Emigrant Wilderness

2000 July

Emigrant Wilderness


This trip was my first introduction to backpacking in the Sierras, although I was used to living out of pack after my cross-country bike ride and had done many day trips (such as Half Dome, Mt.Whitney, etc.) However, this time I would be out for 4 days and 3 nights with Henrik, a co-worker whom had the plush corner cube next to me since I had started at Gerwick in November of 1999. I was a novice but didn’t feel like one.

Prior to this trip I had read an influential book on lightweight backpacking by Ray Jardine, so Henrik thought that I had some pretty crazy ideas. In place of his boots I had running shoes and instead of an internal frame pack I had a frameless sack that I could crumble into the size of a melon and had sewn yellow pockets on the side of. I had also made a synthetic quilt based on instructions given in the book. It was simply two sheets of ripstop nylon that I sewed together on three sides, inserted sheets of synthetic insulation, and then sewed the fourth side shut. The idea is to save weight by eliminating the bottom since, once compressed, doesn’t provide insulation. It was slightly wider at my shoulders than at my feet and covered me whether or not I was sleeping on my back or side.

Other than that, our equipment was fairly standard. He had an inflatable pad while mine was foam. Each night he would take of his boots and change into Teva sandals while I left my shoes on. In the morning he would tape his feet and put on heavy socks while I had thin cycling socks that didn’t go past my ankles. We used the same tent that served me well during my ride from Oregon to Virginia one summer ago. Trekking poles were usually in his hands while mine dangled free. Regarding food, we brought my Teflon coated aluminum pot and used my Snowpeak canister stove. During the bike trip I had used a non-coated aluminum pot and a liquid fuel stove. Upon completing the ride I made the switch.

For food, Henrik was in charge and we had bagels for breakfast and lunch with freeze dried meals for dinner. Cream cheese and salami accompanied the bagels. We also had the usual snacks consisting of M&M’s, energy bars, etc.

It would make a better story if something went wrong, but nothing did. My equipment worked flawlessly, although my shoes were ready for the trash by the end of the trip (This would turn out to haunt me a week later, as I ran in the San Francisco Marathon with my brothers shoes, that were ½ size to small and I had never worn before). The pack held up, I didn’t get any blisters, and I was warm enough at night with my quilt. Actually, writing this text in January of 2004, it is without no small amount of smugness that I report that my only step towards the dark side (heavy backpacking) has been the purchase of trekking poles. Henrik, on the other hand, has slowly but surely been paring down his weight. One of my goals in life is to get him backpacking in running shoes, I think I will be ready to die a happy man if that happens, but he sure is stubborn…

And about the trip, it was FANTASTIC! Everything was great, the scenery, weather, and company (you owe me for that Henrik). Actually, not 15 minutes after starting the trip Henrik told me not to be worried if I happened to find the small jar of Vaseline in his pack as he used it to keep his butt cheeks from chaffing due to accumulated salt from back sweat. OK Henrik, whatever you say! Too much information!

Day 1

Start at Crabtree Trailhead, continue past Camp Lake, Piute Meadow, Piute Lake, Gem Lake and onto Jewelry Lake. We camped just south of there.

Not far from the trailhead we enter the Emigrant Wilderness, Hooray!

We had to take of our shoes to cross the river here but what happened to the rest of my clothes? If you look close you can see Henrik lurking in the trees with his jar of Vaseline. Eeww…

Here I am on a lake that is turning into a meadow, can you say “eutrification”?

This fabulous swimming area was just below our campsite the first night. I do think that the camera makes my butt look wide.

And here is our night 1 campsite. The waterfall at the center and top of the picture is the same one you can see in the previous picture. My tent here, a Coleman Peak 1, is great. It weighs under 4 pounds and sleeps two, although it is cozy. The best part is that you can get it for under $100.

After dinner we climbed a rock to watch the sunset and eat M&M’s. Finally a picture of the photographer.

Day 2

Continue past Deer Lake, Buck Lakes, Emigrant Lake, Blackbird Lake, and onto Maxwell Lake where we camped.

Breakfast on day 2. Although I wrote above that we had bagels for breakfast, this picture appears to show us eating cereal, probably granola with powdered milk. This is one of my ideas that Henrik has embraced. We walked from camp 1 without eating until we reached this lake, then climbed up the rocks per Henrik. I really like his idea of striking camp and eating breakfast after walking a while as it allows you to relax in a new spot, usually with warmer weather. Note my running shoes and cycling socks.

Henrik’s taped feet get some air during lunch on day 2.

On the trail during day 2. Note the yellow fabric I sewed onto my pack to make external pockets.

Relaxing before entering the meadow in the background. It was one of the prettiest meadows I have ever been in, maybe close to what Yosemite Valley was like before all of the people, but full of mosquitoes. Although we had DEET, I literally ran through most of the meadow. I would love to go back much later in the season.

Our campsite above Maxwell Lake on Day 2.

Day 3

Continue past Huckleberry Lake, Frog Lake, Cow Meadow Lake, Wood Lake, detour to Karls Lake, then follow Buck Meadow Creek until it intersects with Cherry Creek where we camped.

Drying the groundsheet at the start of day 3.

Early on in day 3 we hiked above and by Horse Meadow in the fog.

Henrik crosses Cherry Creek.

I cross Wood Lake with my underwear pulled up “sumo” style.

Reflection in a small lake.

Henrik at the waterfalls on Cherry Creek just above our day 3 camp. We had a good time exploring this area after setting up our campsite.

Day 4

Follow Cherry Creek up to Piute Meadow (rejoining the part of the trail we were on at day 1, then back past Camp Lake and finally back to Crabtree Trailhead.

Left: Lake, log, lilly pads, and Lee. Casey Lee Bowden that is.

Back at the car with the shoes and pack in full glory. My car started sputtering while crossing the Bay Bridge and broke down near the top of Pine Street. Henrik and I managed to push it uphill to a flat area at which point he grabbed his pack and took the BART home. Otto (my car) was towed to a shop in San Francisco that said I needed a new alternator and quoted me several hundred dollars. I didn’t believe them and had him towed all the way to my favorite shop, Volks Café, in Santa Cruz (thank goodness for the 100 mile towing radius of AAA Plus). Peter at Volks Cafe told me that the wire appeared to have come loose but that they (the SF shop) had already fixed it! Since the SF shop was AAA recommended I wrote AAA a letter but never heard anything about it.


Click here for a pdf of this map.