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TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

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TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:03 pm

North Yosemite Boundary Lakes
May 30- June 4 2016

This loop was partly a repeat of a route I did years ago but did not take my camera. I really wanted to get some photos. I was armed with many optional route plans to make daily route decisions. Becoming burned out on gnarly off-trail travel and the likelihood of mosquitoes at Kibbie Lake, I changed the exit to instead return on the trail, with a nice diversion to Lord Meadow on Cherry Creek. My only regret was not staying the night at Lord Meadow and doing the longer walk out the next day. Weather was perfectly clear, a nice breeze, and amazingly HOT! I could have done without all my insulating clothing- never used it! Warm nights also meant I could have taken my 45-degree bag. Oh, well, I needed to test my new pack with a 6-day trip load of my normal gear. In spite of hours of studying Google Earth images, the terrain surprised me- much more forested and thick underbrush than I had expected. Every topographic low was a pond due to the snow melt. Lake shorelines did not look like that on the map, which added to difficult navigation in already difficult lumpy terrain. All in all, the trip was 44.3 miles with average travel rate of 1 mph. It is “small-scale” scenic. If there were still fish in the lakes, I would say the difficult travel was worth it; as is, the main reason for going is that it is early-season accessible and you do get solitude.

Day 1. Shingle Springs TH to “Mercur” Lakes.
8.5 miles, 6.3 hours, 2300 feet gain.

I managed to get out of town on Memorial Day early enough to have nearly empty roads and arrived at the trailhead at 11AM. The dirt road was in good shape, which saved me 2 miles and nearly 1000 feet of elevation gain. Previously I had not been able to get up the road. Hordes of people were exiting at the trailhead. After I hit the Kibbie Lake trail junction, I only met two more people. It was horridly hot. Thankfully the trail, which was in horrible condition in 2006, had been recently worked on, and other than some minor deadfall, overgrowth and swampy spots, it went quickly. I reached the ranger cabin at 3:15, leaving enough time to continue to the unnamed lakes west of Mercur Peak. These last two miles proved to be tough – full of deadfall. The drop down the north side of the ridge lead me into melting snowdrifts, post-holing into water, and then a rat’s maze to get around every small pond created by the melt. I finally reached the northeast shore of the main large lake at 5:15 and found a perfect campsite up on the ridge with a fine view into Cherry Creek canyon. I took a bucket bath while I gathered water and was amazed at how warm the water was. After dinner I walked to the north end of the lake. There are many nice campsites all along the northwest side of this large lake. Frogs serenaded me all night. The largest "Mecur" Lake and my campsite shown below.

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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:09 pm

Day 2. “Mercur” Lakes to Little Bear Lake and day-hike to Inferno Lakes.
8.0 miles, 8.0 hours, 1150 feet gain.

Dawn awoke me at 5AM but I dozed for another hour. After another puzzle to get around all the seasonal ponds, the drop to Styx Pass was easy, over low angle slabs. The trail to Boundary Lake is well marked and I only had to divert around one bog. Somewhat of a “use-trail” goes down the west shoreline, but it really is more of a come-and-go game trail through a lot of knee-high brush. The outlet is crossed on an easy rock hop. The east side of Little Bear Lake was another matter- a maze of swamps and snarl of deadfall. I was glad to get up onto the rock slabs near the south end of Little Bear Lake. I took forever to decide on a campsite, but by noon, I was set up and ready for a day-hike to Inferno Lakes.

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Boundary Lake

Back into the dreaded deadfall! Then I hopped across the creek flowing from Inferno Lakes and climbed a short cliffy section (class 3). The remainder of the walk was up easy low angle slabs to the headwall, where I climbed up another cliffy section onto the ridge northwest of Lk 8066. After a steep snow decent I crossed the creek and walked along the soggy shores of the lakes to the north. One of the small lakes was still partially covered with ice. Returning to the south, I then trekked through swamps and snow to Inferno Lake 7979, which turned out to be the amazing lake that I had looked down on previously from the boundary ridge. I dropped to the lake and took tons of photos. Although tempted to loop through the southern Inferno Lakes, I opted to return the same route, this time finding a game trail south of the creek and down the cliffy section to Little Bear Lake. I walked over to photograph the rock buttress west of Little Bear Lake. Luckily I could jump across the outlet. This buttress would prove to be a valuable navigation point later. Again, it was an unusually warm night full of frog songs.

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One of the lower Inferno Lakes

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Inferno Lake 7979

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Little Bear Lake
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:15 pm

Day 3. Little Bear Lake to Spotted Fawn Lake and day-hike of Nance Peak Ridge.
6.0 miles, 7.5 hours, 1750 feet gain.

Although the distance to my next camp was less than a mile, it took me two hours! I easily dropped down to the north shore of Spotted Fawn, where the challenge began. First there was a climb up a small tree to get onto a rock buttress. Then the shoreline, although short, was impenetrable brush. After about 15 minutes of trying to force my way through the brush, I realized I had to wade in the lake. I am not good at judging water depth. I put on my crocks, with my “water socks” and knee-high gaiters, and stepped into the lake. Soon it was crotch deep and I was getting an unintended bath. Then another few steps and it was waist deep. A short section was chest deep. I was nearly floating. Then I crossed the outlet, which was only crotch deep. I wrung out all my clothing and set thing in the sun to dry while I checked my pack. A little water in the bottom, but my sleeping bag was still dry. I put on wet clothes and continued about a quarter mile to find a nice campsite. By the time I got the tent set up, my clothes were dry! Did I mention it was HOT!

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Spotted Fawn Lake from Little Bear Lake

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Camp at Spotted Fawn

My day-hike was to run the ridge from Nance Peak to the unnamed lake on the ridge a mile and half southwest. After some gnarly bushwhacking to get around Spotted Fawn Lake, the ascent to the saddle between Nance Peak and point 8104 was easy over slabs with one steep section to the saddle. Another steep section up a gully led to the nearly flat ridge that gradually rises to the top of Nance Peak. The best viewpoints are about a 100 feet down right on the cliff above Edith Lake. The view was amazing! Melt puddles in the rock were covered with medium sized winged black things emerging and swarming in the air. Thankfully there was a stiff breeze. Back to the saddle, I continued up over Point 8104 and dropped to the unnamed lake. The ridge and the lake are much more timbered than I had expected. The little lake is quite amazing, but also had mosquitoes, so I did not stay long. The obvious descent drops too low so I traversed high through brush until I saw the north trending ramp that I had observed on Google Earth. The timbered gully south of Spotted Fawn was littered with branches, swampy and quite miserable. I dropped to the south end of the lake for photos, and there were pesky mosquitoes here. I stayed closer to the shoreline on my way back to my camp, which was on a sandy windy bench, so I had no mosquitoes, thank goodness. It was a very rewarding day-hike. I took a bath and cooked dinner, then wandered around the outlet ponds for evening photos. Guess what? Another hot night and frog songs! Spotted Fawn is THE lake in the area- very scenic, far better camping than Little Bear or Boundary Lake.

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Edith Lake from Nance Peak

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Unnamed Lake on Nance Peak Ridge

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View from the south end of Spotted Fawn Lake

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Sunset at Spotted Fawn Lake
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:21 pm

Day 4. Spotted Fawn Lake to Many Island Lake.
7.4 miles, 8.0 hours, 1100 feet gain.

Every day seems to hold some unplanned “adventure”. Today it was thinking I was lost, in spite of being on route. The drop down the outlet from Spotted Fawn Lake went fine, again a maze of swamps and enlarged ponds to get around before dropping over beautiful glacial polished granite where the creek spread out. At the lower lakes I left the drainage turning east over a saddle before dropping steeply to cross both the creek from Spotted Fawn on a log and Bartlett Creek by hopping rocks. I continued toward Flora Lake remaining high above Bartlett Creek to avoid the brush, but not entirely as I neared the smaller outlet lakes east of Flora Lake. I thought I heard a dog bark as I ate lunch on the bluff above Flora Lake. Then I headed north past the numerous Bartlett Lakes. Going was tough- very complex, all the lakes looking different than on the map due to high levels, ending up at a lake, which I really had no idea which lake it was. I brought a compass this time, oriented the map, and still did not know exactly where I was. I was somewhere down on the middle Bartlett Lakes and I thought I was at the upper Bartlett Lakes. The clue was that I had only traveled an hour from Flora Lake, and no way could I be at the upper lakes, although their shapes matched the map. After some tricky outlet crossings I managed to get to the largest middle Bartlett Lake and was now about 50/50 sure of where I was. I continued up the creek, through some nasty brush and finally up steep but fun granite slabs next to the tumbling Bartlett Creek. As I topped out I saw “Little Bear Lake Buttress” with a sigh of relief. Now I knew exactly where I was! Unfortunately, as I was agonizing over my location I failed to take photos of the beautiful middle Bartlett Lakes.

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Slabs along creek flowing from Spotted Fawn Lake

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Bartlett Creek just above the confluence with the creek from Spotted Fawn Lake

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Flora Lake



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One of the upper Bartlett Lakes (with Little Bear Buttress in the background)

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Lake 7489 (between Boundary Lake and Many Island Lake)
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:30 pm

Day 4 continued

At the upper Bartlett Lakes I had the choice of heading west directly to the outlet of Many Island Lake. It looked gnarly, brushy and I was not sure of the traverse into Many Island Lake. I punted, and instead headed north past the string of lakes west of Little Bear Lake. I had been here before. This route doubled my distance, but I did get photos of these very beautiful little lakes. Just as I headed up to the saddle to the north end of Many Island Lake, I spotted chestnut read fur in the brush. Bear, for sure. I did not want to suddenly startle the bear so I gently tapped my trekking poles. Mama bear stood up on hind feet, baby bear ran downhill, and I turned 90 degrees heading uphill, steadily, without looking back, and did a 200-foot elevation gain diversion around the bears. Coming back down to the saddle on the west side, there was more fresh bear poop. Darn it, the last thing I wanted was another bear. With all the travel to avoid the bear, I ended up cliffed-out and had to climb another 100 feet before I could drop down (nearly 180 degree turn) a cleft to the lesser sloping southeast shore of Many Island Lake. I wanted to camp at the outlet, so I could have the choice of dropping down to Kibbie Lake as an option. I stayed high to avoid the nasty brush at the shore. At the outlet I took too much time to decide on a campsite- none were very good or scenic. I was disappointed as reports on the internet stated that this location was scenic. Never the less, I was glad for this hard travel day to be over. I took a real swim in the lake, which was unusually warm. I retreated to the tent, agonized about which route to take the next day, and listened to music to drown out the frog chorus.


Day 5. Many Island Lake to Sachse Springs via Cherry Creek at Lord Meadow.
8.0 miles, 8.0 hours, 1750 feet gain, 1200 loss.

My tolerance of more uncertainty was low, so I decided instead to go out the Kibbie Ridge Trail, but first dropping to Cherry Creek. I really wanted to see up-close the roaring waters! The west shoreline of Many Island Lake was much easier than the east. I found the key route up the steepest parts of the rock slabs on the north end of the lake. I then turned northeast on a ramp to Lake 7459. This amazing little lake, more of a pond, was stunning; a pure reflection of the cliff to the north and actually great campsites. A well-marked use trail continued past more ponds (I call this “Three Pond Pass”). Soon I was back at the trail junction to Lord Meadow. I dropped down, left the trail and stashed my stuff near the two wide spots near River Mile 26. It was only mid-morning so I day-hiked down to Mile 25. The water is high so you have to climb slabs high above the creek. I returned closer to the creek and had to wade through the swamped timber patch at Mile 25.5. Back at my gear, I went upstream a short distance to photograph more falls. It was HOT! So I lay down submerged in cool water of one of the smaller side streams. That felt so good. I contemplated staying here, but the 10+ mile walk out plus drive home was a bit more than I wanted to do the next day. In retrospect, I regret not doing this. I was worried because I mistakenly told my husband that I would be out Friday. It was already Friday. I reluctantly left stunning Cherry Creek with its perfect campsites, and chugged up the hot trail to Sachse Springs and camped on the top of the ridge above the ranger cabin. The flow from the springs was too shallow for a bath so I had to do with a bucket bath. The ridge was windy, which kept down mosquitoes. The only annoyance were the abundance of ants.

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Lake 7459 (largest pond on "Three Pond Pass")

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Cherry Creek at River Mile 26 (lower end of Lord Meadow)

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Falls on Cherry Creek near River Mile 26

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Falls on Cherry Creek at about River Mile 25.5

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Forested patch near River Mile 25
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Jun 06, 2016 2:33 pm

Day 6. Sachse Springs to Shingle Springs TH
7.0 miles, 3.3 hours, 2100 foot loss.

The walk out was uneventful and boring. But after all the adventure I had had, that was not necessarily bad. I stopped at the ranger station on the way home to let them know I was out, in case my husband called. Once I got cell coverage in Sonora, my husband informed me that he had not really expected me until Sunday, the next day! I could have spent the night on Cherry Creek. He also said it had been 104 degrees in Sacramento, so I was thankful that my “hot” weather was much cooler.

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Camp at Rangers cabin above Sachse Springs
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Shhsgirl » Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:17 pm

How beautiful! I have always wanted to go to Cherry Creek, aster a friend has told me of his many adventures sliding down the pools on his rear. He would do this later in the season, of course.
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby shuteye » Mon Jun 06, 2016 3:46 pm

Thanks! I love Emigrant, its smaller scale, the possibility of solitude. I think we stayed at the same campsite at Spotted Fawn, although we went from Kibbie to Flora to Spotted Fawn to Little Bear and Boundary, with similar difficulties escaping the shoreline of Spotted Fawn, wading and bushwhacking around a large boulder/buttress. I’m envious of your side trip to Nance Peak, I wish I had thought to do that. We did see a good-sized waterfall where the drainage from the ponds south of Spotted Fawn drop down some cliff bands. Thanks again.
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby seanr » Mon Jun 06, 2016 8:22 pm

We stopped by that cabin near Sachse Springs on Saturday on our way to the top of the ridge (followed by a visit to Mercur Peak). I now recall a couple of tents there belonging to campers who seemed to be out dayhiking; it seems to be a common stop for those who wander off trail or who don't want to hike the whole trail at once.

I suspect I will visit Nance and Spotted Fawn sometime when conditions point me that way. We would have stopped by them last Sunday had we had a little more time.

Matching flow data and hot weather, the creek looks a bit higher in your photos than what we witnessed. I would not mind returning to see more of that!

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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby justm » Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:36 pm

What a great trip !!! quiet solitude , bear encounters and beautiful vistas :) Thanks for the trip report, I would love to do that trip sometime. Your photos are beautiful , I guess done with your new Sony Rx 100 ? You didn't mention any fishing on your trip. I know most of the lakes are barren in that area, but I think some of the canyons have fish ? Thanks for sharing !!
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:48 am

No new camera (perhaps confused with someone else who has that camera). Still using my old Cannon S95 (? honestly I am not 100% sure that is what it is called). I have been setting the camera on rocks or other solid objects, when available, which may have reduced some of the camera shake when I take the photo.

I knew there were reportedly no fish currently in those lakes and Cherry Creek is flowing too high for good fishing. The old Emigrant guidebook shows fish, but evidently stocking was abandoned in the late 1980's. I do not know if further fish killing was done to create more frog habitat. There certainly are frogs in the lakes now. Many of those lakes are relatively shallow so probably poor candidates for fish anyway. Flora and Spotted Fawn, however, seem to be deep. Maybe the lakes are oxygen deprived. There are fish in Kibbie, but I did not go there. I think the area got more use pre-90's because of the fishing. I read reports of "use-trails", but what few I found were barely visible and very overgrown. There really are not any canyons, other than Cherry Creek. Edith Lake (which you can see from Nance Peak) is in the next drainage south.
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Re: TR: 6/16 N. Yosemite Boundary Lakes

Postby paula53 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 10:28 am

I have never been to this area before. After seeing your pictures, and reading your trip report, I want to visit spotted fawn lake. What a trip. I primarily hike the east sierra. Maybe I should visit the western Emigrant wilderness.
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