Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome) | High Sierra Topix  

Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby JWreno » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:36 pm

Got home last night from a 3 night trip in Emigrant Wilderness. My wife and adult son started Thursday, 8/21/2013 and came out about 7PM Sunday night. We started at Crabtree trailhead at about 6PM. We saw a 3/4 full parking lot and meet several groups of hikers getting back to their cars. We started out towards Grouse Lake and meet 2 hikers about a mile in from the trail head. We didn't see another hiker the next 3 days. The first few miles of the trail out of Crabtree were extremely dusty. The conditions improved greatly after that. We reached Grouse lake about dusk and I filled a bear can full of water out of the lake. Almost all of the water on the trip came from lakes. Only the North fork of Cherry Creek was flowing with water.

I used the 1990 version of the Emigrant Wilderness book for route planning. I wanted to get off the main drag and we succeeded. The 2nd day we hiked east on the trail until the West Fork of Cherry Creek. There is were the adventure began. The creek was dry but there were some deep cool pools south of the trail and we filled up with water. We followed the GPS route south of the west side of the creek and saw intermittent signs of an old trail. We crossed the mostly dry creek and headed up the granite slopes towards Rosasco lake. We found the old trail route about 50% of the time but the GPS was useful for keeping us close to the desired route. Rosasco lake was pleasant and we filled up again on water. The trail was hard to follow because of huge dead downed trees covering the faint signs of the trail. We would find it and lose it over and over. I just had to keep looking at the GPS and followed the terrain. The smoke from the Rim fire was getting quite bad and we know longer could see much more than a 1/2 mile. This made looking for the obvious terrain goals impossible and we became completely dependent on the GPS for navigation. Our next goal was to stay west of Pingree Lake and cross country to Hyatt Lake. We ended up finding a trail and I stopped looking at my GPS and followed it to Pingree Lake by mistake. The lake was quite large and pretty, even with smoke filled views. We backtracked on the trail back to my original route. At this time we gave up on Hyatt Lake because I couldn't make out the landscape in the smoke and the time used for the side trip to Pingree Lake. We headed south and followed some very easy and wide granite ramp over a notch that took us to Big Lake. Big Lake was very difficult to navigate around because of the tremendous large amount of dead trees that couldn't be crossed over or under. We continued east-southeast and made it of the eastern side of Yellow Hammer Lake. We spend the night on some flat granite and noticed the sky starting to clear from smoke after midnight.

Saturday morning our goal was to cross country from Yellow Hammer up granite slopes to Karl's Lake. The air was very clear and the views were wonderful. We didn't see smoke until about 1PM. There was no trail to follow so I planned to stay slightly east of Five Acre lake. The granite slopes were very easily navigated since I could see far enough to pick out my goals in the distance. We ended up at Red Can Lake which had impressive granite walls on the north side. I could tell that we were not making good time over the open country so at Red Canyon Lake we decided to follow a route east of Red Can to an area east of Woods lake. We made it back to the main trail near a pond east of woods lake about 1PM. Our original plan was to head on main trail to Cow Meadows, Letord, Huckleberry and camp at Maxwell Lake. I pulled out the map from the 1990 Emigrant Wilderness book and saw the route from the east side of the North Fork of Cherry Creek to Emigrant Lake. I looked on my GPS and saw the route. We voted on the route and head up a faint trail along the creek. We lost and found the trail several times before we reached the granite slopes heading north away from the creek. I was amazed to see recent horse hoof prints along the way. Once we hit the granite slopes we worked our way up a dry water path. The air was still clear enough that we could pick up the notches in the upper terrain and work our way up. We reached a small lake south west of Emigrant Lake and found signs of a trail heading to Emigrant Lake. We came across the hoof prints again and followed them towards the creek that flows from the dam at Emigrant Lake. We went up the west side of the creek following ramps in the granite until we reached the dam at about 5PM. My family was worn out from a full day of cross country route finding and a lot of uphill mostly over slanting granite. We found a nice campsite about a 1/4 mile south of the trail on the west side of the lake. The smoke was bad again so my picture taking was saved until the morning.

Sunday the skies were mostly clear east of us and straight up. I took some pictures of the lake. I noticed a wall of smoke a few miles west of us. We were under ash fall again in about an hour. The day was mostly uneventful. We took the heavily traveled route from Emigrant to Camp Lake. There were lots of lakes along the was and the grade was mostly downhill. We came across 3 horse packers near Deer lake. These were the only people we saw since the start of the hike. They told us that the fire had greatly expanded since our hike had started. We made good time on the trail and enjoyed several breaks for water and snacks at the many lakes on the way west. We reached Camp Lake at about 5:30PM. We washed our feet and put on new socks since we had spares that we wouldn't need. We made good time to Crabtree trailhead and made it to the car before 7PM. The trail head only had 3 vehicles in it. It is obvious that the smoke kept most others away. We ate pizza at Mia Brick Oven Pizza and got gas near Cold Springs and drove back over Sonora Pass and made it to Reno by 11PM

This was our first trip to Emigrant Wilderness area and we want to do some more when the air and views are more pleasant. We still had a great time. It is obvious that much of the area is not frequented by many people or accessible by currently used trails. The streams were mostly dry but the bugs were non-existant. The open granite country lends itself to cross country travel and there are plenty of lakes to visit. I have taking my family backpacking for 20 years so I know they are capable of some difficult route finding. I just have to remember that off trail miles are much more slow going than on trail miles. I looked at the forest service and Yosemite closed areas do to the fire. Yellow Hammer lake was pretty close to the impacted area. This explains the heavy smoke and ash fall. If you want a wilderness to yourself, go backpacking in the smoke.
Last edited by JWreno on Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.



User avatar
JWreno
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:55 am
Location: Reno
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby JWreno » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:47 pm

EmigrantGranite.jpg


Here is an example of the wide open walkable granite. This is north east of Yellow Hammer on the way up to Five Acre lake. The skies were clear for a change this morning.
User avatar
JWreno
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:55 am
Location: Reno
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby JWreno » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:52 pm

EmigrantLakeDam.jpg


Here is the old dam holding back the water at Emigrant Lake. The smokey skies from the Rim fire are obvious. We had ash fall on us when the skies were smokey.
User avatar
JWreno
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:55 am
Location: Reno
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby JWreno » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:58 pm

EmigrantLakeCamp.jpg


View of Emigrant Lake from campsite. Only a small portion of the huge lake can be seen at any time.
User avatar
JWreno
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:55 am
Location: Reno
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby justm » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:59 pm

Thanks for the TR ! That's one of my favorite trips. Glad you had a good time, nice pics !
User avatar
justm
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 291
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 9:16 am
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby balzaccom » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:33 pm

Nice report. We did a lot of this trip a few years ago...and didn't see anyone for four days. Lovely stuff.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1291
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby kpeter » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:08 pm

I am inspired! I did my first trip to Emigrant in May, and have been poking around NW Yosemite for a few years. Your trip fills in the area I have missed so far, and the cross country potential looks wonderful!
User avatar
kpeter
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 555
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:11 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: Emigrant Wilderness Trip Report (Smokey but Awesome)

Postby JWreno » Tue Aug 27, 2013 4:30 pm

I pulled up a digital topo map today and found we were less than 7 miles from active Rim fire burning on Friday when around the Big and Yellow Hammer lakes area. That was our worse day for smoke, ash and poor visibility.

Reno hit 209 on the poor air quality range today. Over 200 is considered unhealthy for everybody. Outdoor athletic activities have been canceled by schools. Visibility is less than about 4 miles.
User avatar
JWreno
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:55 am
Location: Reno
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker


Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: imtomfritz and 3 guests