9/22/14 The first day took us from Road's End to the start of the Rae Lakes Loop and then North up Paradise Valley for almost 12 miles and 2,500' of gain.
1 Driving towards Road's End (literally the end of the road) in Kings Canyon. We pick-up our permit at the Ranger Station and start our adventure.
2 There's no shortage of interesting trees and large Sequoia in the first couple miles out of Road's End.
3 Fantastic granite cliff views start almost immediately. Some of the peaks here are over 3,000' above us.
4 A beautiful morning in the canyon, not a cloud in the sky.
5 Official start of the Rae Lakes Loop. We had decided to take the loop clockwise to give us more time for altitude adjustment and a more gradual climb. Hopefully we will be back at this spot later in the week...
6 The trail heads up Paradise Valley following the South Fork of the Kings River, which still has plenty of water even in this record dry year.
7 Heading up Paradise Valley looking back at the intersection with Kings Canyon. Very remiscent of the Tetons.
8 Approaching Mist Falls. Normally it would be roaring with enough mist to give it its name. It's definitely low at the moment, but impressive nonetheless.
9 Dustin at Mist Falls showing off his bad @ss miltary look, which got more than a few stares from folks on the trail.
10 Standing at the base of Mist Falls. We spent much of the day wondering what sights like this would be like earlier in a wet year.
11 Continuing up Paradise Valley, there are interesting granite peaks everywhere. On the top leftside of this peak, you can make out a giant stone face, which is a popular photo subject you can find elsewhere online.
12 One last view down Paradise Valley.
13 Tough to see in the picture, but there's a black bear walking on the rocks along the riverbank. Very stereotypical bear setting, and great to see. It was the first of two bear sightings for us today.
14 Dustin alongisde one of the pools of crystal clear water on the Kings River in Middle Paradise Valley.
15 Still plenty of dense green at the end of September in this dry year.
16 Water winding through the forest and granite.
17 Our first of many deer sightings for the trip.
18 Now getting into Upper Paradise Valley at almost 7,000'.
19 A beautiful Aspen Grove along the trail. Though there's less green this time of year, the Fall colors more than make up for it.
20 The first of a few nice snakes we came across, this one a small Striped Racer.
21 Our second bear sighting for the day. Unfortunately out of focus because of the treees in the way. But he was less than 20 feet from us eating out of a log and scratching himself contentedly.
22 Video of the black bear as he walked away. He clearly didn't care much about us at all.
For best performance, you can watch the video on YouTube.
23 Bridge over the Kings River in Upper Paradise Valley. There's an established backpacking site here, and we've already done our 10 miles for the day, but we decide to press on a bit further since it's still early and we're feeling good. The other side of this bridge is one of the few places on the entire loop where the trail can be hard to find, but we're soon back on track and on our way.
24 Leaving Paradise Valley and heading East now in the steep canyon cut by Woods Creek.
25 Woods Creek still roaring strong. Before long, we're getting close to our 5:00pm target time, and we start searching for a campsite.
26 We had a bit of trouble finding a good site, but ended-up finding a great spot nestled in the trees just above Woods Creek. A warm night, and the relatively low elevation at 7,500', let us sleep without the rainfly.
27 Woods Creek not far from the tent site and our water source for the night.
28 Our nightly chess match, and the end of a great first day. I used to have to play half-speed against Dustin when he was little, now I have to be 100% focused to hang with him. We had some intense matches this trip!