First mile to Irely Lake and beyond is muddy, buggy, and overgrown. Once the trail leaves the creek drainage feeding the lake and starts climbing into the forest, conditions improve. In another mile, along the traverse leading to Big Creek, there is a wonderful "avenue of ferns", an expansive section carpeted with sword ferns beneath the old growth canopy. The trail climbs slowly and, at 3.5 miles (the halfway point), converges with Big Creek where a challenging crossing must be made which involves a steep descent to the creek bed, a log crossing, then a scramble up a steep slope on the other side. Beyond Big Creek along the switchbacks taking you to higher elevation, most of the downfall will be encountered requiring climbing over, crawling under, and a variety of detours around. The trail becomes significantly more rocky and rooty on this stretch. The forest gradually gives way to sparse, stunted alpine conifers and meadows. Eventually the Three Lakes campground comes into view. Situated in a flat bowl surrounded by meadows and the surrounding hills, it provides lots of flat campsites tucked into stands of trees, a bear wire, and a privy with a view (no enclosure). Patches of snow dotted the area approaching and surrounding the lake, but none impeded travel. A few bugs were observed at the lake but no mosquitoes. Because of a campfire ban, though, bug repellent might be wise to have on hand.