Monday, August 17, 2009

Emigrant Wilderness – Gianelli Cabin trailhead to Toejam Lake – 07/11 – 07/12/09

On July 11 and 12th a group of six adventures headed out to Toejam Lake about an 8.5 mile hike. I was leading this trip as part of my local Sierra Club backpacking group. After weighing our backpacks and taking some happy pre-hike pictures we were off. The trail starts out gradually climbing through a forest and soon you come to the Burst Rock Lookout. From Burst Rock we had great views looking North at Castle and Cooper Peaks and the Three Chimneys. After taking a short stop at Burst Rock we carried on to Emigrant Pass. We then headed down the trail and came to a great slope that had a good number of wildflowers including some very colorful Paintbrush, Western Wallflower and Mule’s Ear. This slope would be a source of distraction and lots of picture taking on the way back, especially for me. We also saw lots of Lupine plants but they had about a week and a half to two weeks left before they started to bloom. I had been hoping for more wildflowers but the weather stayed pretty cold up in the mountains until mid-June but there was still plenty to see.

We headed past the junction for Chewing Gum Lake and up and onto a great plateau where we stopped and had some lunch. This plateau always sticks out in my mind and I was looking forward to hiking it. You have really great views looking to I guess what would be North…it’s a bit of a Sound of Music moment. After lunch we headed down into a really beautiful meadow called Whitesides Meadow or at this time of year we fondly nicknamed it Mosquito Meadow. I braved the mosquitoes to take some pictures for a photography class I was taking and I figured my blood was already a bit thin since I had been sucked dry on the last trip. We moved very quickly through the meadow and past a junction that will take you to Upper Relief Valley and instead walked a bit further to the signed junction to Toejam Lake. It was late in the afternoon at this point and we all moved quickly to get to the lake. The trail to the lake took us through a forested area before finally coming out into a small meadow that led to Toejam Lake. Many have asked about the name of this lake and all I can say is that a few of us definitely had some toes jammed by the time we reach our destination. There weren’t many folks camped out at Toejam and we felt like we had the place nearly to ourselves and a resident marmot family. By the time I noticed all of the marmot scat we were already setup, the group was tired and there hadn’t been any marmot trouble since we had gotten there. There were 3 curious but not troublesome juvenile marmots that provided a good amount of entertainment for us. We watched the sunset and some good alpenglow and then headed to our tents for the night.

I got up before the group and did some wandering uphill to check out the views to the southeast. I also wanted to get some early morning pictures but unfortunately nothing turned out really well. After chowing down on some breakfast and taking many many pictures of the young marmots we headed out. We returned the way that we came in and stopped to identify flowers and/or swat mosquitoes. Close to the finish of the trip we saw an interesting phenomenon called a Circumhorizon Arc where a rainbow appears in a seemingly clear sky. It’s apparently very unusual to see this arc and we were lucky that Steve was able to capture a picture of it. We arrived back at our trailhead around 3:00 and were treated to some delicious pizza and pasta in Soda Springs. All in all it was a great time!

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