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2021: Crabtree to Emigrant Lake loop

July 15, 2021

2021: Crabtree to Emigrant Lake (Emigrant Wilderness)
(apx 32 miles)

June 26 – July 1

Nick, Gary, Stanley, Russ, Soondeuk

Day 1: Crabtree TH to Piute Lake (7.7 miles).
Day 2: Piute Lake to Emigrant Lake (7.3 miles).
Day 3: Layover @ Emigrant. Explore, day hike, lay about.
Day 4: Emigrant Lake to Grouse Lake (14 miles,)
Day 5: Grouse Lake to Crabtree TH (4 miles)

My trip started with a mini-adventure in itself just getting to the trial head. I wanted to carpool, and wanted to get there the night before, as the plan was to meet at the trailhead at 9:00 to head out. Stanley, who lived near me, agreed to carpool, but he was staying at an inn over 30 miles from the trail head. I was not going to stay at an Inn and needed a place to camp, hopefully closer to the trail head. Russ, who was coming the other way, agreed to pick me, up. We agree to meet in a town between the two—but it turns out when I got there, there was not really a town there! And my cell service was out. Instead, Stanley drove me to the Ranger station near the turn off. Stanley’s service was working, but Russ did not reply. Stanley left for his inn, and I waited by the highway hoping Russ got the message. Turned out he was out of cell service too, until getting over the Sonora pass. He did find me at the Ranger station.

Nick at trailhead camping

We went for a good dinner at Mia’s (Stanley’s suggestion), which is just by the turn off to Crabtree.

As Gary, the trip organizer admitted, leaving on a Saturday was not the best plan, as the parking lot was full and also lots of other people on the trail the first day. We actually headed out closer to 9:30 than 9:00 after getting organized. I left with a full pack weight of 30lbs—about 3 of it water – which is my lowest yet. Not an ultra-lighter yet, but creeping downward over the years.

Day 1: Crabtree TH to Piute Lake (7.7 miles).

The trail had a lot of up and down in it, and passed some nice lakes. We started at an altitude of about 7,100 feet, and ended at about 8,000 feet. We were also leapfrogging several other hiking groups, though most were eventually turning off for different trails. What we did notice this year was that while the main streams were running, the tributaries we pretty much dry. The other thing we had to handle the whole trip was abundant mosquitos.

We took a long lunch at around 12:40, and after heading out again arrived at Piute lack at about 3:20. We found camping above the lake, close to it. I did get in a swim, the want not so cold, though no great access.

Russ, Stanley, Nick, Soondeuk
Camp Lake
Camp at Piute

Day 2: Piute Lake to Emigrant Lake (7.3 miles).

We left Piute at about 8:30. We passed two very nice lakes on the way, Gem, which looks to have good camping and swimming, and Jewel.

The mosquitos were swarming until we got to Buck Lake. Past the lakes we found a good place to stop for lunch along a bend in the stream, where there was also a little spot deep enough to immerse oneself.

Nick have a quick dip

We had a little breeze which made for a comfortable time to enjoy another leisurely lunch break.

Gary and Russ at lunch

Then there was about a 600 foot climb up and a bit to get to the lake. At the head of the lake the main trail goes around the right side, while there is a use train to the lake. At first, we took the main trail to see if there was camping near that side, but hiked a little ways not finding any. So, we backtracked and took the other path. It led around to the outlet side, but had to do a little scrambling. There was a group of three guys who had camped a bit back from the lake where there are some trees—while it looked to be the best camping we later found there were only about 2 good spots there.

Nick at Emigrant Lake

There was also a nice sandy beach there. We hiked just past the sandy beach and fond on the slope there were some sandy terraced spots big enough for single tents. We each found our spot. In most of these spots one could not use stakes as the sand was only covering a thin layer before you got to rock.

Nick’s tent at Emigrant Lake

The water there was nice, and there was a perfect rock to dive off into some deep water. Cold but not too cold to actually stay in a bit.

The mosquitoes were pretty bad there, though for most of our stay.

Day 3: Layover @ Emigrant. Explore, day hike, lay about.ay 3

The next day Gary wanted to do a reconnaissance of a 4-mile cross country part to meet up with the loop to head back, rather than take the trials the long way around. There had once been an actual trail, but while occasionally we saw pieces of it, for the most part it no longer existed. Soondeuk and I decided to come along—for me better than hanging out at the lake warding off mosquitos all day.

We headed along the outlet, then on the way down stayed a little high, not really following the outlet falls, but along it. The mosquitos were out as we headed down. We stayed to the left other the ridge and went around the knoll, as we got near the river. To follow the river, we often had to scramble through and around some bush. Once down to the valley, we turned to the left along the river, and had to do a bit of scrambling there. It took just under two hours for us to find the trail.

Gary quenches his thirst

Then we headed back up. This time we headed upwards earlier, and went over the ridge, rather than around it, where we had had to scramble some working through brush. On the way back, we were hounded by not just the mosquitos, but by some flies that would endless buzz and circle our heads.

The best respite was on the granite slab slope where we took a break.

A bit after that, as we hiked, Soondeung discovered her phone was missing—turned out the bottom seam of her back pocket had given out totally. There was no point in even trying to retrace our steps. The only hope was that the next day we might be able to run across it, and maybe if it fell on the slab area might be visible.

We were back at the camp by about 11:00, meaning we did the round trip in about four hours.  At camp there was a nice breeze which seemed to be keeping the mosquitoes away. After a dip, some lunch and a bit of lounging, Gary and I took a stroll following the main path to the other end of the lake and back.

When we got back it turned out the other three had moved their tents to were the guys from he day before had been. There were not spaces for any more tents, hardly more than 2 good spaces really.  The mosquitos might have been worse there, and it was further form the lake, so Gary and I stayed where we were.

Camp at Emigrant Lake

Day 4: Emigrant Lake to Grouse Lake (14 miles)

We started out early around 7:30ish.  Heading down we could not really following either of our previous routes, and just made our way. We did try to look a bit on the granite for the phone, but was hard to tell if we are on the same area of it, and we had no luck. With full packs it took us a bit over two hours to get back to the main trail. From here it was good hiking. And mostly, while the mosquitoes were there, they got less bothersome.

Wood Lake

Wood Lake was really quite beautiful, I could imagine it being a good place to camp, though we did not really check to see if there were good camping spots there. We hen flowed the outlet stream for several miles. At some point, we crossing the stream, we were heading up, away from it. This confused us, as I looking at our maps we thought we followed the stream all the way until the turn off to head back up to Crabtree. We backtracked some to see if we missed a turn off, rechecked maps…  it was not until Stanley turned on his GPS on his phone that we realized we were on the right trail the –that the stream veered away from us, and we went up and over a ridge.

Soondeuk finding a sign post

Originally we had thought of stopping at Wood Lake, but then decided we did not want a 10 mile last day hike out. Grouse Lake became our new destination. This made for a 14 mile day with some of it being cross country, but would give us an easy hike out the next day of only about 4 miles.

We arrived at Grouse lake maybe 4ish. The only good access to the lake appeared to be at the west end, and there was a developed campsite there, with a family of 4four staying there, though we guessed it might not have been legal, maybe too close to the lake. Right on the other side of the trial, across form them was a large developed area with lots of spaces for good camping.

To get to the water, however, we did have to walk right through their camp ground, which they were understanding about.

Nick at Grouse Lake

The water was really nice—I took a good dip—refreshingly cold, but warm enough to actually swim in.

Day 5: Grouse Lake to Crabtree TH (4 miles)

We got up reasonably early for a good tart, and after a about a mile had the climb of about 600 ft to the junction, then another mile or so, a there we were, back at the parking lot!

For the full photo album of this trip click here

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