I found myself with a free Monday and decided to try and get a quick backpacking fix with a Sunday/Monday trip up to the Emigrant Wilderness. I drove up to Pinecrest Sunday morning, got my permit (no quotas, but the rangers want to track use), and drove up to the Gianneli trailhead. This last winter has not been kind to the road between the Crabtree and Giannelli trailheads. There’s at least one section that might be a challenge in a low clearance car.
At the trailhead I was greeted by the normal mosquito contingent and also rolling thunder and 100% cloud cover in spite of it still being midmorning. I briefly considered bagging the trip, but the weather report said it was going to clear over the course of the day, and I figured I could always test out my rarely used tarp and raingear.
I hit my first snow only a couple of hundred yards up the trail. I was surprised by the amount of snow since this trailhead is only at about 8,600 ft, but snow and water on the trail quickly became a theme for the trip.
Climb to Burst Rock
View to the East
I passed several groups coming out from the weekend, and by midafternoon had the trail all to myself. The amount of snow on the trail continued to be impressive. The trail wasn’t too hard to find most of the time due to all the previous traffic. You did have to pay attention and not walk over a section of snow that was undermined and could collapse. A few deep postholes indicated this had happened more than once to other hikers. One of the interesting things was the almost total lack of wildflowers. Other than a few Indian paintbrush and mule ears just starting to come out along the descent into Little Lakes Valley, there were essentially no wildflowers all day long.
View to the Three Chimneys
Icebergs in Whitesides Meadow
Trail climbing out of Whitesides Meadow
The weather continued to clear, and there was more and more sun as the day wore on. After lots more snow I finally arrived at Toejam Lake late in the afternoon. I was a bit dismayed to find a group of about 8 people (a church group who promised they would be quiet – they weren’t) camped at the outlet and another two hikers looking for a campsite at the far end of the lake. I’ve often had this lake all to myself and kind of naively expected that to be the case on a Sunday night.
I found a nice camp, well removed from the other groups, and settled in for the evening. The bugs hadn’t been bad all day, but right around dinner time they arrived, and the irritation level soon reached that epic levels that only certain places of legend like Emigrant can provide. Luckily, as it started to cool down later in the evening the mosquitoes slowly went away. The sky continued to clear, and I enjoyed a spectacular sunset and later a wonderful view of the Milky Way in a moonless sky.
Sunset from Ridge above Toejam Lake
Monday dawned with bright sun and just a few lingering clouds in the east to provide a nice sunrise. I retraced my steps, losing the trail for a bit just below the lake, and enjoyed the contrast of the bright sun on the views seen under overcast skies the day before.
Toejam Lake the Next Morning
Trail Sign to Toejam Lake
I didn’t see any people until early afternoon when I started running into people coming in for various trips. Many had obviously gotten a late start. The thunder heads built over the day in the East, again providing great views that had been obscured by clouds the day before. I even encountered a couple of rangerettes about a mile from the trailhead who asked to see my permit. They were looking forward to a weeklong trip. I envied them the trip, but not the shovel and saw they were carrying to do trail work. Needless to say they were very interested in my UL kit.
View to the East with Sun
View to the Three Chimneys with Sun
Little Lakes Valley