Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Rae Lakes Loop, Day 0
When I first moved to California last fall, one of the things I was most looking forward to was going on backpacking trips. There aren't many good backpacking opportunities in Texas (though I've always wanted to do the Lone Star Trail), and from my few experiences with backpacking, half of them in California, I'd fallen in love with it. Now I could get away for a weekend of backpacking all the time!
That didn't happen though. Saturdays in the fall are dedicated to cold beer, Longhorn football, and food with melted cheese on it. And I didn't have any vacation days built up either, so by the time I drove out to the mountains on Saturday, it'd almost be time to think about turning around and going back again. By the time there was a good weekend, it was too cold. It would have to wait until spring. And considering how high up the Sierras get, it would have to wait until late spring.
As Memorial Day started approaching, I started thinking about what I could do with a three-day weekend. I didn't have a race, nor any other obligations, so the options were wide-open. Backpacking was the first thing I thought of. I started looking for a ~40-mile loop, something that would be do-able in three days, and asked a few friends from work if they'd like to come. Initially, three said yes, giving us a solid group of four. By the time Memorial Day weekend came around, they'd all backed out. No worries. I'd go it alone.
I chose the Rae Lakes Loop - apparently a very popular, very scenic, and somewhat strenuous hike, 45 miles total. I decided to hike it counter-clockwise, the opposite of the more common direction, because that way the climbing would be steeper, but it wouldn't take as long. I'd rather get a tough climb over with and then enjoy a gradual downhill the rest of the way; long steady climbs can be just as taxing in the end, and steep descents don't give you much back in return. I liked that the trail was out in the backwoods enough that you have to get a wilderness permit, and the majority of the loop is too far out for a day hike. The only way to get to most of the loop is by doing a multi-day backpacking trip. Which means there won't be many people at all, and they'll all be the true outdoors type. Beards, not fanny packs.
Expecting to cover about 15 miles/day, I took off from work early on Friday to get to the trail and log a few miles before nightfall. Traffic was bad in some spots, and I wound up getting to the trailhead later than I expected. Only managed about four miles, and that was only because I stubbornly hiked later than I should've, after it was getting dark. However, I had to cover those miles, because it's prohibited to camp downstream of the creek I stopped at. The good news was I got a short-but-tough climb outta the way early on. The next day, which looked to be almost all uphill, would have a little less climbing involved.
from Rae Lakes