Hiking with Holly

Rae Lakes Loop: Day 1

Sept 28, 2016

Mileage: 9.7

We spent the night at Cedar Grove Lodge, had breakfast at their little restaurant/snack bar, and are on the trail by 9:20 am. We see 3 rangers (2 guys & 1 girl) and double check about campfires.  We are pleasantly surprised to find out we can have them anywhere below 10,000 ft.  That means almost every night we get to have a fire.  That is a luxury that we never get!  Hooray for asking!

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We set out on Wood’s Creek trail towards Paradise Valley.  Our goal is to get to Middle Paradise Valley for our first night.  It is going to be a day of climbing.  In fact, almost every day of this trip is climbing.  Why are we doing this again?

It’s a nice warm day, but to my chagrin, the bugs are out enjoying it too. The gnats and no-see-sums love me!  I am surprised they are out this time of year.  They are usually gone by now.  I finally can’t take it anymore and put my head net on.  I don’t care what others think, they are driving me crazy!  As we pass people coming the other way, they comment on how they wish they had a head net like mine.  I am now feeling quite good about myself for being smart enough to bring one…and wear it!

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Putting on the head net

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We are climbing next to Woods Creek all day.  We see a lot of elderberry bushes, bear scat, and tracks.  We are a bit apprehensive as to the bears this trip.  There are warning signs all over the ranger station about the bears, especially this time of year.  They’re preparing for winter and hibernation.  They can be more aggressive about food.  We need to be diligent about food storage and also running into them on trail.  I am always in the lead, so it keeps me on guard the whole time!

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We stop to eat lunch and notice some people swimming in a pool in their underwear.  That water is cold and it’s not that hot of a day for my swimming comfort, but to each their own.  We speak to an older gentleman for a bit and he tells us that we are almost to our destination for the night.  We are thankful as we have climbed around 2,000’ today and I’m ready to set up camp.

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Our first look at the “Sphinx”

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Lower Paradise Valley has 1 campsite, we move on to Middle Paradise Valley.  As we arrive, no one is there and the best campsites all have bear scat in them.  Um…I don’t think I’m sleeping here tonight.  We begrudgingly move on towards Upper Paradise Valley.  Just before we get there, we see an amazing campsite off to our right and have to stay there.  It is the perfect site.  Not close to the trail, has the creek running by for white noise, not close to the main camping area, and a great fire pit!

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Starting to get into Lower Paradise Valley
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We are getting much higher and further away from the Sphinx
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Lower Paradise Valley

I make a campfire (I’m the fire-starter in our marriage), Gannon filters water, we make our usual green tea and set about nightly chores.  By 7:05 pm the sun is setting and we sit around the luxurious campfire till around 8:00 pm.  I still have the TV series on my phone that we downloaded and started watching on our last trip, so we get cozy in our tent and watch another episode (don’t knock it till you try it!).  At 9:00 pm (hiker midnight) we are ready to call it a night.  I am exhausted, but soo happy to be out in the backcountry again!  Looking forward to another day and hopefully no bear visitors tonight.

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