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Emigrant Wilderness

Day 3 of 3

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Monday, August 20th
Gem Lake to Crabtree Camp
9.5 miles
1180 vertical feet (ascent)
2190 vertical feet (descent)

Morning by the lake

We woke up at 6am in order to get back at a reasonable time. Clouds obscured the sun, which meant it wasn't scorching our tent. After breakfast we boiled water and put it in our spare bottles; it would cool quickly in the cool morning air. I was hoping we would have enough drinking water to last us the day. I still had a bit of spare fuel, but I hoped we wouldn't have to use it.

We packed up our site and left at 8:18am. We quickly made the 380 foot descent and then started on the long flat trail to Piute Lake. Along the way we met a large group of 20-30 people coming in the opposite direction. We'd later see two men and their two dogs near the lily pond, and that was pretty much it until Camp Lake.

Heading down the switchbacks from Gem Lake

Resting on a log at Piute Lake

This time, we got to enjoy Piute Lake. The most striking thing about the lake is the view from the shore looking northwest across the water to the massive granite wall above it. Reminds me of Zumwalt Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park.

Looking out at Piute Lake

Reflections in Piute Lake

We left Piute Lake around 9:25am and began a 250 foot ascent before a 350 foot descent down to Piute Meadow. We stopped here at the dusty crossroads for a short break. Then we gathered ourselves for the 360 foot switch-backed trail up to the lily pond. Strangely enough, it was only now that I noticed that lilies don't just float on the water -- they actually grow on the ground underwater. I noticed this because I saw a few lilies "floating" in the air above the water.

Another view of the lily pond

After a break, we continued on past the pond, past the aspen-backed meadow, and resumed a long descent down to the creek crossing. We sat here eating peanut butter and tortillas. We were both pretty tired, but it was soon made worse when I got stung by a bee. I don't think I've ever been stung by a bee before (a wasp maybe, which was worse). I felt the sting immediately and swatted it away too late. It swelled to the size of a quarter before I could put on some Sting-Eze. The swelling went down pretty quickly, but it still stung a bit the rest of the hike.

We climbed back up to Camp Lake, where I reapplied some more Sting-Eze. As expected, there were a few people at the lake. One pair of backpackers passed by us as I was reapplying. They may have just been hiking out from Camp Lake or perhaps Bear Lake. We were surprised to see that one of them was carrying a lawn chair! We would pass each other for a while before they got tired going up a hill and had to rest. Interestingly enough, that wasn't the last we'd see of them.

We left Camp Lake at 1:55pm, the same time we'd left it on Saturday. But this time we were headed in the opposite direction and had less then 3 miles to go. Jean zoomed on through the trail, not stopping for anything. With the end in sight, she just kept on going until we found ourselves at the parking lot at 3:00pm.

After cleaning up a bit, we headed back to Sonora where we ate at El Jardin again. Just as we were finishing up, we noticed the couple we'd passed on the trail near Camp Lake. They were just sitting down to eat.

When we returned to the Bay Area that night, it was cloudy and cold. We started planning our next backpacking trip. We learned a lot of information which should prove useful in planning our longest backpacking trip yet, the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park.

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