TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

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TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by Shaggy » Mon Aug 17, 2020 9:22 am

Don't feel particularly qualified to write up a TR and/but I've been lurking on HST for a few months and found the information and insight invaluable so here's my TR from the weekend...

[TL;DR - 30+ mile "loop" from Gianelli --> Leopold --> Piute --> Crabtree --> Gianelli)

It's been a minute (and by a "minute," I mean at least 5+ years) since I did any significant backpacking trip - y'all get I'm sure busy with the kids, year by year your backpacking buddies keep falling away, just hadn't made it out in way too long so I've been poking around here with an eye to getting out this weekend and settled on a "loop" from the Gianelli trailhead.

Only took a half-day off on Friday so I didn't make it to the TH until ~3:30pm with a goal of camping the first night at Leopold, then MAYBE trying to get a peek at Buck on day 2 (didn't happen) before camping at Jewelry, Gem or Piute on night 2 before hiking back out to Gianelli to close the trip out (more on that later).

Made it to Leopold as planned but the late start meant I made it there with just enough light to pitch my tent before getting water, cooking, cleaning and getting ready for bed by headlamp. In hindsight, I probably ought to have called it a day at Toejam and then just hiked over to Leopold in the morning but having pushed to Leopold I had the lake to myself and this was definitely a worthwhile view to wake up to:
Leopold Lake

As I was breaking down camp another hiker came back from the south (the far) side of the lake and suggested, if I hadn't, I hike past the lake to see the views of the granite shelf - thanks for the tip kind backpacking friend - it too was spectacular!
View of from the shelf just south of Leopold

Passed several truly beautiful lakes on the way to Deer Lake (AFAIK, they're unnamed):
Unnamed Lake (Maybe?)

Made it to Deer and made a GREAT decision (more on that later) to forgo trying to branch off and get up to see Buck Lake and just continued on the trail toward Piute.
Northern end Deer Lake
Southern end of Deer Lake

Moving on toward Piute, I passed Jewelry and Gem Lakes along the way (both tempting to make camp but wanted to chew up a few more miles so the trek back to Gianelli wouldn't be super rough on day 3.
Jewelry Lake

Finally made it to Piute and was delighted to setup camp for the night and was rewarded with an incredible sunset/sunrise!
Piute Lake at sunset
Piute Lake at sunrise

When I settled into Piute I did a bit more looking at my map and realized I hadn't considered elevation in determining my route and noted that once I made it back to Crabtree TH although as the crow flies it was only a couple miles back to Gianelli TH (and my car) it was more than 1,500' to climb and while trying to sort which way would be best to hike out a park ranger came by to check distances for camps at Piute (only ranger I saw during the weekend and he wasn't being super picky about distances, only moved one group that was clearly too close).

The ranger told me the trails up from Crabtree to Gianelli aren't super well maintained and are as brutal a climb as they looked and suggested I consider just pulling off the trail at Crabtree and taking the fireroads up to Gianelli. He noted it wasn't a great choice as it adds a few miles but makes the ascent more manageable - so off to Crabtree it was! Had breakfast cooked and the gear packed by 6:15am and was off on the trail.

(Random funny/awesome hike sidenote - because I ended up getting on the trail so early Sunday ended up hiking past two groups at smaller lakes getting their morning skinny dips on - both just waved at me and wished me a good morning! It's wildly refreshing to be out in a place and with folks where that's just part of living life outside - loved it!)

Curiosity item - passed this (unnamed again?) lake between Piute and Camp Lakes and it caught my attention for being completely covered in vegetation which made it unlike any of the dozen plus lakes I hiked past this weekend:

1. Anyone know what these plants are?

2. Why are the ONLY found in this one lake (I'd imagine the flora would migrate to other lakes in the area)..?
Unnamed Lake?

After passing Camp and making the descent down into the valley, I had the pleasure of trekking through a herd of cattle grazing in the valley (I know cattle are mostly passive but the size differential always makes me a bit leery when there are many of them only feet from tiny me ;) ) and starting my final ascent out.

By this point, being a bit ambitious on the mileage (for me) and a bit too lax on pack weight (it was WAY too heavy at ~32lbs - easily could have had it closer to 25) I was struggling a bit when I started the fire road hike from Crabtree to Gianelli and ended up ditching my pack a mile or so down the road (hid it behind some rocks) and a mile after that decided to try to hitch a ride if I saw anyone driving toward Gianelli (at that point the only cars I'd seen had been coming from the TH not toward).

First two cars I saw cruised by (I get it, I looked like a scruffy backpacker ;) ) but the third (each car was maybe 20 mins apart) was a fellow on his way to climb Burst Rock and graciously offered me a ride back to my car. By that point I only had ~2 miles left but even in his car it took us almost 20 mins and, at the pace I'd fallen to that would've taken me the better part of 90 mins I expect - so THANK YOU!!! to Random Rock Climber Guy for saving my feet/calves/hips that last two miles!

All in all, I think I came in at ~32 miles over the twoish days (technically 3 day 2 night but Friday and Sunday were both half days on the trail) and saw some incredible sights!

Sorry for the probably too long at this point TR but I wanted to at least post one back for in appreciation for all I've gleaned here in the last few months!

Off to Yosemite at the end of the month for the next adventure!
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by sturdyoak2012 » Mon Aug 17, 2020 11:02 am

Looks great!

I remember that lake you're talking about from my trip in the area 6 years ago. My first backpacking trip (and I was 11 years old)!

Those plants are just lilypads right? I think a lot of people call that Lilypad Lake.

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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by balzaccom » Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:01 pm

They are lilypads. And yes, that like is called Lilypad Lake, But Grouse Lake, just a bit to the south, is also full of these.

nice TR, by the way!

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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by mckee80 » Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:53 pm

Thanks for the TR, looks like a great trip to break back in to the backpacking business!

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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by giantbrookie » Mon Aug 17, 2020 5:50 pm

Shaggy wrote:
Mon Aug 17, 2020 9:22 am
Don't feel particularly qualified to write up a TR and/but I've been lurking on HST for a few months and found the information and insight invaluable so here's my TR from the weekend.
Looks like a great TR to me--you clearly show that you are amply qualified to write one! Thanks for posting it. Nice trip, photos, and write up of it.

Regarding the lily pads and why they are in one lake but not others, the lily pads grow in shallower lakes (or in shallower water in an otherwise deep lake) because they are rooted in the bottom and must reach the surface to leaf out. Many lakes are too deep for lily pads to grow and their shorelines drop off into deeper water too abruptly for there to be much place for lily pads to grow along the shoreline.

On another subject it seems you had a very pleasant trip untroubled by the mosquitoes that some of these parts of Emigrant are so notorious for. Was this indeed the case (ie minimal mosquito harassment)?
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by MountainMinstrel » Tue Aug 18, 2020 6:53 am

Thanks for a great TR. I have done similar loops in Emigrant but find that starting at Crabtree and taking the signed trail (almost immediately after you cross the bridge) up to Chewing Gum lake works better. It is a tough climb, but I would rather do it on day one when I have some leeway as to how far to go. I was surprised by your pics of Piute as I've always just zoomed past it in favor of Jem but maybe I'll have to re-think that.
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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by sekihiker » Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:47 am

Your first photo made me want to pack up for another trip.
Thanks for posting.

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Re: TR: Emigrant Wilderness (Kinda) Lake Loop

Post by Shaggy » Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:56 am

Thanks for the kind words everyone!

As I said, I've been lurking here for awhile and I've found all that you've shared invaluable.

@sturdyoak2012 - If this your folks raised you in places like this, you've got good ones! ;)

@balzaccom - Lilypad Lake it is!

@giantbrookie - Never even pulled out the Deet! Didn't think I got bit all three days - until I got home - but it was only a handful of bites and clearly nothing I even noticed on the trail! ;)

@MountainMinstrel - I'm sure I'll do this loop again (I LOVED it) but I'd want to take a full first day (instead of a 1/3 of day) to be able to pace the hike a bit more and to take a few more minutes to enjoy the views. It's funny, because I started at Gianelli and just pushed around the ridge, Chewing Gum is just about the only lake I didn't get to - and it seems that lake is the reason most of the folks I met at the Gianelli TH were there was to camp at Chewing Gum and avoid the climb from Crabtree. :lol:

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