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TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

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TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Tue Jul 19, 2011 3:24 pm

Day 1
The day started early, with me leaving Auburn at 4am and picking up my compatriots along the way through Sacramento and south to the 108. At Pinecrest Ranger Station we did not find our permit waiting in the box as promised, but I was able to track down a ranger on his way in the back door and he kindly brought me in before opening and issued a permit. During the process he made sure to scare me as best he could with photos and stories of Cherry Creek. When I gave him our itinerary (Rosasco Lake, Big Lake, Coyote Lake) he gave me that look that says, “Don’t make us rescue you.”

I knew that crossing Cherry Creek was the crux of the trip. Cross it, and we’d have open granite for days. Don’t cross it, and we’d have to settle for smaller lakes and less scenery.

One more member met us at the station, making us five. I relayed the ranger’s info to my crew and we set out for Crabtree Trailhead. Despite the extra time at the station, we were on the trail by about 8:30. We made good time down the trail, taking the southern route through Pine Valley. The trail was boggy and underwater in many places. Crossing Piute Creek was easy, an obvious log crossing right on the trail. The climb from there had us crossing our first large patch of snow. It turned out to be trivial, as was just about every snow crossing we encountered. Snow was left on some north slopes and heavily treed areas, but it was always easy to cross as long as we looked out for small snow bridges or melted areas next to logs and rocks. We dropped down into Louse Canyon and got our first look of Cherry Creek. Large white cascades from the north looked daunting and my heart sunk. That did not look crossable. We continued down the trail in hopes it would look better in the flat area of the valley. It did. Once we saw the creek spread out across the valley floor we knew we could find a crossing.

Cherry_cascades.jpg
Cherry Creek Cascades


The creek was large and spread out into multiple channels. The ranger had said we could hike upriver about a mile and a half and probably cross, but that did not look appealing, so we decided to just hike downriver and see if we could find a safe place to cross. About a half mile downriver we found it: a pair of log jams that crossed the major channels with some ankle high wading in between. We crossed it easily and found a nice spot to rest and eat lunch. Our spirits were high—we were going to see all that open granite.

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Log crossing on Cherry Creek

log_cross_01.jpg
Log crossing on Cherry Creek


After lunch we hiked up to Rosasco Lake. We didn’t find the trail until about halfway up the slope, but it was marked with many ducks and easy to follow after that point. Rosasco still had a fair amount of snow on the south side, but we found a nice campsite on a shelf overlooking the lake. Clouds started moving in about 4 and continued through the evening. A pair of us were able to clean up in a small snowmelt waterfall and then we feasted on bean burritos.

Day 2
Today would be all overland hiking. While some older maps showed trails leading from Rosasco Lake to Big lake we never saw one. No matter, because we enjoyed route finding and exploring. As we climbed out of Rosasco Lake we came to a saddle with an overlook of granite domes. This is what we came to see. We trundled down into the open granite and made our way to the south, aiming to turn around one of those domes and walk across the granite to Big Lake. It was stunning. The granite slab was massive and every direction offered an amazing view. We followed the contour to Big Lake and lunched on the western shore.

Pingree_drainage_SMALL.jpg
Pingree Lake drainage

Big_drainage_SMALL.jpg
Granite Slab


We could hear yelping from across the lake and could barely make out a few people sliding down the cascades above the inlet. Another group had successfully crossed Cherry Creek as well. After lunch we made our way around the north side of the lake to look for a campsite. We saw the other group’s site, just below the cascades, but never met the group up close. We found a nice site on the eastern shore and split up for the afternoon: two would stay and fish and three went to summit Gillett Mountain.

The hike up the mountain was an exercise in route finding. We aimed to circle around to the western side and up what appeared to be the best contour. In our haste, we turned too early and ended up having to climb up and down through multiple granite channels. Finally we found a line that looked like a nice granite sidewalk and followed it up to the dome just north of the mountain top. Once there we scoped out a route that crossed the least amount of snow possible and had us approaching the peak from the east. Once on top the view was great despite the clouds that moved in again that afternoon. We rested and snacked up there for about 20 minutes and decided to head down the western flank. The route down was significantly easier, most of the bottom half being just talus hopping. We returned to the campsite to hear that while fish were spotted in the lake, none were caught. We all bathed in the lake, which wasn’t terribly cold, and then settled in for a nice meal and some scotch. A full moon battled the clouds that night.

Gillett_pano_SMALL.jpg
360° view from top of Gillett Mountain

Big_Lake_pano_SMALL.jpg
Morning calm at Big Lake


Day 3
Our original plan had us hiking up the inlet and making our way to Coyote Lake. We decided that wanted to aim for the same crossing point on Cherry Creek wanted to be in position to cross early in the day. So, we made it a short day and headed up to Pingree Lake. The hike was nice and route finding easy. Once there, we hiked out to the large peninsula and spotted some 12-14" trout immediately. Some got to fishing while I prepared lunch. Across the lake we saw two Bald Eagles circling on thermals—a great treat! The fish wanted nothing to do with us, so we ate and then moved to look for a good camping spot on the other side of the lake.

There weren’t many good choices near the lake, and so we ended up finding a great spot up on a bench overlooking the lake from the north. Snowmelt afforded us a small creek running right through it. It was the best campsite of the trip. We had a view of the lake and many of mountains in the distance, including Haystack Peak. We fished for a while more, spotting some more 12-14" trout, but once again they wanted nothing to do with us. After dinner we hiked around the mountain side to watch the sunset while sipping the last of our scotch. Clouds had moved in again in the afternoon, dampening my hopes for a spectacular sunset. They cleared later, though, and we watched the moon rise.

best_campsite.jpg
Great campsite


Day 4
This would be the biggest hike of the trip. Ten miles out and then pizza and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in Sierra Village. I don’t think we had hiked more than a mile before we were taking about what toppings to get. We made our way back to Rosasco Lake and down to Cherry Creek. The creek was even lower than when we had crossed three days earlier. We found our log crossings and again made it across easily. Then it was just trail humping for a few hours back to the trailhead. We saw more backpackers and day hikers as we approached Crabtree, reaching our cars at 2pm. Sausage and pepperoni pizza never tasted so good.

Overview
This was a great trip, especially given the conditions this year. The terrain in this area is just amazing. We encountered very little snow and even then it was trivial. Bugs were a non-issue. We saw lots of standing water and boggy areas, but the bugs never materialized—perhaps we hit the window just right. I never put on a drop of DEET and have maybe five bites. Cherry Creek is crossable if you are careful and search for a safe spot. There were plenty of places we could have waded if the log jams weren’t there. All the lakes were ice free and there are small snowmelt creeks everywhere. Larger creeks which normally may be dry by this time of year are running strong, making for some beautiful cascades.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.



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Carne_DelMuerto
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby maverick » Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:15 pm

Well it seem you hit everything just at the right time Carne, lower running creeks
no mosquito's, and nice weather, in other words heaven!
Thanks for the TR, and pictures.
Those log crossings with a whole bunch of branches sticking up in all kind of angles don't
make crossing those logs easy.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby AK26 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:02 pm

Thanks Carne_DelMuerto

This was exactly what I was looking for. It looks like Cherry Creek is crossable. We will try to look for the same section to cross down stream. Thank you for the great pictures also!
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby DriveFly44 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:18 pm

Thanks Carne for sharing your adventure. Enjoying the beautiful sights, sipping scotch in the back-country, and then slamming down sierra nevada and pizza at Pie in the Sky - my kind of group :)


Ladd
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:51 pm

Glad you all enjoyed the report. I certainly enjoyed the trip.

A big thank you goes out to Balzaccom. I based this trip off his TR from last year. Thank you!
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby mschnaidt » Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:04 am

Nice TR Carne. Your decision to pass on Coyote Lake for Pingree Lake was a good one. I've been to both and there is no comparison. Pingree is sweet!

Hyatt Lake is pretty nice also. White sand beach and a luxe campsite on the West side. We call it the Hyatt Regency...

Next trip, hike over to Yellowhammer Lake if the fishing is slow at Big. It's usually good.

M
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby windknot » Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:17 am

Thanks for the report and pictures! Looks like it was a great trip, and I like the panoramas.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:07 pm

Just for comparison, we did this same trip last year in late August...and could not get our feet wet in Cherry Creek!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby Kris » Thu Jul 21, 2011 6:54 pm

A friend and I also did this trip last season but at the end of June. It sounded nearly identical to ours! From the crossing of Cherry Creek, to the location of campsite at Big Lake, and even to the fishing at Pingree! I did hike over to Yellowhammer, however, and managed to get into some fish. ;) It's a beautiful area. Great Report!
~We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started... and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:57 pm

When I heard that you could cross West Cherry Creek I headed out last week for a 3 day trip- Day 1 to Pingree Lake, Day 2- back to Cherry Creek with several side trips (around Big Lake and down the slabs towards the main Cherry Creek). Third day walked out with side trip to Bear Lake. It was essentially the same route as yours. Here are a few photos.

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Pingree Lake

Image
Big Lake

Image
Image
Image
Image
Pocket greenbelt below Big Lake - really cool!

Image
Unnamed lake on return
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness, July 14-17, 2011

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:36 pm

Great report and photos. Nice photos from WD, too! Makes we want to go there right now.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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