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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Four Days in Emigrant Wilderness

Backpack trip from Crabtree Camp to Deer Lake

In the first week of August, joined a group of friends (two Silicon Valley residents and one from Tifton, GA) for a backpack trip.

The trip was planned by Sarbajit Ghosal, who did the research about trails, distance, and the logistics involved. 

Topo map 

We arrived at Crabtree Camp trail head in the late afternoon of August 1.  Parked and took off for Bear Lake, apprx. 3.8 miles, for first night's stop. Camp Lake (2.8 miles from Crab Tree) is nicer but has limited options for camp sites. Darkness was setting in by the time we   arrived at Bear Lake.  Camp sites near the lake were occupied and we ended up in a rocky area.

On Day 2, we broke camp and began hiking to Piute Lake.  Except for missing a turn  (see below) after the descent from Camp Lake and losing an hour it was uneventful.   The trail meandered through meadows and rocky switchbacks.  The segment between Piute Meadow and Piute Lake is demanding because of the gain in elevation.

Arrived at Piute Lake about 5 PM and scouted for a good place to set up tents.  Decided on base of the ridge looking down on the lake.  An inconsiderate group of horseback riders camped across the lake and, disregarding rules, had their mounts tethered near the water. Next afternoon, the same group engaged in target practice with hand guns! Forest Service rangers do a great job, but it is not possible for them to closely monitor illegal activities.

Day 3:  We decided on a day trip to Gem Lake and beyond.  Jewelry Lake and Deer Lake follow Gem Lake, all within easy hiking distance of Piute Lake.  The lakes are scenic and worth the hike.  Fishing at Deer Lake was unrewarding. Two backpackers returning from Buck Lake, about 2.5 miles further, said fishing was good there.

After our return to Piute Lake it felt as though it might rain; the clouds looked threatening.  That would have caused problem with fixing dinner.  However, the clouds moved and we were able to  light the stove.  It was after dinner that we found that battery of the SteriPen water filter had gone dead.  We used it a lot during the three days.  And then the tube of the backup Katadyn filtration system broke. Taking stock of the filtered water, we made the decision to head back to trail head instead of spending the 4th night in tents as originally planned.

On the 4th morning (Saturday) we found that camera batteries worked in the SteriPen.  However, we decided against spending the night at Camp Lake or Bear Lake, and began the trek back to Crab Tree. After the ascent to Camp Lake, we took a long, relaxing break at the lake. Bret went for a swim. We cooled our feet in the bracingly cold water.

Then on to Crab Tree Camp and the drive home to Bay area. Bret had a flight to catch on Sunday;  others had to prepare to face a work week.  All good things come to an end.

We were fortunate in having mild weather; temperature remained in the 80's during the days;  and the nights were in the high 50's. 

Miwok Ranger Station where we filed wilderness permit application 
© Musafir - Canon S3

At Crab Tree Camp Trail Head
 © Musafir  - Canon S3

Camp Lake 
  © Sarbajit Ghosal  - Nikon P500

Bret starting a fire at Bear Lake camp site
 © Musafir - Canon S3

Ready to hit the trail after Bear Lake 
 © Musafir - Canon S3

After descending from Camp Lake
© Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500 
That was where we proceeded ahead alongside the stream instead of crossing the stream and taking the trail on the left.  SG's handheld DeLorme GPS device was helpful in getting us back on track.

Day 2, on the trail to Piute Lake
© Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Piute Meadow
                                                       © Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Camp ground at Piute Lake 
 © Musafir - Canon S3

Bret's tent overlooking Piute Lake
© Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Day 3 - On the trail to Gem Lake. Checking topo map
 © Musafir - Canon S3

Corn Lily
 © Musafir - Canon S3

Gem Lake (8,230 ft)
© Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Jewelry Lake I 
                                                           © Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500
Jewelry Lake II
  © Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

SG casting for trout at Deer Lake 
 © Musafir - Canon S3

Deer Lake - 8,461 ft.
                                                            © Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Mariposa Lily 
 © Musafir - Canon S3

Mountain Heather 
  © Musafir - Canon S3
Orange Lily
© Bret Wagenhorst

Cirrus Clouds
 © Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Campers doing target practice -- illegal
 © Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Replenishing water at Lily Pad Pond between Piute Lake and Piute Meadow

 © Musafir - Canon S3

Before Camp Lake, Day 4
                                                               © Musafir - Canon S3

Reviving tired legs at Camp Lake

© Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

Bret against burnt shell of a tree
© Sarbajit Ghosal - Nikon P500

“….short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things……” 
 --Theodore Roosevelt


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Beautiful photos from a marvellous trip.

"before camp lake - day 4" looks a lot like the rolling "oak and grass" foothills of the sierras rather than the pine/spruce/fir studded rocky slopes and lush meadows of the Emigrant Wilderness.

Hard to believe TR was a Republican.


Re: day 4, you're right. When I took the shot I thought it looked "different".

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