Emigrant Wilderness/Yosemite Backpacking Trip
September 3 - 13, 2014

Bob and Jennifer: 10 Nights, 11 Days, 45 Miles Backpacking, 30 Miles Day Hiking - Favorite Photos

See Favorite Photos, Day by Day Narrative and Photos, Dinner Recipes, Equipment Comments, Route and Elevation Profile

On a day hike above Upper Twin Lake in Yosemite

Looking across Upper Twin Lake to where we day hiked, but never could figure out exactly where we had been

Sometimes steep slopes had stairs

Sometimes not. Hiking poles are useful.

Dawn breaks over Deer Lake on our last day

Jewelry Lake and Gem Lake, two of six lakes we see on our last day

Video suggestion: All videos shown below are very short and HD (1080p). I find best YouTube settings (for all but the few with Bob, Jennifer, or animals) are HD (1080p), slow motion (0.25 or 0.50), and full screen. Actually, watching Bob and Jennifer in slo mo can be amusing.

Highlights/Memorable Events

Day 1, Wednesday, September 3

Backpacked 2.7 Miles to Camp Lake (net elevation change = 482'; total up/down elevation change = 844'); day-hiked 2 miles, stopping at Bear Lake.

Drove from Oakland to Crabtree Trailhead outside of Pinecrest, stopping to pick up a wilderness permit at Sonora, where we ate at the Be Wok and Sushi Cafe for lunch. Hiked a dusty, but not too difficult, trail up to Camp Lake, where we saw a group of about 15 8th graders from a private school in Santa Rosa not too far from Windsor camped out who were on a 3 day outing. We set up camp a bit away that was in a beautiful, quiet location. Then we hiked about a mile up to Bear Lake, where we saw about 15 more kids from the same school having dinner. Here is a Bear Lake video (1:08 minutes).

We hiked back to camp, lit a fire, and had a beautiful evening talking. That night Jennifer slept in her tent, but Bob chose not to set up his and lay under the open sky with moon and stars above for the night.

Starting at the trailhead
Entering the wilderness officially

Arriving at Camp Lake

Bear Lake
Jennifer and Bob at Bear Lake. Photo taken by students on outing.

Day 2, Thursday, September 4

Backpacked 5.3 Miles to intersection of Cherry and Buck Meadows Creeks. (net elevation change = -152'; total up/down elevation change = 1212').

Dinner: Teriyaki noodles w/ salmon, veggies

Bob began the morning by taking a brief video from the ridge next to where we were camping. See video (44 seconds).

View from ridge at Camp Lake above our camp site

Our Camp Lake camp site
Camp Lake

Although our net elevation change during the day as we backpacked was small, we began by descending into a canyon with a creek at the bottom that had some water flowing. Jennifer was in the lead as we approached the creek, when there was a sudden flurry of activity as quails flew away, startling us both. A few more steps taken, and more quail burst out. A few more steps and yet a third group of them flew away.

Descending into the first canyon after Camp Lake
Creek at bottom of canyon - where the quail had been until we scared them

Surprising number of dead trees throughout the Wilderness

Shortly after leaving first canyon found Lily Pond and ate lunch

About a half hour after lunch, as we were descending a trail, we interrupted a marmot inspecting some mule dung. He moved so quickly, we caught but a brief glimpse of him as he ran down and then off the trail.

Met Art on the trail, who seemed about our age and had been hiking Emigrant Wilderness since he was 9 years old. He had just come from the CCC camp at Cow Meadow and we should stop by and say: "Art says that Chef Doug should give us a free meal." A fun thought that we did not follow up on. He also advised us on where to find a good campsite at our destination - advice we took and which was helpful.

During the day as we backpacked we descended into canyons three times, and as the profile for the day shows, ascended back out twice.

At the last ridge of the day before descending to creek junction and finding a campsite

Day 3, Friday, September 5

Backpacked 4.2 Miles to Wood Lake. (net elevation change = 840'; total up/down elevation change = 1006'); day-hiked 0.75 miles, to Buck Lake junction.

Dinner: Curry Lentil Stew with Feta Cheese and Broccoli

The day was spent backpacking up Buck Meadow Creek to Wood Lake. We met a pair of guys who were backpacking, most of it off-trail. One was barefoot, the other in loafers. Impressive.

Wood Lake is over a mile long and we camped at the other end from where we first saw the lake. A couple of guys with horses occupied a camp nearby and were fishing, but were far enough away so we each had quiet and privacy. Prior to setting up camp, we put down our backpacks, crossed a stream - here you can see Jennifer doing so (56 seconds), and hiked to the next junction, checking for possible campsites. We decided the campsite near where we originally stopped was best. As for most of the trip, we had perfect weather, no mosquitos, and spectacular scenery.

Along the trail - sequoias, Bob and Buck Meadow Creek

Wood Lake

Our Wood Lake camp site

Day 4, Saturday, September 6

Day hiked (no backpack, just day pack) ~8 Miles in two hikes to various lakes. (net elevation change = 0'; total up/down elevation change = 920').

Dinner: Quinoa, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, spinach, and feta cheese

Originally, we had intended to spend the day hiking to Huckleberry Lake. But after we had packed up and were ready to go, we decided it would be more fun to do some cross-country, off-trail hiking to nearby lakes without our backpacks. So that is what we did. In the morning, we hiked to Karls Lake, Leighton Lake, and Red Can Lake. We actually used both of our topo maps and our compass to find our way to Red Can Lake.

No obvious trail to Karls Lake, but we made it with little problem, as the 3rd photo shows.

Red Can Lake
Food bags hanging in tree at Red Can Lake campsite

Karls Lake and Red Can Lake were quite pretty. In fact, Red Can was probably the most beautiful we saw that day. This video (27 seconds) gives a brief look at Red Can, while this gives a look at Karls (17 seconds). We also saw at Red Can two bags, presumably of food, hanging from trees, along with 4 tents in close proximity to each other. However, we did not see any people. We ate lunch beside the lake, then hiked back to Wood Lake.

Bob relaxes at Red Can Lake
Leaving Red Can Lake
Jennifer relaxes at Wood Lake campsite

From Wood Lake we took the trail up to Lower and Upper Buck Lakes. There we ran into several people - backpackers and fishermen, some with horses. One guy told us Twin Lakes in Yosemite was about the best, prettiest lake he had ever visited. This was an upper for us, because Twin Lakes was one of our destinations.

Lower Buck Lake
Upper Buck Lake - note horses on shore across the lake
OK, here are the horses for those without magnifying glasses

7:50 PM, Sept 6: Bob learns how to take night photos at Wood Lake (the first photo shows our neighbor's campfire). Not quite the full moon, which was on Sept 8 at 6:38 PM.

Day 5, Sunday, September 7

Backpacked 6 Miles from Wood Lake to Huckleberry Lake. (net elevation change = -489'; total up/down elevation change = 1939'); day-hiked 2.5 miles along Huckleberry.

Dinner: General Tsao's noodles with vegetables & cashews

During the day we met several interesting groups of people as we hiked. First we met a total of 7 young men and women (actually, one guy and 6 women), who were working for the California Conservation Corps to maintain the trails and campsites in the Wilderness. We thanked them profusely for all they did for us. Then we met a group of 5 guys, who used to have a sixth member, but he fell and hit his head on a rock. The leader used his sat phone to call in a mule to carry the guy out.

We passed by both Cow Meadow Lake and Letora Lake, each of which was quite pretty. As we approached Cow Meadow Lake, we had to cross the north fork of the Cherry Creek. Here is Jennifer doing so (57 seconds).

After this, we would see only 2 people over the next four days, and there would be no people sharing any of the lakes where we camped for the next 6 nights. We pretty much had Emigrant Wilderness and Yosemite's Twin Lake to ourselves.

Cow Meadow Lake - just after Wood Lake on the way to Huckleberry Lake

Letora Lake - and lunch, with really good sharp cheddar cheese. As it turned out, the cheese wrapper became quite oily and covered several other food bags. But no big deal in the end.

However, when we reached Huckleberry Lake, although the lake itself was beautiful, we found the main camping ground to be a large, dung covered area used by a commercial mule company. The dung went down almost to the water's edge and made us leary of drinking from the lake. We got our water away from this area. Someone had left a note on yellow paper excoriating the mule company for what a mess it had left behind.

Leaving Letora Lake. Haystack Peak in the distance - and the cloud was a portent of weather to come.

Ferns in the forest as we approach Huckleberry Lake

Huckleberry Lake
Here is a video (40 seconds) of the final approach to Huckleberry Lake, at the beginning the high peak in Haystack peak. And here is a video (51 seconds) taken from the path that goes around the shore of Huckleberry Lake.

When we set up camp, Jennifer set up her tent with rain fly, while Bob continued as before and simply put down a ground cloth (his poncho), sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. This would turn out to be an error. Around 11:30 both Jennifer and Bob heard distant thunder. Jennifer immediately came over and together the two of them put up Bob's tent and rainfly. The rain started before the rainfly could be fully staked, but it was adequate, so Bob hurriedly shoved sleeping pad, bag, and backpack into the tent, barely getting them inside before they got wet. All worked out ok.

The rain continued intermittently through the night until about noon the next day.

More views of Huckleberry Lake

Day 6, Monday, September 8

Dayhiked 1.5 miles along shore of Huckleberry Lake. (net elevation change = 0'; total up/down elevation change = 8')

Dinner: Beans and rice salsa with feta cheese

We woke up to light drizzle that lasted off and on until around noon, during which we popped in and out of our tents. After that, we spent time drying out the tents, rain flies and ground cloths. Jennifer discovered a puddle had formed under her tent, so she moved the tent. Meanwhile, Bob broke the zipper on his tent rain fly. By 4 pm the sky was blue with white puffy clouds, the campsite was ready for another night. We then hiked along the shores of Huckleberry Lake, taking photos of the lake and campground. Here is a (96 seconds) video of Huckleberry Lake.

Because of the inclement weather and the possibility that it might be worse with snow at higher elevations, we discussed whether to continue on to Twin Lakes. In the end, particularly with such clear skies in the afternoon and evening, we decided to go ahead.
Early morning, rain-bearing clouds above camp

Some of what the mule industry left behind - dung and trash

Fascinating rock coloration at Huckleberry

Huckleberry Lake - no more rain for the rest of our trip!

Day 7, Tuesday, September 9

Backpacked 4 miles to upper Twin Lake in Yosemite. (net elevation change = 1059'; total up/down elevation change = 1278'). Hiked 2 miles along creek part way to lower Twin Lake and some around upper Twin Lake.

Dinner: Stroganoff with mushrooms and green beans and onions with a side of kale and sun dried tomato and cashew sauce.

Although the trail included a steep climb as the elevation profile above shows, the hike itself from Huckleberry to Upper Twin Lake was not as hard as we expected. And it was a very pretty hike past interesting formations. At one point we came across a large tank which had been left over from long ago when a tungsten mine was operating in the area. As we hiked along a creek, it would be totally dry, then suddenly have flowing water. Clearly the stream went underground, then re-surfaced.

At another place in the trail, when the breeze was blowing, we were suddenly in the midst of cottony-like flower seeds floating through the air. Here is a video of that. (45 seconds)

When we came to Cherry Creek, which is just before the steep climb to Upper Twin Lake, we stopped for lunch. It was nice to hear the running water, as this video shows (40 seconds).

We got up to Upper Twin Lake with no problem - passing from Emigrant Wilderness to Yosemite National Park less than a quarter mile from the lake. We set up camp, and although it was after 3 PM, we decided to see if we could make it down to Lower Twin Lake. Although one map showed a trail, and a sign indicated there should be one, it had not been maintained and pretty much disappeared. And hiking was difficult, even treacherous. Although we got in sight of the lake, we decided it was too iffy to try to make it the whole way. We returned to camp with no problem.
Leaving Huckleberry Lake

Cliffs along trail from Huckleberry Lake to Twin Lake Cherry Creek, East Fork, where we stopped for lunch

Hiking down to Lower Twin Lake from Upper Twin Lake
Lower Twin Lake - we did not quite make it there, ran out of time

Sunset at Upper Twin Lake

Camping at Upper Twin Lake

Day 8, Wednesday, September 10

Day hiked 8 miles, first to Bigelow Lake, then around upper Twin Lake. (net elevation change = 0'; total up/down elevation change = 3,312').

Dinner: Ratatouille (completely home made by Jennifer) over cous cous.

We day hike from Upper Twin Lake to Black Bear Lake, then on to Bigelow Lake. Bigelow Lake is particularly interesting because of several man made rock walls that keep it in. Here is a video of Bigelow (15 seconds). Presumably these go back to an era of mining. While there, we see a campsite, but do not meet anybody. On the way back we spot a grouse, but cannot get a good photo.

We return to Upper Twin Lake and hike half way around it, do some climbing on the other side. However, we decide it is too risky to keep going up. Here is a video (31 seconds) from near our high point on the other side of Upper Twin Lake.

We return to camp and have another great evening.

We cross the border back into Emigrant Wilderness from Yosemite, then pass by Black Bear Lake

Bigelow Lake

Day 9, Thursday, September 11

Backpack 6.2 miles from Twin Lake to Emigrant Lake. (net elevation change = -260'; total up/down elevation change = 2,170').

Dinner: Brocolli (dehydrated by Jennifer) and corn chowder.

The backpacking from Twin to Emigrant Lake was overall good without extended difficult trail. We saw black bear prints and also the prints nearby of some smaller animal we have not identified. They were in the muddy shore next to a small pond. Horse Meadow looked cool. At Emigrant Lake we were not allowed to have a fire, the first time for that. As with Huckleberry and Twin Lake, no one else was present.

At the junction to Horse Meadow we met a single woman hiker who was from Oakland, as is Jennifer. We the walked along Cherry Creek (East Fork), for a bit, which was quite pretty, as shown here (35 seconds).

Lunch was very good, with salmon, hummus, gouda cheese, Triscuits, and Wheat Thins. We ate it at a pond just before Blackbird Lake. Blackbird Lake itself was an open plateau with little foliage. It looked odd.

The pond where we found bear prints

Black bear prints, but we saw no black bears. As this page by The American Bear Association shows (scroll down the page), the smaller prints are the front paw and the larger ones the back paw. Although not sure, the most likely animal for these prints seems to be a bobcat. Here are images. Thank you to the author of this blog for his suggestion.

The trail approaching Blackbird Lake

Blackbird Lake

Emigrant Lake and our campsite near the shore

Day 10, Friday, September 12

Backpack 5.5 miles from Emigrant Lake to Deer Lake. (net elevation change = -356'; total up/down elevation change = 1,438'). Day hike 5 miles up to Wire Lakes and back. (net elevation change = 0'; total up/down elevation change = 1,276').

Dinner: Spaghetti with home made tomato sauce including mushrooms, onions, etc, along with parmesan cheese. Spinach dehydrated by Jennifer for a side dish.

It was quite pretty walking out of Emigrant Lake, including pretty yellow flowers. Also, the calmest, most relaxed marmot imaginable, shown in this video and below.

We came to Buck Lake after leaving Emigrant and a little after Buck Lake we ran into a group of 4 who said there was a large fire in Little Yosemite Valley, which had forced them to change plans and backpack in Emigrant Wilderness instead.

Deer Lake was also very pretty and had a very nice camp site. After setting up camp, we hiked up to Wire Lake.

There we had an anxious few minutes. Our day pack included most of our emergency equipment, including the personal beacon for calling in a rescue, medical supplies, flashlight, and other items. We were off trail among boulders, took a seat, then continued to explore the area. Suddenly Jennifer asked Bob where the day pack, which he had been wearing, was. Finding where we had been seated was no easy task. The fact it was getting to late afternoon made it more important to find the pack. Suddenly, Jennifer came across it and all was well.

We also decided that rather than spend another day at Wire Lake, we would leave Deer Lake the next day, make it most of the way to car, and exit one day early.

Marmot, flowers, and a distinctive cliff with the moon nearby as we leave Emigrant Lake

Beautiful, large sequoia and one of a few gates through which we had to pass. This one better constructed than most.

Buck Lake
Deer Lake
Wire Lake

Day 11, Thursday, September 13

Backpack 11.5 miles from Deer Lake to the car. (net elevation change = -1303'; total up/down elevation change = 3,812').

Dinner: Got sandwiches at Subway - No where near as good as Jennifer's cooking says Bob!!

It was a long hike, but through beautiful scenery as always, passing lake after lake after lake. At Piute Lake we stopped to get water. In order to get water a bit away from shore, Bob walked out on a log, balancing precariously, as Jennifer made a video (66 seconds).

Once we had backpacked to Camp Lake and found campsites taken, we decided to go the last few miles to the Crabtree Trailhead where the car was parked. As we were leaving we ran into a group of firefighters heading up the trail to control a camp fire at Bear Lake.

Then we drove home. The first few miles out of Crabtree were memorable. It appeared an uncountable number of chimpmunks had lined the road, waiting for us to drive by, so they could scamper across the road. We also saw our only coyote of the trip - perhaps he was attracted by the chance of chipmunk dinner.

Sunrise at Deer Lake and cliffs along the trail.

Jewelry and Gem Lakes

Piute and Lily Pond Lakes

We see a coyote as we are driving out of the wilderness. He stops briefly to look back at us before disappearing into the woods.

Almost home! Sunset on route 580

Dinner Recipes

Jennifer cooked the following dinners each night. She also prepared the dinners, including dehydration as needed, well before the trip. They were all good. Here the recipes are, by date and location.

Day Number Date/Location Description Weight (oz) Cooking Instructions Estimated Cooking Time (min)
1 Wed Sept 3 / Camp Lake Ate at a chinese restaurant in Sonora, uncooked food for dinner
2 Thurs Sept 4 / Cherry Creek Teriyaki noodles w/ salmon, veggies 13 Noodles: Boil water and let stand in water for 7 mins, if not done, cook till done. Veggies: add boiling water to bag for 3-5 mins. Add Salmon, sauce, veggies to drained noodles 7
3 Fri Sept 5 Wood Lake curry lentil soup w feta cheese w brocolli 7 Soup: Boil water, add soup, let stand. Broccoli - cooks for 5 mins. 7
4 Sat Sept 6 / Wood Lake artichoke w quinoa, spinach, pine nuts, feta 6.5 Quinoa: add boiling water to bag and soak for 10 mins. Artichoke - boil and cook till tender, combine w seasoning. Sprinkle w feta Spinach: add water to bag. (Spinach in or out of quinoa) 9
5 Sun Sept 7 / Huckleberry Lake General Tao noodles cashews w/ veggies 11 Noodles: Boil water and let stand in water for 7 mins, if not done, cook till done. Veggies: add boiling water to bag for 3-5 mins. Add cashews sauce, veggies to drained noodles 7
6 Mon Sept 8 / Huckleberry Lake beans, rice, salsa and Feta 7.375 Rice: cook 6-7; salsa: cook if possible or add boiling water to bag and knead; Beans cook 3-5. 14
7 Tue Sept 9 / Twin Lake stroganoff w/ mushroons added and green beans. Kale 7.25 cook mushrooms and green beans till tender 5-7 mins; add noodles, correct amount of water, sauce, cook for about 4-5 mins till tender. Kale: add boiling water to bag and soak for 3 mins 14
8 wed Sept 10 / Twin Lakes ratatouille (over med couscous) 7.25 Ratatouille: add boiling water to bag, soak 5-7 mins; couscous 2 parts CC to 3 parts water: boil water in pot, add couscous, turn off heat and let sit for 5 mins 5
9 Thurs Sept 11 / (Emigrant Lake) corn chowder w side of broccoli 6.875 broccoli: cook for 5 mins; corn chowder: cook for 5-7 mins 14
10 Fri Sept 12 / Deer Lake pasta with marinara sauce & spinach 8.75 Pasta: cook pasta 5-7. Sauce: add enough boiling water to bag to reconsistute, gently knead 3-5 mins. Spinach: add boiling water to bag - 3 mins, 9
11 Did not cook meal, ate at Subway
DID NOT EAT mashed potatoes (instant ) w/ cheddar w broccoli side 5.875 Broccoli: cook for 5 mins; Mashed potatoes - 1-1/2 boiling, stir in mash potatoes and 1/2 c milk. Let sit for 2 mins. 8
DID NOT EAT Masala w peas, potatos, chick pea over rice 4.75 Rice: cook 6-7; Masala: Cook 5 mins or till tender 14

Equipment Comments

Route Map and Elevation Profile

The map below shows the route we followed as we backpacked through Emigrant Wilderness and crossed into Yosemite National Park. The backpacking route is in red, the day hikes are shown in yellow dotted lines.

The elevation profile below the map shows in feet the elevations of the backpacking route (it does not show day hike elevations). The distances shown on the profile seriously underestimates the actual trail distances. The profile does give a good idea of the climbing involved, however. Click on either image to get a higher resolution version.

Photos and narrative were contributed by both of us:

Other Websites
By Bob:

Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
August, 2012