Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip
Display Avatars Sort By:
James Winstead

Locale: CA
Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/11/2011 23:51:32 MDT Print View

Hey all,

This is my first report here, so bear with me.

I started out a Crabtree TH heading East and planning to do a one night yo-yo out to Jewelry or Deer Lake. Being my first solo Sierra trip I was taking it easy and wanted to keep it simple. Needless to say... what an experience!

These are cell phone photos, so don't go at this with high expectations for image quality:
Snow!! I knew it would be around in abundance but it was still unnerving for an ex-Chicagoan to see it in July.

more snow
More snow

more and more snow
Still more snow... certain areas looked like this. Navigation wasn't really a big deal. More like "I know the trail goes generally that-away" and sooner or later it re-emerges.

should have brought skis?
It did provide some fun though, this was my best slide of the day. Pole tossed in the photo for scale.

In general the snow was around, but not really a big deal. Later in the afternoon it got a bit slushy in areas which was no fun, but again, not that big a deal.

I scrambled up to the high point as you go over the 'pass' leading to Piute Meadow. +/-8000' or so elev. Highest point I've ever hiked to sofar! Also, please forgive the posed photo...everyone has to have one now and then.

decent view
pretty awesome

piute lake
Piute Lake

bad news
West fork of Cherry Creek. This was as far as I made it. This is probably only about 2:00pm and it was at least armpit to shoulder deep and the current was cruising. I hung out for a little to see if any groups would come along I could cross with(i'd seen a few 4 or 5 people sized groups around earlier) However, knowing I'd have to cross this and the Piute Creek the next day in order to make it back to my car on time and not have my wife calling SAR on me made it seem like this was a good a place as any to call it quits.

sad face
Sad face. Better a sad hiker than a dead dumb@#$ though, I s'pose.

Mini waterfall on the trail.

Piute Creek
I had decided to head back and camp at the unnamed lake a mile or so west of Piute Creek.(unnamed on my Tom Harrison Map at least, I will call it Pittsburg Nelly Lake from now on. If anyone gets that joke, I grant you my greatest admiration) But sure enough... not going to be crossing today. This was maybe mid-thigh deep in the morning when I crossed.

yea... not going to try crossing.

Happy Hiker
Wandered around the east side of the valley and found a pretty cool fire-ring and called it home. Not even any bud light cans laying around or anything. Sad hiker becomes happy hiker.

still happy
Dinner cooking = happy hiker

ancient Spotted these on my wander. The Miwok made these around the bay area as a mortar and pestel to grind acorns. Not sure what tribe would have inhabited here, Piutes maybe? (it is called Piute Meadow after all) Also, not an oak to be seen, maybe they ground pine nuts? It's always amazing to think that the places we go to just for fun were homes to people before us. Seasonal homes probably, not permanent, but still pretty awesome.


-No photos of any of my safe river crossings, my phone/camera was safely tucked inside my packliner. However, the Piute was back down to just over knee deep when I crossed in the morning.

The obligatory photo of the overburdened hiker. He literally just uttered a miserable grunt as I said 'good morning' in passing. This was also less than a mile from bear lake where his group must have camped. Poor guy.

Bear Lake Overflow/ Lily Creek. Pretty wild. This is early too, probably 8-9am or so.

purty Bear Lake

the end
The end...

Final thoughts are that I am smitten. Since moving to SF I've done tons of day hikes and a few overnights in Marin, Pt. Reyes etc, but for my first actual Sierra trip this blew me away... this is going to be a fun next few months.

Timeline for this was:
Friday - Get off work, drive to trialhead. Camp there.
Saturday - Hike out, wander around, camp.
Sunday - Wander around, make it back to car in time to get home.
Monday - Impress your friends/coworkers and be a nerd and post a bpl trip report.

Not too shabby.

Nerdy Gear thoughts:
-GrG Vapor Trail - perfect, my load probably maxed out a 20-22ish and i didn't even notice it.
-TT Contrail - Also perfect.
-WM Summerlight and Z-rest - Yet again, perfect. Probably got to +/-40F at worst.
Steri-pen - Perfect. Snowmelt water tastes awesome without having to stick all kinds of chemicals in it.
-Merril Trail Gloves - Pretty good, totally comfy, no blisters, plenty of traction, love the whole barefoot deal. Feet felt fine even over pretty sharp rocky areas. Took forever to dry out though. Still cold and soggy in the morning. Felt warm after just a few minutes wearing them though, but I probably had prune feet the whole time. I'd wear em again on short trips, but would not recommend them for anything more than a 1 or 2 nighter.
-First trip with trekking poles(cheap wallyworld ones) - I'm in love! I was worried about them as a distraction, but I didn't even notice em. Basically everything you normally do becomes easier and less tiring. I'm never going without them again.
-Insulation layers (MB Thermawrap, Patagonia R1 hoodie, Army Surplus wool gloves and Ibex Beanie)- never even touched em, nor my rain gear(Dri Ducks). Probably wouldn't go withough them though.
-Forgot Sunglasses in the car... Mistake. Snow is BRIGHT! It was only mildly irritating, but would have been something to deal with if I had to spend more time on it.

Thats all for now. Thanks for reading. Maybe I'll see some of you out there!

Edited by James_W on 07/11/2011 23:58:51 MDT.

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip" on 07/12/2011 00:36:55 MDT Print View

NIce James.

Any mosquitoes out and about?

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip..good work. on 07/12/2011 03:27:04 MDT Print View

Nice job James. Finally, an actual trip report with photos.

I can relate.

It wasn't too long ago that I went on a solo hike. It's great in that you can basically just hit the road whenever you feel like. And with everything you need on your back, you're pretty much footloose and fancy free.

I just recently discovered those trails over the Golden Gate. It's fantastic that they're all accessible by public transit. Just camped at Point Reyes a few weeks ago. Cruising around on a mountain bike is fun too. It's great that I can do all this without needing to rent a car.

Hopefully the Sierra sometime this summer.

You fish? A nice trout over that fire would be very nice.

After trying different quilts and bags, I settled happily on the Summerlight as well. And I thought I recognized those Walmart Outdoor Sports Poles. Not bad for $10. I actually have a set of Tigoat poles, and haven't used them. Thinking about selling them unused.. The Walmart ones work fine, compact shorter, and I don't worry when checked baggage.

Thanks for sharing and keep on geeking out on the trip reports. My favorite part of BPL, it's like a service.

Edited by elf773 on 07/12/2011 03:29:56 MDT.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 07:06:16 MDT Print View

Thanks for sharing your fotogs of another fantastic place on the planet. I live in the Southeast and don't get to see such views except at rare places like Mt Rogers. Your fotog of the "overburdened" hiker causes me to point out that you pulled a very short two day/one night trip---maybe the other guy was humping in enough to stay out for two weeks? It's easy to go light for one night---let's talk about pulling a 20 day trip w/o resupply and then we can figure out which pack will work for 40 plus pounds of food.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 07:11:57 MDT Print View

Nice report James. I have been in the area that you have done your trip many, many times and love that area! Wow still so much snow.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 07:13:16 MDT Print View


Thank you for the great pics and in-depth writeup!!

I almost cry every time I remember that I've only hiked out west ONCE.

Keep 'em coming.


Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
First timer on 07/12/2011 08:43:54 MDT Print View

Congrats on your first Sierra trip. Over time, you may perhaps join the legions of other 'Sierra snobs' who decide it's not really worth packing anywhere else (other than local day hikes). When Muir called it the 'range of light', he wasn't kidding.

First time @ 8k? Brother, get yourself over to the E side where the THs start at 10, the lakes are at 11 and the passes are over 12.

I'm going up again (S of Whitney) in a few days, but here's a pic taken 2 weeks ago from the region you just came from:


And yes, I was pulling out rainbows & brookies from this very rock the night before. I usually C&R, but I kept two for dinner. Yum yum.

Edited by Hobbesatronic on 07/12/2011 08:48:11 MDT.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: Tahoe
Re: Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 11:08:39 MDT Print View

I love that area. Was out there for a week last October and pretty much had the whole place to myself. Was thinking about going out there this weekend, but looks like I'll need a pole vault pole to get past the west fork of cherry creek.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 12:01:12 MDT Print View

Nice trip report James!

Seems like a good idea to listen to common sense and not press on, especially for an overnighter where you didn't need to go big miles. I turned around in Olympic a few weeks ago, not by a stream crossing but a bear in the trail. He/she didn't care I was there but I had passed a nice campsite earlier and just didn't feel the need to keep going to the next.

Arn Aarreberg
(aarrebea) - M

Locale: Northern Bay Area, CA
Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 15:08:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for the report James! I was planning a week long epic hike through the Emigrant during the last week of this month and it looks like it is going to have to wait. The past few times I have done that exact hike, cherry creek was a trickle, no need to even rock hop. You'll definitely want to head back there when its possible. Deer Lake is beautiful and the lakes beyond that even more so.

Edited by aarrebea on 07/12/2011 15:09:13 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Emigrant Wilderness-Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 15:37:39 MDT Print View

Nice TR James, That's a great place to hike for the first time solo-nice & easy.

Jeremy Pendrey
(Pendrey) - MLife

Locale: California
welcome on 07/12/2011 17:47:26 MDT Print View

Welcome to the Sierra addiction. Emigrant is a great area, as you now know. Now pull out your maps and trail guides (actual or virtual) and plan the next Sierra adventure.
When we see you again next year at GGG 4, you'll be a Sierra vet. Congrats on your trip. Solo ventures are wonderful (when risks are appropriately handled, as you did by turning back at deep fast water).

See you on the trails.


George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/12/2011 18:42:40 MDT Print View

Nice report and pics. Congrats on a safe and successful solo. Good gear choices.

In a couple of days, my wife and I are beginning a trip that will include some backpacking in that little park a bit south of where you were.

When I backpack with my wife, it is quite different from my solo trips, but it is always good. Low miles and a lot of time soaking up the incredible rocks and sky. Time dunking in cold water. Staying up later at night and seeing more of the night sky cause I'm not exhausted from long miles.

Maybe that's why I've been married to her for so long. She keeps me grounded to what is really important. But also she gives me the space I need for a few solo hikes.

James Winstead

Locale: CA
Thanks! on 07/12/2011 20:55:27 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone for your positive comments!

David, yes there were skeeters around. Down in the low areas near water they were as expected, but at my camp they really didn't come around till 9ish. I expect this is just the beginning and they will only get worse though. I used deet only sparingly and don't have any permethrin treated stuff and was not too bothered. Only a couple bites. Did have long sleeves on all day though.

Scott, Not a fisherman yet, although a fly kit is on my wishlist. Would have been a pretty killer way to spend the few hours I was marooned between rivers.

Walter, Fair enough. I expect that likely they were 'base camping' and he was carrying a coleman tent and a chair or that he was packing for kids or something. Nothing wrong with either, but isn't making fun of complete strangers why they invented the internet anyways?

Ken, Thanks man, I'm still putting together stuff for the trip I posted about. I'll keep you informed. And yea, there was lots of snow...lots

Jay, Jeremy, Good to hear from you guys! I'll see you next year for sure, if I don't bump into you somewhere first.

Everyone else, Thanks for reading! I'll probably have another of these up within a few weeks. Any suggestions where to go next? I'm thinking I want to try some more high sierra stuff... maybe Ansel Adams or Kings Canyon? Emigrant is such an easy drive though, it works perfect for a weekend trip.

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Re: Thanks! on 07/12/2011 23:13:36 MDT Print View

Thanks for the excellent report James. I have not been out of Crabtree with the water levels so high. I have crossed most of the streams/creeks when they are a trickle or bone dry. I recall the large stream banks made me think that these same crossings would be quite intimidating at peak runoff levels. Your pictures were what I had imagined.

I have become a fan of Emigrant because its so easy and the excellent scenery. Driving up to the Kennedy Meadows trailhead is another nice option for the Emigrant area. THe Emigrant Lake area is a nice destination for a three day weekend. If you want to go above treeline you keep going up CA108 and jump on the PCT at Sonora Pass. Head toward Leavitt Lake and High Emigrant Lake.

There are many places to go and the season seems so short.

Alex Wallace
(FeetFirst) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/13/2011 12:54:55 MDT Print View

Thanks for the trip report, James. Who needs the hassle of permits, quotas, and planning with Yosemite when there's Emigrant?! One of my favorite last-minute destinations.

"I started out a Crabtree TH heading East..." How was the condition of the non-paved portion of the access road to the TH?

James Winstead

Locale: CA
Thanks on 07/13/2011 13:38:34 MDT Print View

David, Thanks for the comments. I was looking through my maps last night and was thinking of something similar to your suggestion.

Alex, The road was fine. There are a few pretty hardcore speedbumps in the dirt/area around the horse camp, but nothing else of any concern. I made it fine in my honda civic. Maybe mud would be an issue after/during a heavy rain, but it was not an issue for me.

Shaun Stoker
(stokejob) - F
Almost Heroes on 07/13/2011 15:09:08 MDT Print View

"...a Welsh wh__e that could do things with her one good arm that would make you forget that thing on her neck!"

Well referenced man, my brother and I quote this movie often.

James Winstead

Locale: CA
YES! on 07/16/2011 18:55:09 MDT Print View

Shaun- Thank you!

In my opinion one of the most underrated comedies from that era. So quotable.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Emigrant Wilderness - Solo Trip on 07/22/2011 22:59:48 MDT Print View

James - looks like you had a great time. It's a great area to wander around in. My favorite trailhead up there is Gianelli - it's up on a ridge so you have views almost right away, and in this big snow year it has the advantage of the streams being smaller so the crossings are easier. Many nice lakes within a day or two of the trailhead - check it out!