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TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

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TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 05, 2014 3:58 pm

I was hoping to beat the mosquitoes and thankfully, I did! I had never been out of the Gianelli trailhead or visited the many little lakes en route to Emigrant Lake. I planned a 6-day trip with hopes of also throwing in a visit to the Lewis Lakes, snow conditions permitting. Fishing was dismal to impossible (frozen lakes) but the scenery was beautiful. If I were to do this again, I would instead loop from Kennedy Meadows. The trail from Gianelli was frustrating with its rollercoaster nature and less spectacular, albeit pretty, scenery.

5/30. After a late start from home I reached the trailhead at 1PM. Starting at 9,000 feet I felt the elevation as I slogged up the hill to Burst Rock. It was quite cold with a bitter wind. I gave up on the snowy switchbacks and went straight up the hill. I did a quick side trip to Powell Lakes and then down and up through post-hole snow and down, leaving the trail to drop directly to Y-Meadow Lake where I found a nice campsite at 5:00. I was beat. (5.1 miles, 4 ½ hours, 1300 feet elevation gain)

5/31. Birds were chirping and light at 5AM. Sun hit the tent at 6AM and melted the frost. The plan was to get to Buck Lake mostly cross country visiting Toe Jam, Wire, and Long Lake en route. Everything went as planned to Cherry Creek. Crossing Toms Canyon was easy, climbing up to Toe Jam Lake via a rock rib of slabs. Dropping to Cherry Creek at the south end of Salt Lick Meadow went as planned and did not even have to wade the creek. A short hop to Spring Meadow and I would intersect the trail. Up the little creek I went and got into thick forest, where things went unplanned. I could not see any landmarks in the trees, and snow patches were abundant. The idea of using my shadow would have worked had I remembered that the sun rises far north of east June! I headed northwest when I meant to go southeast. I actually crossed the trail to Spring Meadow; it must have been under snow. Eventually I intersected what I thought was the trail to Spring Meadow and headed up the terribly muddy, difficult to follow trail with many snow patches. At noon I came out of the forest to a large meadow. First I tried to fit the terrain into where I wanted to be, and then realized this huge meadow had two big lakes, not little ponds. Darn it, I was in Upper Relief Valley.

I contemplated my choices as I munched on a trail bar. It was a beautiful spot and I could stay here. Or, I could be conservative and go back and get back on my original route. Or, simply use my unintended location and an opportunity! OK, I could get to Iceland Lake from here and I had plenty of time. If the snow stopped me I could always turn around. I crossed the meadow which was surprisingly dry in spite of the trail being covered with water. From Lake 8,785 I found a marked use-trail heading steeply eastward, over a rock rib where it steeply dropped to a small pond. The beautiful secluded northeast facing bowl was solid snow so I had to traverse the more difficult lower portion over steep rock ribs perpendicular to my route. The meadow shown on the map is really a patch of forest. A deer trail continued up to Iceland Lake. Again, I was beat, found a campsite mid-lake on the west shore. Before I cooled off I took an icy bath! I tried fishing with a sinking fly, but not a ripple on the water. After dinner at sunset I hiked a loop to the unnamed small lake to the south, carefully avoiding most snow patches. The northeast cliffs of Granite Dome were covered with snow. It froze again that night. (8.5 miles, 7.7 hours, 2085 feet elevation gain)

6/1. I awoke with the bird chirps at 4:30 AM and worried about what to do next. I could just day-hike the upper lakes and return to Relief Valley, or try to pack over the east shoulder of Granite Dome (I had done this route years before) or drop to Summit Creek and take the trail to Emigrant Lake. The sun rose early and again melted the frost from my tent. I got up at 5:30 and decided to pack up and make my decision when (and if) I reached Upper Lewis Lake where I could evaluate snow conditions. I climbed up the rock ridge ending about 100 feet above frozen Upper Lewis Lake. Ridge Lake was frozen too. There went my fishing plans! The route over Granite Dome was impossibly snowy. Thankfully the sun had softened the snow so I could get down to the lake. I then climbed down endless rock slabs, avoiding snow and wet portions. I did not directly go to Lewis Lake (also frozen) because I was worried about crossing Summit Creek. In retrospect, I should have detoured to Lewis Lake because Summit Creek was only knee deep. But I did get some good photos from above. It was a bit gnarly getting off the rock into Lewis Creek.

By 11AM I was on the main trail to Emigrant Lake. The trail was totally dry and the upper crossing was even easier. Then it was post-hole snow to the pass, which was a mess of half snow and half mud. Once to the south-facing side everything was dry down to the inlet to Emigrant Lake. Here I met the first people on the trip; a family who had a 6-year old with them! About 50 large Rainbow Trout were spawning above the inlet. I decided not to camp here and crowd this family and was not sure if taking of fish during spawning were legal. I am a “catch and eat” fisherman! So I continued to the outlet and found a nice camp about quarter mile from the outlet dam. It was time for another bath in the solar heated shallow water above submerged rock slabs. After dinner I walked to the dam. The Emigrant Wilderness Guide says “hop across the dam”. Water was swiftly flowing across the dam so plans to get to Frazier and Shallow Lakes the next day would not work. I was in evening shadows so went into the tent early. It lightly frosted again at night. (10.3 miles, 9 hours, 2040 elevation gain)

6/2. Early sunshine awoke me at 6AM. I decided not to day-hike to Shallow Lakes (would have to go back to the inlet) so packed up and headed to Buck Lake where grass is green and flowers are beginning to bloom. Fish were swimming in Meadow Creek. Here mosquitoes also were beginning to “bloom”. I spent an hour hiking around before heading up the trail towards Deer Lake. At the top of the ridge I left the trail and headed directly to the outlet of Long Lake. Plans to walk the west shore rock slabs were immediately nixed as I spotted a HUGE cinnamon colored bear on the white rock. Sorry, no photos! I quickly turned around to walk up the east shore, in spite of the steep snow banks in places. Mr. Bear could have the west shore! The inlet area of Long Lake is a swamp, full of mosquitoes. I did not even stop for a photo, but headed up the trail to Wire Lakes where I found a wonderful campsite on the south end. After doing laundry and a bath I hiked down to the lower Wire Lakes, which were a bit disappointing. Then I fished for a while with no luck. After dinner I climbed up the little peak to the southeast. (9.8 miles, 7.7 hours, 1530 feet gain)

6/3 Up again early with frost on the tent, I packed up and headed cross-country directly to Spring Meadow. Shortly after wading across the creek I left the trail up a small drainage, past two ponds and dropped to Cherry Creek, the same place that I crossed a few days earlier. This was the route I should have taken had I not gotten lost! This time, instead of heading to Toe Jam Lake, I angled farther south to Leopold Lake. Travel was easy but I was not that impressed with Leopold Lake. I was probably bias after already seen the more spectacular lakes; Emigrant, Buck, Long, Lewis Lakes. Then I dropped down to Tom’s Canyon lower than where I crossed on my way in. Mosquitoes were active at the creek, which was surprisingly low flowing. I hopped across and angled first upstream to get on an amazing bench that directly angels towards Granite Lake. This narrow bench above cliffs sports little ponds, trees, meadows, and yes, mosquitoes. Travel was tricky and slow. I reached Granite Lake early afternoon and decided to camp up high where it was windy on a rocky rib north of the lake. Mosquitoes were babies and not yet biting, but annoyingly swarmed. Thank goodness for the breeze. Fishing was again a bust. At 5PM I saw two fellows arriving down below. Later I went to the lake to get more water and talked to them. They came in to camp in luxury and fish; none of that dry food stuff- real onions and real cooking! Their huge packs attested to this! (7.3 miles, 6 hours, 1365 feet gain)

6/4. Given the increasing mosquitoes and warm night (no frost) I decided to simply head out and skip Chewing Gum Lakes, which looked like mosquito habitat deluxe. I found the use-trail to Y-Meadow Lake and this time stayed on trails all the way out. I met several groups of hikers, some going in and some going out. After lunch at Burst Rock I quickly dropped to the trailhead, this time staying on the trail. The snow had melted considerably. The trailhead was hot and buggy. (6.9 miles, 5 hours, 1310 feet gain)

Photos to follow.



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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby rlown » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:07 pm

thanks for the post, WD. Sad to hear about lower wire. Skeeters now and not much snow means they should be gone in a month. Usually they peak there in August.

At least you saw fish spawning!
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:10 pm

Image
Burst Rock (photo taken on exit)

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Y-Meadow Lake (taken on exit)

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Toe Jam Lake

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Upper Relief Valley Lake

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Iceland Lake

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Camp at Iceland Lake

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Unnamed lake below Ridge Lake
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:14 pm

Image
Ridge Lake

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Upper Lewis Lake

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Lewis Lake

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Summit Creek

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Emigrant Lake (near outlet)

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Sunset at Emigrant Lake

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Outlet Dam of Emigrant Lake
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:18 pm

Image
Buck Lake

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Upper Wire Lake

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Spring Meadow

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Leopold Lake

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Pond on bench to Granite lake

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Granite Lake Camp

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Granite Lake
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Tom_H » Thu Jun 05, 2014 4:31 pm

Thanks, WD. Always enjoy your TRs so much!
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby FeetFirst » Thu Jun 05, 2014 5:23 pm

Awesome trip! I'm always intrigued by your routes -- planned or not. :) Great photos too. Thanks.
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby kpeter » Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:02 am

Thanks so much for the wonderful trail report and excellent photography, as per usual for you, WD. Buck Lake looked familiar to me. I wonder how the mosquitoes will be in early July of this dry year. I need a tune up hike and was thinking of Emigrant again.
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Sierra_Summits » Fri Jun 06, 2014 9:38 am

more snow there than i thought there would be! Thanks for the trip report and photos!
"Heaven is here on Earth!"

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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby Jaeger » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:04 pm

Wow! Great TR WD! Thanks for all the info. Like others said, planned or not, you got to cover a lot of ground. I'll definitely factor this info in for my upcoming trip.
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby SSSdave » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:27 pm

Well if you were not in shape before that trip you are now.

Familiar with most of those places. For the reader best to follow your considerable navigation comments by following a topo map.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=38.20079,-119.84599&z=14&t=T

Places like those lakes behind Granite Dome were certain to still be frozen. Any trips this early need to pay attention to elevation and exposure. Should sober up some of those of conventional thinking that fishing is certain to be better at melt out. Although that can be at much lower bodies of water especially reservoirs, not so in many high country bodies of water. If a large stream is flowing in where fish are spawning there may be fish though most are engaged with behaviors of other fish and not feeding that doesn't seem to bother those jerking large treble hooks at them. More often cold lakes seem rather lifeless as fish have nothing to surface feed on with insect hatches still weeks away, sub-surface feeding minimal as larvae have months before since escaped into shallows or beneath rocks, and below water temps are so cold with nothing to do that trout are often rather lethargic just sitting in groups where cold inlet stream flows creeping along lake bottoms provide aeration.

At this time of year the better choices would be about the lower southwest lakes like Big Lake. However reaching those lakes is problematic if taking the more direct route from Crabtree because of high creek flows so one's fording skills need to be high.
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Re: TR:Emigrant Wilderness 5/30 - 6/4

Postby jhoest » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:36 pm

Thanks for the trip report! I'll be heading out of Gianelli Meadows on Sunday for a few days, all the info you posted has certainly helped me refine my trip. Thanks!
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