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Iceland Lake--Emigrant Wilderness
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Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Iceland Lake--Emigrant Wilderness on 08/20/2012 21:10:28 MDT Print View

The reason you haven't heard from us for a few days is that we were doing what we love--backpacking in the Sierra. This time it was around Emigrant Wilderness, to a series of lakes for which there is no trail, only sloping slabs of granite and a topo map to guide us.

We started at Kennedy Meadows and followed the horses and manure for five miles up to the junction with the trail to Lower Relief Valley. It had rained torrents the night before (we met one group who weathered five hours of thunder, lightning, and pouring rain near Emigrant Lake) and so our normally dry Sierra felt like a sauna. Steam was rising off the rocks, and we were sweating like...well, we were sweating.

But once we got above Relief Reservoir, things got a lot better. The trail goes through a very steep climb here, and after lunch we stopped at Summit Creek to enjoy the water, the view...and what the heck, let's camp here. That afternoon P took a recon hike up the granite just to make sure this route was possible...and came back down full of confidence.

The next morning we were up early and hiking straight up the smooth granite. What a wonderful way to explore the Sierra! The views opened up, and there were so many fabulous trees struggling in the granite that we kept stopping to take photos of them.


You can see all of our photos on our Picasa page for the trip:

In about an hour we were up at the top of the pass, and then pulled out our map and compass to make sure we were headed in the right direction. We contoured around the granite bowl, and ended up right where we wanted to be, at the northern corner of Ridge Lake. From there we hiked around to explore the three other lakes, fish a bit, and spend the day far from the madding crowds below. Wonderful. The sky was full of fluffy clouds, and we just wandered from one great spot to the next.

The last day was Friday, and we started early to beat the heat. Most of the hike back down to Kennedy Meadows was in shadow...but we also ran into seven (yep, seven!) groups of horses, from three to fourteen people in each. Add in a few groups of hikers, and it sure felt different from Iceland Lake.

This is not a trip for those who want a nice hike along a well-marked trail. In fact, the lakes in question are well off the trail, and take quite a bit of navigation. But they are lovely lakes, and we promise you that you won't see many people up in this area. And the scenery and fishing is pretty darn amazing.

(Note--we did not see a single fish at Iceland lake--only pollywogs. But Ridge Lake and its companion were full of fish, as was Summit Creek.)

chris Nelson

Locale: San Francisco
Nice pic on 08/29/2012 20:54:15 MDT Print View

Nice Pics Paul!

Seems like you had to watch the ground for manure from those horses. I love Emigrant! We are doing one last trip in September and are thinking Desolation because we have not been there. After seeing those pics from Emigrant I'm staring to thing we should do a hike out from Kennedy making it our third time this year at Emigrant. We will see....

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Convenience on 08/29/2012 22:03:57 MDT Print View

Emigrant does have the advantage of free permits and no trail quotas!

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Iceland Lake--Emigrant Wilderness on 09/13/2012 10:00:33 MDT Print View

Those pictures are lovely. They capture what I loved about Emigrant the one time I went there(Gianelli TH to Upper Wire Lake); that mix of granite and scraggly trees interspersed with meadows and lakes. It's not as high or dramatic as the Southern Sierra's, but I'm not sure I don't prefer it. I guess I'll find out on my upcoming trip to King Canyon NP, but you pictures make me wish I had made it to Emigrant more than that one time while I lived in CA. Someday I'll make it back.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
SEKI on 09/16/2012 22:41:49 MDT Print View

Ha! Well. we just got back from a trip to SEKI, so we can compare notes once I get the TR and photos posted!

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Iceland Lake--Emigrant Wilderness on 09/18/2012 11:12:58 MDT Print View

Gosh...that was some beautiful scenery. Once again, this east coast boy is jealous!