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TR: 5 days Hoover/ Emigrant loop out of Leavitt Lake TH

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TR: 5 days Hoover/ Emigrant loop out of Leavitt Lake TH

Postby mediauras » Tue Aug 09, 2016 4:26 pm

We spent 5 glorious days (July 20-24) right where Hoover, Emigrant and Yosemite meet. I can’t wait to get back to this area. Our loop took us out of Leavitt Lake TH, through Kennedy Canyon, up Piute Meadow over to Tower Lake, to the “lady” lakes (?), past Dorothy Lake up over Bond Pass, over by Middle and High Emigrant lakes, and then back over Big Sam toward Leavitt Lake.

The first adventure of the trip was the chewed up road to Leavitt Lake. Its rough, and requires a 4WD with clearance. I sweated a few areas, but my old Jeep Cherokee handled it well, but anything with lower clearance would walk away with some scrapes, bruises and probably a busted oil pan. But the road gets you to the goods quick, its an excellent place to start from. You start out at 9500 feet, and although you have a climb to get out of the lake’s basin, you drop over into excellent high country.

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Hiking out of Leavitt Lake


After dropping we turned onto the PCT and headed toward Kennedy Canyon and where we thought we would camp for the night, Long Lake. The weather was mild and the afternoon hike on pretty mild terrain was a great way to start. We ran into a number of PCT hikers, a few of whom after 1000 miles were looking a little ragged. They were hurrying to get to Sonora Pass for their re-supplies. We got close to Long Lake at about 5 and the mosquitoes started popping up. We decided to head to CInko Lake instead, a nicer lake from what I had heard and we had hopes it would be a little less bug-ridden. We were wrong of course, the skeeters were pretty bad. Something we had to live with the entire trip. But where there’s snow melt, water, green meadows, and bugs — there’s wildflowers. We got to enjoy a beautiful array of blooms mostly everywhere we went.

Cinko Lake was nice, but the next day we looked forward to getting to Tower Lake and more alpine conditions. Piute Meadow, along the way, was stunning and when we hit it the bugs were relatively calm. My dog tore the chest strap off her pack on the stubby branch of a fallen tree off trail prior to Piute. Fortunately I noticed right away and was able to find the pack quickly. I ended up having to carry her food tho most of the rest of the trip. (note to self — pack needle and thread).

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Piute Meadow


The real prize though was Tower Lake, what a great basin! There was still a fair amount of snow in the upper parts of the basin, the saddle to Mary Lake still held a pretty big cornice, so we were treated to some great alpine views (and cold water). I had hoped to set up camp and bag Tower Peak but just didn’t work out for us. My buddy was beat, my dog was beat, so we took a dip and relaxed.

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Tower Lake


Its definitely on my list though to come back to Tower Lake and bag the peak and wander the area. The next day we scrambled up and over toward the lady lakes (?), and got a great view of that area. Its pretty stunning and would make for great x-country exploration.

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On the saddle above Tower Lake, looking at Tower peak and the valley to the left (that upper meadow area far in the distance looks fun!)


Heading down to Lake Helen, Lake Ruth, and ultimately back to the PCT, we just wandered and took our time. Not a soul was in sight. Its pretty fantastic back there, it’d be nice to wander around and camp at Ruth.

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Looking down toward Lake Helen and Lake Ruth


Once back on the PCT, we made our way past Dorothy Lake, seeing a few PCT hikers and enjoying our tiny 1.5 mile trek through Yosemite. We made our way over Bond pass, took a nice break at the top in a perfect spot of shade, before heading toward Middle Emigrant lake. The high country back there is fantastic, tho when we got into the massive meadows preceding Middle Emigrant lake we knew the mosquitoes would do us in. The whole place was buzzing with bloodsuckers. We got to the saddle before the lake and turned around, making our way back out of the meadows and toward Grizzly lake. We found a decent spot to camp, a little high and exposed, but were still swarmed by those heinous creatures. That night with the help of whisky we managed to just ignore them and enjoy a little camp downtime. Sort of.

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Watering up at High Emigrant Lake, Big Sam looms in the background.


Next day we decided to start heading back toward Leavitt Lake and cross Big Sam. That was going to be our 5th day but we were getting tired of the mosquitoes and hoped that at least over there, after a relatively easy day we could get away more or less from the bugs and enjoy camp. Big Sam was amazing! What a pass. It looks daunting from below, but its not a bad hike. The trail is gradual, laid out really well. We worked our way up, feeling pretty good. The 360 views from up there were spectacular, and we got a fair view of the loop we were making. After taking it in, we headed down, my dog really slowing down at this point. Her poor paws were sore from all the loose rock of the trip. Every snow field she happily jumped on and screwed around until she had to gingerly step off for more tortured loose rock hiking. We made camp just by the headwaters of Kennedy Creek. One could easily make a loop out of Kennedy Meadows that involved returning x-country down the drainage to Kennedy Lake and out.

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Atop Big Sam


My poor pooch barely moved for the rest of the day, her feet were just too sore. The scenery back there is massive, and just after dark we heard what sounded like a decent sized rock slide. Too bad it couldn’t have happened 45 min earlier when there was light!

The next day we were up and out pretty early. Fortunately with enough food and rest my dog recovered enough for a quick and easy 3-4 mile hike back to our car. We passed a bunch of folks just heading out from Leavitt Lake who didn’t, let’s say, look like experienced backpackers. :D One big group was headed to Snow Lake in Hoover, hopefully they were able to enjoy Big Sam and Emigrant Pass. Back to our car, we just had to survive the road and get back to the 108. We did, and at the entrance was a group of 20 people with fishing poles about to walk up the road. Looked like a meetup of some sort. Leavitt Lake seems to be a really popular fishing spot, and a meeting place for Jeep clubs, but how many fish can there be? Its not a huge lake, tho definitely beautiful There were also a few backpackers kind of hanging out by the first pull out looking for a ride up the road. There’s enough traffic there it seems (the lake was packed that Sunday) that that strategy could work.

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Looking down at Leavitt Lake


You all know the rest: drive, eat (enchiladas in Oakdale), drive, try to remember how to be around people again but mostly dream of being back out there.



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Re: TR: 5 days Hoover/ Emigrant loop out of Leavitt Lake TH

Postby justm » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:24 pm

Great pics !!! Nice route . Thanks for sharing
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Re: TR: 5 days Hoover/ Emigrant loop out of Leavitt Lake TH

Postby balzaccom » Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:12 pm

Great report. We love those lady lakes (Stella, Dorothy, et al.) and have always wanted to hike to them via Leavitt Lake.
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Re: TR: 5 days Hoover/ Emigrant loop out of Leavitt Lake TH

Postby Love the Sierra » Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:30 am

Thanks for a marvelous TR.
Try the Mountain Ridge Tough Booties for your dog: http://www.mtnridge.com/booties.html
The owner, Amy, is helpful and will help you get the right fit. I also carry lanolin or one of the ointments she sells to rub it into the pads before I put the booties on.
I only put the booties on when the trail has sharp lava or relentless granite. They do lose traction with the booties on, so I don't put them on where the trail is narrow or very steep.
Hope that this helps your furry friend on the next trip!
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Re: TR: 5 days Hoover/ Emigrant loop out of Leavitt Lake TH

Postby mediauras » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:37 am

Thanks LovetheSierra, I'll look into those booties. She's been on a few trips, but this was the longest outing yet, and yeah, that lava rock will took its toll. She's also young, and the first few days probably covered 2 miles on all her sideways exploring for our every 1 mile on the trail. Ah, youth!
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