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Emigrant Wilderness 2012

Day 1 of 6

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Monday, August 13th
Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir
4.5 miles
1310 vertical feet (ascent)
390 vertical feet (descent)

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GPX File

In the morning, after a big breakfast, I put the water into our packs and did a weigh-in. I was happy when my pack weighed in at 55 pounds, until I realized that I'd forgotten to include my camera and our sandals (I'd be carrying all four pairs). Then I realized I'd be carrying close to the same weight as last year.

After a large breakfast, we checked out of the motel and then drove to the ranger station in Sonora, where I got the permit. I filled out our information, listing our intended camping destinations. The ranger mentioned that we'd probably get thunderstorms; she didn't mention which days, so I assumed she meant today (since the forecast I'd seen called for a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon, then sunny the rest of the week). She also mentioned that there would be bears at Huckleberry Lake, but as long as we used bear canisters (which we would), we'd be fine. As it was nearing 100 degrees in Sonora again, I was a bit worried about the temperature; I didn't think it'd be 100 because of the elevation difference, but I was worried about temps in the 90's. The ranger, though, said it would be around 82. Still warm, but definitely more manageable.

We stopped to pick up some sandwiches to go, then made the drive up to Kennedy Meadows. It's about a 1 hour, 10 minute drive from Sonora, up Highway 108. When we arrived in the large parking area, it was cloudy and...82 degrees (just like the ranger had said). It was also 1pm, making me a bit antsy. We only had a 4 mile hike today, so I wasn't too worried, but I wanted to leave soon. We prepped in the parking lot. While the others had a chance to eat lunch, I had to just stick mine in a ziploc bag and take it with me. After doing the final weigh-in, we finally got underway around 1:50pm. Here's a list of everything in our packs.

One thing I hadn't factored in is that the trailhead parking is quite far from the actual trailhead. The trail starts at the Kennedy Meadows Resort. Apparently you can pay them to park overnight, but we hadn't thought about this beforehand. If you're doing this trip, you might consider it, since it's a half mile from the free parking area to the trailhead.

We walked along the side of the paved road. There's not much traffic, and cars are generally slow here, but it was annoying having to walk along the road and then through the resort area. We walked past all the resort buildings, through the private parking lot, and finally reached the gate to start the hike proper.

As soon was we entered the gate, we saw a group of horses being led in the opposite direction. After they passed, we encountered a couple backpackers heading out. They mentioned that Relief Reservoir had some nice campsites with a beach nearby, and that we could access them near the stream crossing where there were a lot of logs.

Our hike started climbing up a wide dirt road, near a water tower, then down. From there, the road is relatively flat past more resort property. This area was mostly empty as we walked past, though it wouldn't be when we returned.

Kennedy Meadow

There can be vehicular traffic along this section of "trail", so be on the lookout. About a mile past the gate, the road ends and the Emigrant Wilderness begins. Two signs denote the start of the wilderness area. The wide dirt road gives way to a rocky trail. It also starts climbing, and soon passes over the river on a steel and wood footbridge.


Bridge over the creek

It drizzled occasionally as we climbed uphill. We soon had a nice view of multi-step falls on our left, and steep cliff walls above us on the right, dropping down on our left. We crossed another footbridge (this one longer and much higher) over the river, then came to an unmarked intersection. The trail continued straight, but there's an alternate trail leading to the right which eventually leads to the same place. I think it may provide a view of the dam and some falls below it; I can't be sure of this since we didn't take the alternate trail, instead opting to continue straight.

Multi-step waterfalls to our left

Footbridge over Summit Creek

Falls of Summit Creek

We next came to another intersection, with Kennedy Lake to the left; we continued straight (right fork) to head toward Relief Reservoir.

We climbed some more, past some old rusted equipment, before the trail finally breaks out into the open for some great views of the reservoir. In fact by this time, the trail is past a quarter of the large reservoir. The sun was finally out as we now started a descent parallel to the eastern shore, high above it. Eventually we reached the stream crossing that the backpackers we'd seen at the start had mentioned. We weren't quite sure whether to look for a path just before or after the crossing, though. We initially looked at a use trail just before the crossing, before deciding we needed to cross the stream first. The stream was easily crossed (the water was only a couple inches deep).

Rusted equipment next to the trail

More rusted equipment next to the trail

Looking back (north) at the view

First view of Relief Reservoir

Looking back at the trail above Relief Reservoir

Looking north at Relief Reservoir

Looking south at Relief Reservoir

Relief Reservoir

After walking a little further, we saw a trail headed to the right, toward the reservoir. We followed this trail for almost a quarter mile before it reached a beautiful camp site, trees glistening in the afternoon sun, perched high above the beach below. There was also no one else in sight (and we couldn't hear anyone, either). Maybe it was because it was Monday night. In any case, we gladly set up our camp here, filtered water, and had dinner.

Inviting campsite at Relief Reservoir

Campsite above Relief Reservoir

I had been having problems with my knee from playing basketball, so I had decided to wear a knee brace for this hike. It wasn't until I took it off after reaching the camp site that I realized this was a mistake. Apparently, running up and down a basketball court for 90 minutes was not a problem, but hiking for 4 1/2 hours was. It had chafed my leg to the point where it was quite painful (and would be red the next day). From then on, the brace became a half pound paperweight I'd have to carry another 40 miles.

Relief Reservoir

Relief Reservoir sunset

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