Just got back about 4am this morning.
First off, great trip, enjoyed every minute of it.
Day One (7/8/11) - Roads End to Castle Dome Meadows - 13.7 mi.
Normal trail conditions, just add water for the most part. The trail is boggy in many areas. Short of Upper Paradise the trail gets obliterated by downed trees, but route finding is not difficult, and pretty fun. The trail continues to be difficult to follow due to downed trees for a while past Upper. The amount of destruction is pretty amazing.
We crossed Baxter Creek in the late afternoon, and found it to be unremarkable; thigh high and not powerful at all. Castle Dome Meadows is full of flowers, and also full of early morning dew. We lost some time drying our gear the next morning from it, and condensation inside our bivys.
Day Two - Castle Dome Meadows to Lower Rae Lake - 7.8 mi.
Besides the usual amazing views and unusual amount of waterfalls, this stretch was unremarkable. The first snow field crossing is between the 10k foot sign and Dollar Lake, and besides being sun cupped, is easy traveling. The lakes are mostly ice free at this point, with a few chunks floating in Thousand Island Lake. The mountains around the lakes are beautiful right now, as I am sure you have seen.
Day Three - Lower Rae Lake to Roads End - 19.9 mi.
The climb from the lakes to the base of the pass was a little confusing to us. There were very few climbers coming over the pass, and even fewer going southbound. For gear we had poles and ice axes, but no crampons, and I had left my microspikes in the car since no one else had any. The snow was sun cupped to hell, and the visible heavily used path ended up coming from a steep glissade from nobos. I climbed up about halfway, another almost all the way, before deciding it was too hairy and sliding down. We crossed the snow field and ascended a chute along the north east side, and it became obvious that this was the route taken by those going south. It did involve some climbing on loose scree, but was pretty easy and fun. We approached the base of the pass and watched two PCTers make their decent - the only people we would see until Charlotte Lake. We talked about the conditions, I told them about the glissade, and we said goodbye. The switchbacks up to the pass are clear for maybe 1/4 mile, but we had to climb to a point where we could get to them, so we split up and those that were more comfortable rock hopping did so, and the other went straight up the snow next to a glissade. The snow crossing was a little sketchy for a couple of us as we didnt have a lot of experience in those conditions. It is exposed, and the snow was very soft - soft enough that the axes and poles would sink all the way in and give little support much of the time. We took our time, carving out and kicking in steps, and eventually made it to the top. It was awesome, and although for much of it I was completely freaked out, it was also really really fun. The decent to the Charlotte Lake Trail crossing was easy, and while snow often covered the trail, it was easy to follow. The sandy wash where the trails cross is a small lake, deep enough that the sign is not showing. The switchbacks to Vidette Meadows are clear and easy, as is most of the rest of the trip. The trail maintenance crews have been working hard, as there was a lot of evidence that they had been clearing a lot of downed trees from the trail. The rest of the trip was largely uneventful, and the conditions easy.
Wildlife - 2 Rattlers (below Lower Paradise and below Sphinx Junction) 3 Deer, 2 marmots, 1 Bear (Between Junction Meadow and Charlotte Creek)
People - hardly any. There was one group in middle and one in upper Paradise, and we ran into a handful of thru hikers once on the JMT, but for the most part it was very peaceful - fantastic.