Backpacking the Four Lakes Trail

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Last month we did our last training hike in preparation for 10 days / 96 miles at Philmont starting in late July. We had a small crowd this time -- only five of us -- which is really a better way to backpack anyway, right?

Our original plan was a two night trip from the Frog Lake sno-park along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Timothy Lake. We would hike in a few miles after arriving late Friday evening, cruise down to the lake on Saturday, then find a suitable spot Saturday night to camp before returning Sunday morning.

It was raining hard when we arrived on Friday but that's why we do training hikes. This would be a great opportunity to test our rain gear and make sure tents, tarps, etc. are all properly functional. About a week before this trip I had fashioned a lightweight shelter for our crew backpacks out of Tyvek and parachute cord. We got this setup mostly in the dark on Friday but it had a huge payoff -- not only did it provide a great home for our packs overnight, but we were able to use it for cooking and eating the next morning as it was still raining hard.

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Julie and I have a very lightweight Big Agnes tent that held up well in the rain. With an open mesh interior, there's going to be some precipitation coming in but it was nothing more than mist and a few drops. Matthew had standing water in his tent (our 15+ year old Walrus 2-man tent) but this may have been because of how he setup his ground cloth.

The PCT to Timothy Lake was a welcome, mostly flat and wide break from past trips where we were often climbing 3,000 ft or more. The only downside was a lot of puddles and mud we had to step around. We made it to Timothy Lake by noon and had a great spot for lunch toward the northwest end of the lake.

Frog at Timothy Lake

The five of us discussed and agreed that we'd rather extend our hiking on Saturday and not spend another night out. Rain was still likely at this point. I didn't want to return the same way we came in, so we improvised and created what we are calling the Four Lakes Trail. Using a mix of hiking trails, 4x4 roads, and paved park roads we managed to work our way back to the parking lot by visiting Little Crater Lake, Clear Lake, and Frog Lake.

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We covered a lot of miles that Saturday -- probably 17-18 total, with some challenging navigation as we zigged and zagged around the 4x4 roads connecting to Clear Lake. We have back-to-back 16 mile days at Philmont so this was probably a good test.

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I rarely include photos of myself on these trips so I had Cheryl snap a shot of me near the Little Crater Lake campground.