I know, a broken record, but another “best day hiking ever”. IMO, the biggest differentiator in going Southbound on the JMT is the progression of views and experiences. I would much prefer to have them increase in awesomeness, as opposed to decrease, as the hike progresses.
I was on the trail by 7:30am, looking forward to Rae Lakes. After an uphill section from my camp site to Dollar and Arrowhead Lake, the trail flattened out. Dollar was small but neat, and Arrowhead was beautiful. I started seeing more campers, as expected, for I had heard stories about how crowded Rae Lakes could be. I talked to a fisherman at Arrowhead who gave me some good intel on the fishing (they were doing very well in the area), and recommended and area called Ten Lakes (northern Yosemite) for a good Sierra fishing destination. At Arrowhead, the prominent Fin Dome started making its presence known.
A little while later, I came upon the Rae Lakes, which have a reputation as one of the most scenic areas of the JMT, and they didn’t disappoint. Crystal clear water with a stunning backdrop. It was awesome hiking around and through them on the way to the pass, with too many photo opportunities to note.
My favorite lake of the entire JMT was Upper Rae Lake. Butt up against the mountains, crystal clear, green water, even with a little island in the middle. Additionally, the best fish I had noticed on the trail. I took a nice long break and had a “second breakfast” before the slog up Glen Pass.
One of the neat things about the trail is that it goes across a narrow isthmus between Upper and Middle Rae Lakes, which afforded a dazzling view from the Middle Rae Lakes inlet:
At this point, the trail immediately starts its march up to Glen Pass, 1,400′ in less than two miles. I kept it slow and steady, and spent plenty of time resting and enjoying the view back down on the Rae Lakes area. Fortunately, the trail consisted of the ramp surface instead of steps, so it was better for my style.
The area is supposed to be the best for seeing Bighorn Sheep, but they alluded me, again. I made it up to the top in less than two hours and in good shape. The top of the pass was different than others in that it was along a really narrow ridge, which was pretty neat and offered great views in both directions.
Since I wanted to again make headway up toward the next pass, a doozy in Forester Pass, I only stayed long enough on Glen Pass for a short lunch. There was a 2,400′ decline after the pass to Bubbs Creek over just 3.4 miles, but the trail was much better than coming down from Pinchot Pass. The views were gorgeous, and it gave you a clear view of where I was headed up toward Forester Pass.
After making it to Bubbs Creek at 3pm, I was able to make it 3 miles up Bubbs Creek, which I was thrilled given the big climb up to 13,100′ the next morning. I found a really neat campsite on a shelf above the creek which gave me ample opportunity to wash off and rinse clothes (the last time cleaning clothes!) and relax. I enjoyed my dinner watching another show put on by the jumping fish in an eddy on the creek!