise, and the ranger told us we were in for a pretty tough first day.  At 11 AM, a bit later than we’d wanted, we were ready to hit the trail!

Clean and ready to hit the trail!

The first two miles took us all of 45 minutes – the trail was flat, sunny, and sandy until we hit our first bridge.  The water was so clear, and if you stuck your hand in, it was freezing!  It was clear we’d be drinking crisp, cold water all week – my favorite on a long hike.

Clear rushing water

Off we go!

The trail starts to rise a bit and then splits – to the left, you have the Woods Creek Trail, to the right, the Bubbs Creek trail.  We took the right and started heading up – straight up, in fact.  The Bubbs Creek trail starts by switchbacking and gaining over 1,000 feet over the course of a mile, rising from about 5,200 feet to 6,200 feet.  About a quarter of the way through, I started having problems.  I now realize that I’ve never hiked anywhere above 5,000 feet and probably never stood above 6,000 feet.  It was hot, my pack was heavy, and I was simply feeling like crap, so I was slowing the group down.  I wound up puking on the switchbacks twice.  Not a great start.  It took us more than two hours to get through that mile and a half to get to the Sphinx Creek, which is the first legal place to camp.  At that point, I offloaded a good portion of the weight in my pack to Mindy and Evyn.

Filtering water at Sphinx Junction

One good thing that happened while we were on this (to me) hellishly steep part of the trail was someone was on their way out and sold us their extra fuel canister for $5.  Now we’d be able to cook and eat!

Evyn feeling much better than me as we ascend Bubb’s Creek

Berries on the ascent

We continued to push at the snail-like pace of a mile an hour the remaining 4 miles and 1,000 feet up to Charlotte Creek, finally arriving at camp just as it was just starting to get dark around 7 PM.  Evyn and Mindy typically carry radios when they hike, so Evyn moved ahead and scouted out the campsite, which was really nice.  The Charlotte Creek campsite has a bear box, and since we were the only ones there, we could spread out and not worry about bothering others.  Technically, you can use Charlotte Creek to shortcut Vidette Meadow and get up to Charlotte Lake, but that trail isn’t well maintained.  Charlotte Creek was wide, shallow, and quick-moving near its junction with Bubbs Creek.  There was plenty of room for four or five groups to camp at Charlotte Creek, and since it sits at 7,500′ you can build fires if you are so inclined.  There were three or four established fire rings at the campground that we chose to let sit unused.

Charlotte Creek Campsite

I was whooped and completely not hungry, so I drank a bunch of water, helped filter some fresh water, and went to sleep.  From what I understand, Mindy and Evyn were worried enough about me that they talked about what we’d do if we had to turn back.  I slept like a bump on a log and didn’t get the chance to enjoy any of one of my favorite trail meals – chicken tortilla soup.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Charlotte Lake the next day, and hoped that we’d be able to edit our plans while still completing the trip.

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