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TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

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TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby tomba » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:24 pm

Trip report: Emigrant Wilderness, 2011-10-21 (Friday) - 2011-10-24 (Monday)

Map centered on the trailhead.

We had enough snow for a while, after our last trip in High Sierra two weeks earlier, just several days after the major early October winter storm. This time, I decided to go to a lower elevation. Emigrant Wilderness, north-west from Yosemite, seemed appealing, with elevation around 8000 feet. A ranger at Summit District, whom I called to make wilderness permit reservation, confirmed that there was no snow there.

I arrived at Crabtree trailhead parking lot Thursday evening, after picking the permit at the box at Pinecrest Ranger Station. The parking lot was empty, except one camper truck that left later that night.

In the morning I hiked on the trail towards Camp Lake. Soon the forest gave way to granite rocks and open views. I considered to go to Bear Lake, and continue cross country, but I decided instead to go deeper into the wilderness. I was concerned that this area may be like the area north from Hetch-Hetchy, or near Kibbie Lake, with dense manzanita bushes and obstructing cliffs not visible on the map. Further east on the trail I met the only two people on this trip. After passing Piute Meadow and Piute Lake, I had to wade through nearly stationary water in West Fork Cherry Creek. This was the only time I had to wade on this trip.

The ranger recommended to camp at Gem Lake, and it turned out to be a very nice location for camping. Overused though. Many fire rings and signs of camping.

Click on pictures to see a larger version.

Lily leaves at the unnamed long lake between Camp Lake and Puite Meadow.
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Gem Lake.
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Continuing on the next day, shortly after Jewelry Lake, I left the trail. Cross country travel on this trip turned out to be very nice. No issue with dense bushes or hard terrain. The only manzanita was of the dwarf kind (10-20cm tall), and not much of it. On the ground there were signs of the earlier snow storm: grass, ferns, mule ears, and lupine all pressed to the ground by the weight of the snow, remained down after it melted. There were only few patches of snow on this trip, in shady spots. I never had to step on the snow or go around it.

The gentle granite slopes to Wire Lakes have only sparse trees, not blocking views. I headed slowly towards a shallow pass to the southern lake. The lake is beautiful, with islands, and accessible shores with many places suitable for camping. The middle narrow lake has steeper shores. The creek from the northern lake was cascading over south-facing rocks and I checked whether some slow trickles to shallow pools have warmed up in the sun. Nope, they were quite cold this late in the season. The weather was warm, sunny, and without wind the first three days. At the northern lake I went east over the pass to the trail to Deer Lake.

As the day was nearing end I walked quickly to Buck Lakes. I found a camp site with a fire ring not far from the trail junction. Around sunset a flock of ducks noisily flew down to the lake to spend the night there. Like all other nights on this trip, I had a fire that evening, after collecting some aluminum foil trash (even a beer can in the bushes at this site). The fire is a way to kill some time before sleep, as the night is too long to sleep through all of it.

I saw many large mushrooms on this trip. They looked similar to good edible boletus mushrooms, with spore tubes instead of the more common gills under the cap. I thought it may be good to roast some of them in the fire. I am not familiar with mushrooms in this area, however, and I didn't want to risk poisoning.

Rocky slope on the way to Wire Lakes.
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Southern Wire Lake.
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Northern Wire Lake.
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In the morning I startled the ducks (and they startled me) when I approached the lake. I went on a side hike to Emigrant Lake. The trail was frozen, which was good in the meadowy area, as it would be muddy otherwise.

The large Emigrant Lake settled between bare rocky mountains looks like lakes at higher elevations. At the lake I left the trail to find a slightly higher overlook to sit for a while and have a meal. Climbing was easy and I ended up going almost half way up the hillside. I thought I could see a possible route all the way up. I marveled at how easy the going is when one doesn't worry about going to a particular destination. On the way back down, I got stumped. Which way did I go? I couldn't find the way down back to the lake any more, and I couldn't find a good alternative way. It was so easy going up that I didn't bother paying attention to the route. I felt trapped. Finally, I found the way I came, and it looked obvious (and easy) once I saw it.

Retracing my steps back down (west) I stopped to pick some wild currants. Yum! I ate many, picking them gingerly between the thorns. The first day I found a wild gooseberry. The fruit itself had thorns. After trying to eat it I ended up squeezing the interior and eating it.

Back down at Buck Meadow Creek I left the trail and headed north-west up the valley side. Once close to the top, I wasn't exactly sure where I was on the map. I had a paper map, but it ended right at the Long Lake. The day before I used Gaia GPS app to confirm my location and I accidentally left it running with location services turned on. It drained most of my phone's battery. Usually I use Topos2Go (without GPS) which uses battery more slowly. I rarely checked the map in order to conserve battery and relied on my memory of the map. I planned to descend first to the small lake north-east from Long Lake. I thought, however that I ended up directly east from the Long Lake. I almost forgot about the small lake. As I looked down, I wondered whether that lake shrunk a lot. (Filled with silt perhaps? Or decreased size late in the season when there was less water?) Walking down on granite slabs was easy, especially compared to what the map showed about the hillsides next to Long Lake (I thought I was going there). The lake valley is very nice. I headed over the ridge to the west and I couldn't find the trail. At an overlook beyond the ridge I expected to see the valley with the creek to the Deer Lake, but instead I saw a large lake with islands. This is when I realized my error.

Sunset was coming soon, and I was further from the trailhead than planned, due to the side hike to Emigrant Lake that took almost half of the short day. I easily found the trail and quickly marched towards Spring Meadow. I didn't even have time to take a good look at Long Lake. At the boundary of the meadow and the forest I found an established campsite with a fire ring.

Emigrant Lake.
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A snow patch on a ridge above Long Lake.
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The lake north-east from Long Lake.
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On the last day the sky was covered with a translucent veil of stratus clouds. It was much cooler and windy. The trail went through a series of large meadows (Salt Lick, Whitesides).

Chewing Gum Lake has nice rocky suroundings, with interestingly shaped coast line and little lakes around. I left the trail to go around the lake. I picked more trash there - broken red ropes with some metal hooks. I climbed the little 8828 knob in order to have an overview of the Lake Valley (very windy there), but instead I was mesmerized by the wide view towards Bear Lake. North-east from the lake there seems to be a nice coss-country route with sparsely forested gentle rocky slopes. One could go that way to Toms Canyon.

Heading back I found the trail easily. After crossing the ridge the area became an ordinary forest; no more rocky terrain. On the long way back to the trailhead I stopped on the side of the trail and noticed something round. It was a can. There, I found an old classic Pepsi can and an old (and heavy) glass Pepsi bottle. Normally, I would not collect such heavy bottle, but it was less than 2 hours to the trailhead. I reached the car at the sunset time.

Ice "flower" or "mushroom" extrusions on the trail. Do they have a name?
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A pond between Spring Meadow and Salt Lick Meadow.
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Last edited by tomba on Sun Nov 13, 2011 4:50 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby tomba » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:28 pm

Two more pictures, posted separately due to the limit of 10 attachments per post.

A trail through frosted Salt Lick Meadow.
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Granite slopes above Bear Lake.
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby intrek38 » Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:57 am

Thanks for the excellent post & pic's.
"" I marveled at how easy the going is when one doesn't worry about going to a particular destination.""
Well said,I think I'll try to apply it to next years hike...
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby rlown » Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:18 pm

very nice report, tomba! any chance you saw any fish rising or cruising in the Wires? I've been there twice, but that was in the 80's, and I've love to return with a purpose.

How deep was the wade at cherry creek?

Russ
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby tomba » Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:33 pm

Thank you.

I didn't notice any signs of fish in Wire Lakes, but I didn't pay attention to this because I don't fish.

There was not much water in Cherry Creek. It was only about mid-calf deep.
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby Cross Country » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:19 pm

What were the temperatures on this trip?
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness 10/21-10/24

Postby tomba » Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:47 pm

At night it got probably just few degrees below freezing. The first three days, midday in the sun, it felt warm, t-shirt kind of temperature. I would guess upper 60s max temperature in the shade (which is how they measure it). The last day felt much cooler with the partial overcast and wind, perhaps it was 50s.
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