After a long week in Fort Bedrock, we made a last minute plan to head out on a weekend hike. It was tough to decide between the Rae Lake Loop in SEKI or the Emigrant Wilderness. Since we weren’t planning to leave until Saturday morning, Emigrant wilderness was a viable choice. This glaciated and wilderness beauty is situated just north of Yosemite National Park in Stanislaus National forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 140 mi from Oakland, it was an easy drive to get to the Trailhead.
We arrived at the Crabtree Trailhead by 11:30 am on Saturday and started the hike towards Camp lake. I personally hate out and back trips and my friends were with me. We decided to do a loop and the goal was to get to Deer Lake by evening.
It was a gradual climb from Crabtree Trailhead to Camp Lake with an elevation gain of about 500 ft over 2.6 miles. Camp Lake is a beauty. Bedrock Co-Founder, Dan, who is an enthusiastic fly fisherman noticed that the lake was filled with rainbow trout. We regretted not bringing a fishing pole. It was getting warmer by now and after a quick break we headed towards Piute Lake. We missed our trail on our way and ended up at dead end where we found an awesome swimming hole and decided to take a quick dip to beat the heat. The water was ice cold but so refreshing. A Couple of hikers who camped nearby warned us about the apocalypse that was awaiting us. They warned us about the swarms and swarms of mosquitoes near Gem Lake and all the lakes that lay ahead in our loop. In fact they just couldn’t camp anywhere near Gem lake so they hiked back all the way to just to avoid the mosquitoes. We thought they were exaggerating the mosquito situation. We ignored their warnings and headed towards Piute Lake.
Dan – Soaking in the beauty of Camp Lake
Right as we entered the Piute meadow, we were given a warm welcome by a few hundred blood thirsty mosquitoes. Coming from India and growing up in a poor neighborhood, I have seen some gnarly mosquitoes until that moment. Sierra Nevada mosquitoes were just relentless. If only I had 10% of their perseverance, I would have won a couple of 100 mile races. It was that bad to the point that even running didn’t help. At one point I was running a 7mph downhill and they kept up with me. Soon we reached Piute lake and Gem lake. It was beautiful scenery but a very short lived one. The very few seconds we stopped to take pictures, we were surrounded by hundreds of these crazy suckers, literally.
If God had granted me a wish that time, I wouldn’t have asked him for the world’s riches, rather I would have begged him to kill all the mosquitoes on planet earth and make them an extinct species. They are of no good use. Even as I am writing this post, I am taking a scratch break every 5 minutes just to ease of the itches from those nasty bites. With another 300 ft climb, we passed through Jewelry Lake and made it to Deer Lake.
Deer lake was definitely our favorite of all the lakes we passed by. After a couple of quick pictures, we decided to camp on higher grounds just to avoid the mosquitoes. We found a peak that was so high that we could see the entire Deer Lake and the distant mountains in Hoover Wilderness.
My lowest point in the entire trip
Sunset over Hoover Wilderness
I peeked outside at around 3:00 am in the morning. It was a beautiful starry night with balmy temperatures around 60 degrees F close to 9,000 feet ASL.
We woke and quickly packed our bags, headed towards Whitesides meadow.
Here’s where the misadventures began. Dan and I hiked together the next day and Nick, Co-Founder of Bedrock, stayed with Erin. Along the way, we marked the trail with arrow signs especially on the confusing sections of the trail since Nick didn’t have a map. The trail to the Crabtree via Chewing Gum lake ended up to be more confusing than we expected. Since in was an infrequently maintained trail, there weren’t very many signs and there were overgrowths at couple of sections. We ended up taking a wrong turn that ended up to be a dead end with couple of hundred feet of vertical drop. From there we got a stunning panoramic view of the Bear Lake.
When we realized that we had no business to be hanging out at a ridge so close to the Bear Lake we started the long and strenuous climb northwards to find the trail. After about an hour of bushwhacking we finally ended up on the right trail. Mind you, all the while we were enduring those painful bites.
It was all downhill from there. With just about 3 miles to the finish line, we picked up our pace to get to a place where there were no mosquitoes. As soon as we got further south of the ridge line, the mosquitoes were vanishing slowly but steadily. By the time we reached Crabtree trailhead, there were no sign of them. I almost cried at that moment. No more agony and no more pain. I can finally lie down in peace without waving my hand around non stop like a fool. Right before the bridge crossing I took a dip in the ice cold waterpool. It felt heavenly and at the same time painful due to those bites.
Nick and Erin showed up within half hour. We laughed about our misadventures. Experiences like these makes a trip a memorable one. I will remember this trip for life.
Lesson Learnt: Do your homework. Carry mosquito nets and bug sprays.
Myth Buster: Pee doesn’t help to keep the mosquitoes away. I even tried this nasty thing out of desperation. Don’t ask me when and why. I just did it purely out of HOPE.
Man Vs Sierra Nevada Mosquitoes – Mosquitoes Won
Route – Follow the upper blue loop highlighted in the map
Overall, a beautiful 30 mile (mis)adventure hike in Emigrant Wilderness.