TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2 | High Sierra Topix  

TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

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TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby kpeter » Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:04 am

WHY THIS TRIP

I was looking for a good early season trip and have fallen in the habit of NW Yosemite over the last three years for my June trips, and following the advice of others on this forum decided to try Emigrant for the first time. Special thanks to Mediauras and this thread for several ideas I used on my own trip:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9292

My schedule gives me time in June and none in late August and September, so if I am going to get a decent compliment of backpacking in over a summer I need to find worthy early season destinations.

APPROACH, PERMITS

Nothing could be simpler. There are no quotas or reservations needed. I drove up Highway 108 from my home in Palo Alto and made it to the Pinecrest district station before 8am. The very helpful and friendly ranger opened up early and wrote my permit on the spot. The drive to the trailhead was less than half an hour and I was hiking by 8:30. Not bad considering the rigamarole with advanced reservations and the 8 hour drives I am used to for the East side trailheads.

The road to the trailhead was mostly paved until the last couple of miles, but that was on a perfectly good gravel road and the trailhead itself had a paved parking lot. Watch out for the speed bumps going through the pack station at Aspen Meadow!

CRABTREE TO DEER LAKE

This was a good early season trailhead, but I suspect that I would have preferred the Gianelli trailhead just a few miles down the road. However, given that I discovered significant snow cover at 8800 feet, Gianelli was probably not an option this early in the season. Crabtree trailhead is low--around 7150--and what is worse the trail from there to Deer Lake has many ups and downs. The trail dips before getting to Camp Lake, plunges from Camp Lake down to Lily Creek, climbs and falls 400 feet to get to Piute Creek, climbs and falls to get to Piute Lake, and only after Cherry Creek does it climb relatively steadily. I am not used to spending nearly as much time hiking out as hiking in--that tells you the nature of the trail. As far as its scenic value, many of the lakes along the trail were nice, green lakes, but prior to Deer Lake (11 miles in) I only thought Gem was truly lovely. I am partial to lakes with mixed granite and forest, preferably with a spectacular backdrop, and Gem lake had interesting granite in the water at least.

One of the prettier spots was the cascades of Lily Creek as I was coming down from Camp Lake, splashing and sliding over the granite as it made its way down to the ford. It cheered up an otherwise hot hillside.

The crossing of Lily Creek was as easy wade in a pretty spot. The next stretch was the dullest part of the trip. An uphill grind through a corner of an area burn--thankfully, unlike the Kibbie area or the Hetchy Hetchy area, this burn only encroached on the trail for half a mile. After passing a long lily pad covered unnamed pond, the trail eventually descends sharply to Piute Creek, which was another easy wade.

From Piute Creek it was another uphill slog to Piute Lake, which was surrounded mainly with meadow and forest.
IMGP2982.jpg
Green meadows by Piute Lake

Mosquitos were horrendous at this elevation level, this date, and this location. From the lake a slight dip to West Fork Cherry Creek. I've describe the crossing in the conditions thread. It was thigh high water, not too fast, easy to see the sandy bottom. But very, very cold. Cold enough early in the morning to make me cramp for the first time in 40 years of backpacking.

From Cherry Creek it is a steady uphill climb to Gem Lake--which I thought was the prettiest of the chain, then Jewelry Lake, then Deer Lake. I was not sure I was going to make it all the way to Deer Lake, 11 miles in (after starting the morning at sea level) but I kept plugging and got there.

Deer Lake was a beauty, replete with granite islands and peninsulas, interesting inlet streams, and well situated as a base to do more exploring. I set up camp amidst the granite on the NE shore--which meant wading the inlet stream--although more traditional horsepacker type camping was available in the NW.
IMGP2978.jpg
Deer Lake at dawn

IMGP2973.jpg
Campsite at sunset (flash)


DAYHIKING FROM DEER LAKE

Setting up base camp at Deer Lake, I took two splendid dayhikes. These dayhikes were the highlights of the trip and they are what made the effort to get to Deer Lake worthwhile.

The first hike I took the trail over to Buck Lakes. This trail goes to 8600+ and there was some snow to cross, but it was not difficult. Buck Lakes were gorgeous. I wished I could have made it there to camp. They did have the enormous backdrop, the interesting granite islands, mixed forest, meadow, rock, and cliffs.
IMGP2917.jpg
The view north from across lower Buck Lake

While I could have crossed between the Upper and Lower Buck Lakes by wading a swift knee deep stream (Mediauras reported this as unpassable two weeks before), I chose to leave the trail and cross country over the high granite from Buck Lakes to Wood Lake (another Mediauras idea). Wood Lake did not impress me very much, but there was a nice horesepacker's camp there. From Wood Lake I took the old trail north to Deer Lake. This trail was engineered at one time but has fallen into some disrepair and is shown as a "route" now, which I followed with few problems. The route is marked from the north at the intersection near Deer Lake, but is not marked from Wood Lake. To pick it up at Wood Lake go north from the horsepacker camp, on the northernmost shore just east of the little penninsula. There is a large stone duct there and the trail follows.

The second hike I took north on the trail marked "Salt Lick Meadows." The trail up has a stream cascading and sheeting over granite. At the waterfall, the trail crosses to the east of the stream below the falls and back west above the falls--ignore the badly placed ducks that would lead you up the west side. Above the falls you come to a pretty unnamed lake at about 8680. I thought it was spectacular with the surrounding snow.
IMGP2937.jpg
Lake 8680 north of Deer Lake

Continuing on, my hope was to see if I could use the trail to access both Wire Lakes and the north end of Long Lake. Unfortunately, around 8800 feet there was so much flooding and snow that I thought it would not be worth the effort. In another week I would have continued. Turning back, I descended to the waterfall and left the trail on the short segment on the east bank of the stream, contouring and climbing east. I was able to easily mount a knob for better views, and then kept contouring from there to come to the outlet of Long Lake. To my surprise, I found a dam, and lurking just beside the dam I saw a very large rainbow trout--I would estimate 14-15"--I've not seen such a large fish in my Sierra travels before. The main trail and route to Long Lake comes in at the inlet end, and I would guess many fewer people see it from this end.
IMGP2954.jpg
The dam at the outlet of Long Lake

Question: does anyone know the history of this dam and all the many other small dams in the Sierras? Who packed in the hundreds of bags of cement that would have been needed to do this? I presume this was done before the Wilderness Act. But what will happen when these dams begin to fail?

From the dam I followed a ducked route down the slope to the west of the stream back to Deer lake. Following the west shore of the stream is a viable route from Deer to Long Lake.

OUT

I simply reversed my hike. I had wanted to go though Salt Lick Meadows and then cross country from Y Meadow Dam to Bear Lake to complete a loop, but the flooding and snow convinced me that such a trip was a bit much for my ability level, time, and stamina.

MORE INFO

(If you are doing research for a trip and need photos of particular lakes, stream crossings, etc., just ask and I will post them. I've only posted a few samples above--although I have a lot of photos that are more "documentary" than aesthetic in nature.)
Last edited by kpeter on Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby maverick » Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:49 am

Thank you very much KP for the the great TR and detailed information that you provided.
How were the wildflowers?
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby schmalz » Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:43 am

Lots of very useful info in here. Thanks for taking the time to write it up. Looks lovely!
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby larroyo33 » Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:56 am

Thanks for the trip report and all the great information.
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby kpeter » Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:26 pm

maverick wrote:Thank you very much KP for the the great TR and detailed information that you provided.
How were the wildflowers?

Sadly, the flowers were far and few between. Perhaps a little too early up near the snowline. But even in the lower mosquito belt I saw few. In fact, I only shot one flower pic on the whole trip, and it was a little sub prime:
IMGP2873.jpg
Flowers such as they were...
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:15 pm

Fred Leighton, between 1916 and about 1939 built most of the dams in the area, including Long Lake. He is also responsible for seeding the lakes with trout.
I will be touring nearly the whole EW as soon as the flying bloodsuckers are mostly gone.
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby kpeter » Mon Jun 03, 2013 6:07 pm

DoyleWDonehoo wrote:Fred Leighton, between 1916 and about 1939 built most of the dams in the area, including Long Lake. He is also responsible for seeding the lakes with trout.
I will be touring nearly the whole EW as soon as the flying bloodsuckers are mostly gone.

Thanks Doyle. With that name I was able to track down the book:
Leighton's High Sierra Check Dam Legacy by Steve T. Bowman, a 2006 book. Very interesting stuff. The Long Lake Dam was first built in 1931 and repaired in 1955 and 1981. The 1981 repair suggests to me that some provision in the Wilderness Act must have allowed for the maintenance of these dams even after it was passed. Many of the lakes in Emigrant have check dams, including Lower Buck Lake (I did not see the dam). I appreciate the help in tracking down that interesting piece of history!
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby maneki_neko » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:39 pm

hi. it seems like your trip was a mixed bag. i was actually planning a very similar trip this weekend. we won't be able to hit the road from sf until 10am because of work obligations. looking to hit the trail by 2 - 3 pm and see if we can make it to gem lake. not sure if we'll be be able to make it to gem lake by sundown. i thought that camping at piute lake was a reasonable back up plan for the first leg, but your talk of the "horrendous" mosquito situation is making me reconsider. how many hours did it take you to hike to gem? any thoughts on a back up spot if we don't make it that far on our first day?

also, anyone have a better, more scenic way of getting to deer and buck lakes? any help would be much appreciated. thank you!

best,
troy
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby rlown » Tue Jun 04, 2013 6:47 pm

troy... just go. give us a TR.. get a headnet. pick your path and go.

btw, welcome to HST!
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby cmon4day » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:08 am

kpeter wrote: I was able to easily mount a knob for better views, and then kept contouring from there to come to the outlet of Long Lake. To my surprise, I found a dam, and lurking just beside the dam I saw a very large rainbow trout--I would estimate 14-15"--I've not seen such a large fish in my Sierra travels before. The main trail and route to Long Lake comes in at the inlet end, and I would guess many fewer people see it from this end.




That's great news you saw a trout. I was told that Long L. is barren. I've heard this from several people. I was also there last year, fished, caught nothing, and didn't see one fish rise. So hopefully the fishery can recover up there. Long L. certainly can support a healthy trout habitat.
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:15 am

I have been on the trail from Crabtree several times, and each time I swear I will never do it again. I really dislike that trial. It is overused, dry, boring, and not scenic until you get far down the trail. Especially for a short trip. I still use the trail although I do not like it on a longer trip because in spite of its faults, it does get you directly into the heart of Emigrant. But for an overnight or 2-night trip, half you time would be on an ugly trail.

For a short trip, I prefer to go in at Kennedy Meadows and visit either the Emigrant Lakes or the set of lakes up on the bench below Granite Peak (Lewis Lake area). Although it is also a long walk to Emigrant Lake, the trail is scenic with plenty of water from the first step. The extra drive time to Kennedy Meadows is not that much over the time it takes to get to Crabtree TH.
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Re: TR: Emigrant: Crabtree to Deer Lake May31-June2

Postby lensman137 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:29 pm

Ditto to the above suggestion regarding coming in from Kennedy Meadows instead of Crabtree. Lewis Lakes and Black Hawk Lake are quite beautiful, and little visited. So you get the high lake remoteness and usually no other people. And great views from the top of Black Hawk Mountain.
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