Title-2 Welcome-2 About Driving-map
The Leavitt Lake entrance to the Emigrant Wilderness is a 185 mile drive from San Mateo, much of it along California Highway 108.
A Jeep trail departs Hwy 108 about 4 miles east of the Sonora Pass. The Emigrant Wilderness area is shown here in blue.
Overview-1 Z-GE Overview
A 2013 Google Earth updated view
Northern-half-2
The northern half of the trip
Southern-half
The southern half of the trip
Trip-profile-2
Trip elevation profile
Permit
Picked up the wilderness permit from the Pinecrest ranger station just after noon on Saturday, July 14th
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Arrived 1:00pm at the Sonora Pass on Highway 108 (crossing point for the Pacific Crest Trail)
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Starting up the 3-mile Jeep trail...
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...from the Highway 108 turnoff to Leavitt Lake
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The first of three creek crossings
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After navigating the challenging access road, arrived at Leavitt Lake (9,556 feet elevation) at 1:45pm
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The Jeep’s home for the next few days
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Underway at 2:30pm along the WWII mining road that crosses the Sierra Crest
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Pausing for a breather at 10,000 feet
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Leavitt Lake fades into the distance
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Approaching Leavitt Lake Pass, a view of Yosemite’s mountains to the south
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The Pacific Crest Trail joins the route for a short distance
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A long descent from Leavitt Lake Pass lies ahead
0 - Camp1
Made an early camp the first night at Kennedy Creek to acclimatize to the altitude
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Camp 1, which was buffeted by high winds throughout the night
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The setting sun creates a spectacular alpen glow on the mountains behind Camp 1
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A look at the trail ahead
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Shortly after sunset at Camp 1
Day 1
Day 1 trail notes
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Day 2 (Sunday) begins with a hearty oatmeal breakfast
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The winds finally subsided, yielding to a sunny day ahead
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Broke camp at 9:45am and resumed the climb towards Big Sam Pass, the highest point of the trip at 10,825 feet elevation
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The “U” shaped signature of a glacial valley to the north of the trail
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Once above the tree line, the terrain becomes quite stark
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Volcanic rock deposits enroute to the summit
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The trail ahead climbs in switchbacks towards the pass
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Two hikers descend from Big Sam Pass
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A first look at the Emigrant basin from near the summit
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Rock formations to the north
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Arnica somehow survives at the windswept pass
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Sawtooth Ridge dominates Yosemite’s skyline to the south
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Pausing at the Big Sam summit to enjoy the view
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Starting the descent towards High Emigrant Lake (leftmost lake below)
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The broad trail descends though a series of switchbacks
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Arnica flourishes on the sunny slopes
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Spectacular scotch broom
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Missing a flipper?
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Approaching the loop intersection near Grizzly Peak ahead
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A closer look at Grizzly Peak’s unusual mineral deposits
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Arriving at Grizzly Meadow 3:00pm Sunday afternoon
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Nearby Grizzly Peak Lake
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Pausing during a difficult ascent towards Snow and Bigelow Lakes
0 - Camp2
Little-visited Bigelow Lake serves as the site for Camp 2
Day 2
Day 2 trail notes
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Morning of Day 3 (Monday) at Bigelow Lake...the weather is cool and windy
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A check dam at the north end of the lake
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Bigelow Lake looking south
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On the trail at 9:35am. This sign points the way to several local destinations from Black Bear Lake.
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Arriving at Horse Meadow following a steep descent from Black Bear Lake
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Looking northeast up Horse Meadow at 8,450 feet elevation
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The southwest end of Horse Meadow
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Fences restrain the cattle that sometimes graze in this meadow
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A primitive stock gate at the south end of the meadow
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Beginning a 3-mile descent to Huckleberry Lake from Horse Meadow following the East Fork of Cherry Creek
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Lupine, arnica and Indian paintbrush cover the trailside
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Wild daisies and paintbrush also flourish
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The spectacular colors glow in the morning sun
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Taking a break while searching for the difficult-to-find trail connector at Huckleberry Lake
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A view of Huckleberry Lake looking north
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A beautiful lily pond at Huckleberry Lake
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Following a good bit of cross-country navigating, the critical trail intersection is finally located
0 - Camp3
After a difficult ascent up a poorly maintained trail, Camp 3 is made near Letora Lake
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The tent is situated next to a towering Ponderosa Pine
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Looking east from camp towards an unnamed lake near Letora Lake
Day 3
Day 3 trail notes
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Awoke on Day 4 (Tuesday) with a severe eye irritaion, probably caused by wind and the high altitude UV.
Shortly after departing camp at 8:45am, noted this sign pointing the way back to Huckelberry Lake. Rough trail? Oh yes...
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Following a 600 foot ascent from Cow Meadow Lake, reached Lower Buck Lake at 11:30am
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Northern Buck Lake at 8,320 feet elevation
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Another stock gate near Buck Lakes
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Nearing Buck Meadow, north of the lakes
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Enjoying the spectacular scenery in Buck Meadow
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The trail heads for another climb... the peak ahead towers over Emigrant Lake
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After a long ascent, approached Emigrant Lake at 3:30pm from the west
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A first look at this very large lake while heading east
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Another view facing west
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Pausing for a moment at the southern end of the lake
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Unusual rock formations line the shore
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The very rocky trail continues along the shore
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Lupine provides the foreground for a look at a Half Dome-like rock face
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A closer look at “Half Dome 2”
0 - Camp4
Camp 4 is made 4:45pm at the northeast end of Emigrant Lake
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A large rock provides the tent shelter from the wind
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Filtering water for camp use
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The temperature is dropping quickly...
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...as the winds intensify
Day 4
Day 4 trail notes
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Day 5 (Wednesday) begins with sunshine and frost
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Starting the day with strong camp coffee…
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Airing the gear in the morning sun
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Underway again at 9:30am. This photo shows the intersection of the trail to Blackbird and Middle Emigrant Lakes.
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The trail at times is very challenging to follow
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Approaching Middle Emigrant Lake at 9,335 feet elevation
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Camp site used in another backpacking trip many years earlier (September, 1988)
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The reflective surface of backpacker’s umbrella provides protection from the high altitude UV
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Emigrant Meadow Lake at 9,407 feet elevation
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A backpacker’s most important equipment
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More trailside lupine enroute to Grizzly Meadow
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Arrived Grizzly Meadow Lake at 12:45pm
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Another view of Grizzly Meadow Lake at 9,616 feet elevation
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Approaching Grizzly Peak, this time from the west
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Making shade for a lunch break
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The loop is closed at Grizzly Peak
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A final look back, leaving Grizzly Peak behind
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Northbound again towards the famous Emigrant Pass
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Moss campion in full bloom near the pass
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Looking west back down onto Emigrant Meadow Lake
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Approaching High Emigrant Lake at 9,706 feet elevation
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This check dam provides an anchor for abundant flowers
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Another view of the dam
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Unusual rock formations at the north end of High Emigrant Lake
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Ascending once more to near the tree line
0 - Camp5
Camp 5 is made early (3:45pm) at High Emigrant Lake... not enough time in the day for the double pass crossing
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Camping in tundra-like terrain
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The tent must be well-secured since there is little shelter from the wind
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A water source is located conveniently nearby
Day 5
Day 5 trail notes
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The temperature drops during the night... the gear is mostly frozen Thursday morning
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Frosty tent fly
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The frozen grass begins to thaw as the sun rises over the mountains
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Camp 5's kitchen shows the bear canister that also serves as a handy stool
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The coffee making equipment is critical survival gear
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Departed High Emigrant Lake at 9:00am and began the ascent towards Big Sam Pass
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The trail is often very steep
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The cold wind is now blowing with gale force
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Finally reached Big Sam Pass 10:45am after a long climb to 10,825 feet elevation
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From the summit looking north
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From the summit looking west
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From the summit looking east
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From the summit looking south into Yosemite
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The switchbacks leading to the pass as seen from above
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The trail descends sharply only to re-ascend in the distance
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The trail route is shown here in red
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Even in late July, the snows continue to melt
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Just below the Big Sam summit, a substitute for the Sigaba flag…
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Kennedy Lake to the west
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The PCT breaks south into Kennedy Canyon
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Two backpackers enter the wilderness along with their canine companion
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The “U” shaped Kennedy Canyon
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The trail back to Leavitt Lake Pass is long and difficult
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A final view to the south
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Alternative routes up the mountain
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Finally reached Leavitt Lake Pass at 2:00pm
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The steep descent back to Leavitt Lake begins
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The lake comes closer into view
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Arrived back at the car 2:45pm. Time for a beer and a steak at Kennedy Meadows...
Day 6
Day 6 trail notes
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The first creek crossing on the rough road back to Highway 108
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Incredible vistas to the north and east
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Cattle roam freely on and near the road
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A final look back, just south of the Sonora Pass on Highway 108
The-End