Rae Lakes: The Never-Ending Stoke

In preparation for a running race, one spends plenty of time slogging miles alone. Typically, those miles are squeezed in around the rest of one’s life. Work, Family and other extracurricular activities do not take a break so that you can conveniently ‘get a run in’. Furthermore, this puts an impetus on how special it is to hit the trails with friends.

Living in California, I am fortunate enough to have the full spectrum of outdoor activities at my dispense. The opportunity for adventure is innumerable. Each venture out is different from any of previous ones. It’s fun. It’s addicting. Also, I’d like to think each experience sharpens me as a whole, makes me a better person. Even if just a little bit. I’ve learned that the best part of of these treks is having friends that value those same experiences and challenges. Onward and upward. Positive Energy given and received. It’s a constant cycle. It never stops. It’s a never-ending stoke.

Much like a surfer chasing waves, a climber searching for colossal rock slabs or trail runners intrigued to climb new mountains, part of the outdoor experience is the venture into the new, the unknown. Being able to experience something or somewhere for the first time strengthens one’s curiosity. Doing so with a friend, makes it that much better. More often than not, one has “put in time” alone, in order to maintain adequacy. That’s part of it. But, when friends are exuberantly waiting in the wee hours of the morning, it’s a pleasant reminder of why we do what we do. Running in the Kings Canyon last summer brought me back to that revitalizing feeling: pure, unrelenting stoke. It makes the experience more enriching, more satisfying and more valuable.

After spending the majority of my summer on solo jaunts, I was psyched to hit the trails with grizzled trail veterans. Josh, Randy and myself loaded up the truck from Visalia and jammed towards Cedar Grove to camp. We were about to embark on a 41 mile quest. This loop is known as Rae Lakes. It climbs from 5035’ feet to 11978’ feet at Glen Pass. Due to part of it linking with the John Muir Trail, means there are plenty of others out and about. The peaks, valleys and everything in between set the stage for an extraordinary day. We carried everything we needed and left the trailhead at 5:00 AM.

Elevation was a real fiend. The consistent climb towards Glen Pass had me doubting that I would survive this day. Doubt would creep in, but Josh and Randy kept dishing the positivity. If it wasn’t them doing it, it was all the randoms we ran into throughout the day. Literally, we said “What’s up” to almost everybody we came into contact with. We even saw a chick jamming on a flute next to one of the lakes. You know, stuff that totally happens every day.

We reached Glen Pass. Josh gave me a Red Bull. I’m not too keen on energy drinks, but energy levels were low. Simple solution. And it worked. Big Time. Admiring the well-earned view, we chatted with plenty of thru-hikers and other runners. Everybody was amped, eagerly sharing in conversation!

Slowly descending, we cruised the rest of the way. The views were unreal. As each hour passed, the sun slowly faded into dusk, while one mountain was passed for another. The only way to truly soak it all in was stay in the moment. That’s a cliche I’ve heard throughout my entire life. No need to get anxious or look back. Just Be. Right…. This being my first Rae Lakes’ experience, I felt as though I was literally breathing in each new sight without the slightest sense of urgency. When we finished, we each jumped into the Kings River. It was frigid and I was thrashed, but wow, did I feel alive. AWESOME!!!!

The neatest takeaway from this stroll was the extreme lack of social barriers. There were none. Everybody, and I mean everybody, acknowledged each other with either a salutation, compliment or a quick chat. Out with placing prudence on false pretensions, preconceived notions or any other forms of social fencing that separate us. The unabashed enthusiasm on the trail was on par with the beauty of the Kings Canyon. Whether people were hiking, running or camping, everybody was stoked to cross paths with another through the entirety of the day. There was no need to impress. From the early morning darkness to the hot, afternoon sun, my sense of curiosity perpetuated . The overall vibe from that day has me wishing to carry that same spirit of freedom, open-mindedness and unadulterated zest with me every single day, whether I’m on the trails or not. It’s a feeling of being completely alive. All five senses totally immersed in the moment. It’s infectious. It’s pure. It’s a feeling that I never want to lose.

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Finished! What a day!!

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