06/27/2009 - Emigrant Wilderness - Leopold Lake
Where do I start with this trip? It was definitely an adventure for the books. This was the second trip of the backpacking season for me and definitely more challenging than the trip the week before. The plan was to start out from the Crabtree trailhead in Emigrant Wilderness and head up Tom’s Canyon x-country and head over to Leopold Lake. I had heard and read that this lake was really beautiful and I couldn’t wait to check it out. This trip was also an opportunity for me to try out my new Garmin 60cx which we would all soon fall in love with.
We got an early start (early for me). We headed to the Serene Bean in Pinecrest to get our fill of coffee and unhealthy breakfast foods. We picked up our permit from the Summit ranger station where we were warned that there was snow above 8300 and that Chewing Gum Lake was surrounded by snow. Our destination sat at 8800 feet….hmmm should be interesting. After weighing our bags and trying desperately to shed some additional weight we headed out. It was really beautiful day…blue skies and warm weather. The trail out of Crabtree has good forest cover and the wildflowers were starting to bloom. We took a break at Camp Lake which is a really nice spot and then walked on to what we called Lunch Lake. I don’t believe the lake has a name and it’s right before you hit Piute Meadow. Steve and I had stopped at this lake a few years back and the lily pads helped us remember that.
Now for the hard work….Once we hit Piute Meadow we started to head north up Tom’s Canyon. We were armed and ready to go with 4 maps, 3 compasses and a GPS. No one could say we weren’t prepared. Steve took the lead and was enthused to work with the GPS. Will was getting a little tired by now and we thought it best not to mention the climb ahead of us but instead we focused on getting to our first waypoint. The first part of the hike up Tom’s Canyon is easy and we headed North up through trees. We finally hit the granite and based on the route I mapped and things I read we starting heading west we ultimately wanted to avoid this keyhole that the creek ran through since it did not appear to be navigable. We marched on and up and stayed a bit further east than we wanted to but nevertheless we got to where we wanted and hit the meadow we wanted to cross to start climbing up into Leopold. By this time the mosquitoes were fierce and I could barely stand it, it was also hot, my feet were swollen and I knew we had another 1000 feet to climb. By this time we had climbed about 1500 feet. We re-deeted and started to head up east across the granite. We took a good number of stops and just made our way slowly but surely. The route up was very easy and finally we reached the ridge..yeah! We walked a bit further and got our first glimpse of the lake…and boy were we rewarded such a beautiful lake. I can’t really do justice in describing Leopold so you will just have to go and take a look for yourself.
It was about 5:30 by the time we got into camp and we’d been hiking since 9:30 so we were all a little tuckered. We setup our tents and then dipped our toes into the cool water. Dinner was just a bit aways but I was a little afraid of what lay ahead that evening. Steve had brought along expired freeze dried backpacking food…Doesn’t that sound yummy? Thankfully we also brought a bottle of wine carried via Steve’s new wine Platy holder so at least we might be a little toasted before digging into those vittles. After some happy hour Goldfish we fired up the Whisperlite and cooked dinner…I had rice and bean stew which filled me up. I’ll spare you any details about the beans. After dinner Steve started up a nice fire and we hung out and roasted marshmallows. Thank goodness Will brought along his 3 pound Marine knife so he could whittle a marshmallow roasting stick. So Steve and I sugared up on marshmallows, Will headed to bed and we watched a spectacular star show begin.
Ah morning…..nothing like getting out of your tent at 6:30 am and having mosquitoes bite you. I couldn’t believe it I thought for sure we’d avoid the sqeeters if we were up early but no luck. It must have been one of the warmest mornings I’ve ever experienced backpacking. We brewed some yummy Peet’s coffee and then moved on to making pancakes topped with apple sugar yumminess….oh yeah. Now there was one very unfortunate moment in the morning and that is when Will broke open his pack of Spam…yes you read right pack of Spam. I was horrified it was pink very bright pink and it smelled…bringing back some childhood memories of dad frying spam for breakfast. We encouraged him to consume that Spam quickly and focused on our pancakes.
Since we had had a challenging first day we thought we would take it easy (HA) and instead of going down Tom’s Canyon we would head over x-country to Y Meadow Lake and then go down that Canyon to catch the trail at Bear Lake back to the Crabtree trailhead…uh yeaaahh easy. We first made a stop at Toejam Lake and I was happy to stop there since I would be returning with a group to that lake in 2 weeks. It was very pretty and there was no one there so I took that as a good sign. We then headed west over to Y Meadow…we did a pretty good job navigating over but hit the lake a bit further north than we wanted. We took a break at the lake which is really pretty and saw only one other group there. We chatted briefly with them and I think they thought we were a little crazy when we said we were headed out from Leopold. So we chugged on and headed towards the dammed end of the lake and then down and down. There was a fair amount of snow on the east side of the canyon so we were really putting our navi skills to the test and had to make our way slowly. We also had to do some scrambling and in a couple of places I took my pack off to get down because I wasn’t comfortable with the weight pushing me down. Then somehow we ran into a mosquito lair…at least that is what I am calling it…they came out of nowhere and started attacking us and we had to cross a log that sat about 7 feet above the creek….I think Will was ready to push me in so he could escape those little devils.
We finally reached Bear Lake where all of the lightweight backpackers stay (just kidding) we took a decent break here before heading out to the main trail. Getting back on the trail was nice and seemed sooooo easy after all of the off trail head been done. I started to smell the beer in my car about 3 miles out and put the gas on and before I knew it we were back and I had a nice cold beer in hand….yeah. What a great trip and we definitely had a great sense of accomplishment. We had done a little over 20 miles and gained 3200 feet in less than 48 hours and 10 of those miles were off trail. That deserved a stop at the Diamond Back Grill in Sonora…and we did stop and chowed down on garlic fries, wine, beer, salads and burgers. All in all as usual a great trip and I would like to point out another trip successfully completed by Steve and I without rain.