I want to share the report of my recent weekend trip in Emigrant Wilderness, which turned out to be the last of the season. I wanted to do this hike since early September but could not sync with the weather. Finally the weekend of Oct. 28-30 was just right, sunny with 60+F during the day and 32F at night. My plan was to hike a 35 mile loop from Kennedy Meadows: up Kennedy Creek and over Big Sam, then down to Emigrant Meadows and to the top of the Black Hawk Mountain. It was a very good hike, about 30% off trail but not difficult to navigate.
I started from the NPS parking lot at 7:30 PM on Friday. It was dark; as a test I slipped the flap of my head lamp behind the waist belt and that worked great. I could see the trail much easier then with the lamp on my head. I walked until 9:30 PM and stopped for the night somewhere along the Kennedy Creek trail.
On the next morning I continued up the valley, initially on the trail and later on a well visible path. The morning temperature was freezing, which helped crossing wet meadows along the way.
I soon passed by the Kennedy cabin,
hiked along Kennedy Lake, and started to climb to the Big Sam trail.
From a distance I could see that the old jeep road to Big Sam was covered with snow, and wondered if I would be able to continue in my trail running shoes. Fortunately the snow melted at the edge of the road and exposed a walking path.
After reaching Big Sam my route lead down to Emigrant Meadow,
and then cross country over the ridge to Mosquito Lake. My original plan to stop here for the night, but it was only 2:30 PM so I decided to continue toward the Black Hawk Mountain. According to my guidebook, I needed to walk down to Mosquito Pass and then climb due west, so this is what I did. In retrospect, I navigated slightly east of the peak to avoid snowfields along the mountain ridge. As I gained altitude there were less and less sources of water. I filled up my 2l hydration bladder and continued climbing in hope of finding a camping spot at the end of the day.
Just when the sun was setting behind the mountain I came on this platform surrounded by rocks. On the next day I found that it was located just below the main peak. Attached to my backpack in the picture are the “Happy Birthday” balloons that I found at the Emigrant Meadow. It was the second time this year that I found the balloon trash in the Sierra.
From my spot I had excellent views south in the Yosemite direction.
The night turned out to be the high point of my trip. The sky was full of starts, the air was calm and dry, and I did not feel cold even though it was freezing. At 6:15 AM I left the tent and watched the glare of a rising sun, while everything else was still in darkness. There was no point in getting back to the sleeping bag. I folded my camp and after 15 min of easy walking was at the peak. From there I could see the Relief Reservoir and a general direction of the descent.
I navigated down the frozen slopes,
soon following a creek that eventually lead me down to the Summit Creek trail.
On the way down I saw a pair of white tailed ptarmigans.
I could bypass most of the snow fields, including this one.
I stopped to wash and snack at this pool, which I called a swimming pool with the view. 30 min later I reached the Summit Creek trail, near a large flat with “no camping” sign.
From there I followed the marked trail back to Kennedy Meadows, and finished at the car parking at noon. During the entire hike I saw only two people, on the trail going back to Kennedy Meadows.