A while ago one of my Strava buddies posts a hike way in the middle of the Sierras out of a trailhead called Crabtree which is north of Yosemite. I let it go and a week or so later Ron, who lives in the neighborhood, walks by and we chat. He has a group that are planning a trip out of the same trailhead and now I think I had better look into it. Then a trip to Idaho gets cancelled and I say; this is it, lets go!
Haven’t done much backpacking recently and we’re cautious as to our shelved abilities for a multiday trip. The area requires about a 10 mile hike in before you start to really enjoy the scenery so we pick a four night itinerary and start organizing.
We travel light these days, not ultralight, but simply light which to me means carry only what you need and sufficient so that you can enjoy yourself. There is a classic “Emigrant Loop” that has an upper and lower route into the high lakes that we want to experience. Ron’s group were starting later than us and doing an extended clockwise route. We decided on a shorter anticlockwise so that we would pass each other somewhere on the trail.
Drove up to Crabtree on a Saturday and found the parking lot packed with the weekend crowd. Slept in the back of the Prius and hit the trail shortly after 8am on the Sunday. I should also mention that there were a few fires burning, far away to not threaten us but the wind patterns will blow the smoke wherever it pleases.
Four miles in we reach Grouse Lake and stop for a break. Now water is an issue and we must have it at our campsites as I was not going to carry that much extra weight for a dry camp somewhere. Others on the trail tell us the next reliable source is Wood Lake which another 7 miles past Grouse making it a total of 11 miles, our upper limit for one day.
We’re feeling good and we push on but I’m only carrying 1 liter which I will finish before the sanctity of Wood Lake. Rose carries more which I will be grateful for later on.
The trail climbs about 1500′ which includes two downhills of about 500′ and 300′. Soon after the 300′ drop we meet a large group of young folk also going in and they tell us they found water 1/4 mile up Buck Creek. We decline the scavenger hunt and push on for the final 4 miles.
I run out of water about a mile short of the lake and bum some from Rose to get me into camp. I am pooped to say the least but we have made it and the next day will be a short one so we can sleep in and drink plenty.
Fishing is popular and apparently pretty good for Rainbow trout but I was amused to see the guy with a big tube on his back – never got to see him use it though.
Leaving Wood Lake we slow down and enjoy the surroundings and stop for a second breakfast of bagel and peanut butter besides a mellow unnamed lake.
It was not even 2 miles when we reached Lower Buck Lake, found a site overlooking the lake and stopped for the day. Gusty winds blew the smoke in and we wondered how bad it was going to get.
Next morning it was classic Sierra – blue water and clear skies. Now on the permit I had said we would spend two nights at Buck but in talking to fellow hikers we decided to modify that and move over to Deer Lake which many liked. It would also shave off a few miles for our hike out.
Yes, there is a drought in California and while there are plenty of lakes with water up here we found very little flowing water and the smaller ponds turned stagnant like the one above.
On our second to last day we expected to meetup with Ron and sure enough there they were. Ron & Al were ahead of the others so we stopped and shared some trail new with each other.
Last night was at Lilly Lake, about 4 miles from the trailhead. We had a good campsite above the lake and proceeded to finish most of our food except for a packet of oats and some power bars for the hike out. Plenty of fuel and coffee for the morning.
Treating the water: Boil it, requires carrying extra fuel; filter it; treat it with iodine tablets, ugh; or put your faith in a SteriPEN that kills the bacteria with an ultraviolet light source. The water we got from the lakes was clear with minimal sediment and all we needed was to sterilize the water.
Hiked out on the Thursday with plenty of time to drive home before dark. We both felt great and maybe there will be a another one sometime soon.