Another early start on day 3. We set the alarm for 6, had camp broken down in no time, and were in the trail by 6:30. Rae Lakes, normally a popular camping area, was totally deserted except for us. The ranger cabin was boarded up for the winter and things were quiet. The sun started to hit the mountains as we rounded the northernmost lakes. We had more than 27 miles ahead of us today, but just had to stop and take some photos, the light was perfect!
With our biggest day ahead of us yet, we set our sights back on the trail and continued hiking down the valley from Rae Lakes toward the Woods Creek crossing. It wasn’t long before we were finally in the sunlight and could change into shorts, reorganize, and have some breakfast. It was going to be a warm day!
Soon we found ourselves at the low point for the day and found what would turn out to be the most significant structure that we would encounter on the trail – a ~100 foot long suspension bridge spanning over Woods Creek.
We crossed the bridge and began the long steady climb up toward Pinchot Pass, our first pass for the day and still around 8 miles away. The trail continued along Woods Creek on an exposed hillside heated by the sun. Having planned for fall weather, temperatures creeping up dangerously close to the 80s had us sweating pretty hard. Alyssa was having a tough time having made the (somewhat questionable) decision not to pack shorts or a t-shirt on the trail. I let her borrow my camp shirt, but her pants were still bugging her and her feet that were sore after the wedding weren’t getting any better with the long days. After a small breakdown and an even smaller pep talk, we continued the climb.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the junction for Sawmill Pass where we filtered water and cobbled together some lunch. Only a few miles to go to get over Pinchot!
Another mile up the trail, stoke levels hit an all time low. It was 1pm, we were both feeling beat and still hadn’t made it over our first pass for the day. Something had to give. We found a nice spot on the granite along the trail and took a load off. I began brewing up some coffee while Alyssa took a little power nap. While the coffee brewed, I looked over our trail maps for other options that would get us off the hook for 28 mile days, allow us to stay on the trail for as long as possible, and get us to our reservation at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite on time.
It looked like there were a couple of options for us. The best news was that either option relied on us making a decision at the end of the next day. For now we could focus on getting over Pinchot Pass, covering a few more miles, and having an easier (~22 mile) day tomorrow.
Pinchot Pass was a sneaker and before we knew it we were at the top looking down over Lake Marjorie. As we rested earlier, clouds had begun to gather and now the sky was looking pretty threatening. We were happy to be up and over the pass before this got any worse!
We descended down past the lake without incident, passing a few more southbound hikers along the way. Before long we were back down in a low valley at the crossing of the Kings River. The clouds still looked like rain so we decided that this would be a good place to stop and make camp for the evening.
It was still an hour before dark, more time than we’d had to relax than the previous two nights. What a luxury! We set up camp, filtered some water, and relaxed by the river on the polished granite. As we cooked dinner before bed, the rain started to fall in sheets. Had we continued on up and over Mather Pass today like we’d planned, it would have been a wet evening for us.
Still a little torn on our decision to change course, I lay in my sleeping bag and wrote a few more words before bed:
Alright, it’s official, we are not going to stick to our original plan. The bottom line is that 28 miles in a day is just too much for us if we plan on enjoying any of the trail. I’m thankful for the change of plans and excited that we have a couple hours more each day to take it easy. I think that’s exactly what we need.
Arc’teryx Motus Crew Shirt
Buying this shirt was a splurge, but it was worth it. Incredibly comfortable, doesn't get stinky, and handles moisture like a champ.
Peak Design Capture Camera Clip
This is a must have for any camera quiver. Easy attach and detach your camera from a backpack strap, your waste band, or anything else you want to clip it to!
Smith Pivlock Arena Max
Well built and include multiple interchangeable lenses when you buy. These are an essential part of the kit for any adventure.