Easter Island Rock formation. Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness page title banner. Kennedy Meadows Horsepacker.
Backpacking Emigrant Wilderness to Sheep Camp on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
Easter Island Rock.
Hiking magnificent Emigrant Wilderness granite to Amazing Gap into Sheep Camp below Black Hawk Mountain.
KM Horsepacker

 

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Hiking
Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass

Backpacking
Emigrant Wilderness in the Stanislaus National Forest

Hiking
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
from Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows

 

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Trail Guide
INDEX

Highway 108
to
Highway 120

Guide
North

TYT

Kennedy Meadows
to
Relief Reservoir

Guide
South

TYT

Brown Bear Pass
to
Bond
Pass

7.5 Topo
Map

Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass
30 min
Map

Highway
108
to
Jack Main
Canyon
Kennedy Meadows
to
Tuolumne Meadows

MILES
and
ELEVATIONS
TOPO MAP INDEX

TYT
Kennedy Meadows

to
Tuolumne
Meadows
Resupply

North
Kennedy
Meadows


South
Tuolumne
Meadows

National Forest

Toiyabe
&
Stanislaus

Sonora
Pass Weather

High
Sierra
Weather

All
maps index

Backpacking to & from Relief Reservoir
Where We're At
GUIDE PAGE INDEX

Go to
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
SOUTH FROM RELIEF RESERVOIR

The Overview
Relief Reservoir, Emigrant Wilderness, Stanislaus National Forest.

Looking Southwest across Relief Reservoir from the highpoint of the
Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Relief Reservoir.

Orientation
High Point on the Ridge
Southwest View

Location
7440
feet of elevation

3.3 miles
South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station gate.

.87 of a mile
North of Grouse Creek ford & junction to Relief Reservoir campsites.

7.62 miles
North of Brown Bear Pass.

This is our first long view of Relief Reservoir hiking Southbound out of Kennedy Meadows. We can't see Relief Reservoir until we get to this position above the reservoir. The shape and foresting of the ridgeline masking our view means we have to hike to the top of the ridge East and South of the dam and reservoir before we get a glimpse of the dam and the South end of the reservoir. It's worth the work.

Our position above marks the end of our steep climb through the lower canyon to Relief Reservoir from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. Now we will gradually descend to our Left, down the final remaining mile to the sweet campsites on the far Southeastern corner of the reservoir.

Beyond Relief Reservoir, two miles South of our position here on the highest point of the ridge, our trail tees-out into a trail junction located above the far Southeastern corner of the reservoir. Us Southbound hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail make a Left turn (East) at this junction for the climb into Summit Creek's middle canyon towards Mosquito and/or Brown Bear Pass, depending on our backpacking goals.

Our next climbing section into the middle and upper portions of Summit Creek's canyon begins when we depart the campsites on the Southeast corner of Relief Reservoir for the Sierra Crestline via Brown Bear Pass.

Map North
Kennedy Meadows
to
Relief Reservoir

15 min USGS Backpacking Map

  Map South
Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass

15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Miles South
TYT
Kennedy Meadows
to
Jack Main Canyon

Tahoe to Yosemite Miles and Elevations

Western Nose
of the
Ridge

From our position in the image above we will be hiking to our Left, Southbound along the flank of the Western nose of the vast volcanic ridge running Southeast up to the Sierra Crest. Here its Westernmost flank above the East shore of Relief Reservoir is beyond the reach of those ancient volcanic flows.

In the image above we are traversing down the Western nose of this vast ridge. This ridge to our East running Southeast up to the Sierra Crest also divides the valley descending from the Sierra Crest under its North flank holding Kennedy Lake and Creek (behind us) from that holding Summit Creek ahead of us under its South flank.

To the Sierra Crestline
This run of volcanic ridge up to the Sierra Crest is finally topped on the Sierra Crestline by the 10825 foot Big Sam (guide). Along its way running up to Big Sam this ridge provides the Northern wall of the canyon we climb on our way up to Brown Bear Pass, then the top of this ridge wraps around the North end of the High Emigrant Basin (definition) where it connects with the Sierra Crest via Big Sam.

Along our way up, and especially as we approach Brown Bear Pass, we will turn around to observe the distinctive shape of 10806 foot Relief Peak's double-horned peaks topping the middle of this vast volcanic ridge's run up to the Sierra Crest. We are going to be observing various aspects of this volcanic ridge and Relief Peak topping the North flank of our final run following Summit Creek up to the Brown Bear Pass.

Relief Peak is the dominant feature topping the middle section of volcanic valley to our North as we climb to Brown Bear Pass along the middle and upper reaches of Summit Creek. The valley wall rising to our South is topped on its East and West ends, respectively, by the granite magnificence of Black Hawk Mountain and Granite Dome. We're hiking into a valley of contrasts.


Local Circumstances
Above, we are traversing down the exposed granite Western nose of this vast ridge on our way to Relief Reservoir before climbing to the Southeast following the bending route of the TYT to climb ourselves up into the volcanic valley wall under its Southern flank. Here we're traversing granite terrain down to Relief Reservoir lightly shrouded with manzanita on sandy soils flowing between slippery boot, hoof, and sand polished granite rock.
We'll finally get back under some tree cover as we hike down to the South end of the Reservoir approaching Grouse Creek's double ford, if we don't take the shortcut down to the campsites. Grouse Creek flows into the Southeastern corner of Relief Reservoir at the base of the point-full of campsites extending into the Southeast end of the reservoir in the image above.

Local Geological
Notes & Observations
Granite sticking out from under vast volcanic flows (previous page)

Another view of, and perspective on, this Vast Volcanic Ridge (previous Page)

Main Trail
About forty yards South of Grouse Creek's timber-jumbled double ford we see easy trail access to the fine bunch of campsites out on the point along the Southeast shore of Relief Reservoir. This faint trail is the main route down to the campsites scattered around the point protruding into the upper Left end of Relief Reservoir, as pictured above. There's some fine campsites (previous page) on that there point... this page below follows the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route continuing South beyond the Relief Reservoir campsites.

Shortcut to Relief Reservoir Campsites
But, before us Southbound hikers reach Grouse Creek we encounter the first of a series of unmarked or informally ducked trails leading off to our Right. These routes lead down through thickening manzanita to the campsites scattered around the point on the Southeast corner of the reservoir. Well, we might see a whole series of informal trails running down to the campsites a before we reach Grouse Creek. They all should funnel into a main, best route down to the campsites. Every year differs. There will be one logical best shortcut route. Keep your eyes open as we approach the point.

Bypassing the shortcut trail(s) we find the faint unmarked main trail to the Relief Reservoir Campsites about 40 yards South of Grouse Creek.

Just Me, but...
Personally I prefer to camp at the campsites a bit further South up Summit Creek's Canyon, above Saucer Meadow or at Sheep Camp or Lunch Meadow (all described below), than camping at Relief Reservoir. Though Relief Reservoir has beautiful campsites I am typically shooting for much more than five miles a day. But, starting a long trip with a short hiking day makes Relief Reservoir an ideal destination for the first day of any hiking trip into Emigrant Wilderness.

We carry five days of food for the 75 miles of distance between Kennedy and Tuolumne Meadows. Do the math. 75 miles divided by five days is 15 miles a day. We can adjust the daily mileage requirement by adding food. Each day of food weighs from 2 to 3 pounds.

Yet I have been pleased by all my visits to the Relief Reservoir campsites.
It is a delightful place.

Balance
of
Brutality
and Beauty
BBB

Pack Weight and Trail Time
Check out the packing food information in the Backpacking Food Forum. In case something goes wrong with the videos on the forum site (it has happened), you can check out the food prep videos on YouTube until I get it fixed.

New
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Introduction and Planning
School of Pack
Prep Thyself

START POINT
The trail guide page below begins its trail coverage from where we rejoin the Southbound TYT route at the "main" trail junction of the Relief Reservoir campsites along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail just South of the Grouse Creek Ford.

Our next significant goal is the short walk up to the Lower Relief Valley trail junction where our long distance Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route turns Southeast, to the Southbound hiker's Left, climbing towards Brown Bear Pass. The other trail from this junction tracks Southwest up to Lower Relief Valley.

Above this trail junction our climb into the upper canyon holding Summit Creek through its headwaters to Brown Bear Pass gets more serious.

Top of Page Index

comments Forum

Introduction
Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass

PAGE INDEX

Start
Campsite at Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass

7226 to 9760 feet

2534 feet of elevation
over
7.96 "intermediate+" difficulty
backpacking miles

 

The Trail Ahead:
What We're Gonna See

There are three major climbs hiking the 7.96 miles from Relief Reservoir up to Brown Bear Pass, though the whole 10.92 mile Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route from Kennedy Meadows to Brown Bear Pass is basically one long ascent broken up by a few isolated flats. There are three steep sections along the upcoming middle segment of trail between Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass.

First Climb to Saucer Meadow
Our first sustained climb starts from here at the trail junction on SE side of Relief Reservoir up about three-quarters of a mile to the start of the Saucer Meadow Series of Campsites. The Saucer sites are located above and beyond the marked site of Saucer Meadow on the map. I locate the first Saucer Meadow campsite, the Big Rock campsite (below) , with the second red dot on the map South of Saucer Meadow's cited location.
Once we begin descending past Saucer Meadow to the Big Rock campsite South of Saucer Meadow, we find a whole series of campsites. We find the Big Rock site marks the beginning of nice forested gently-ascending "flat" stretched out for about 3/8ths of a mile beyond and South of Big Rock. This nearly half-mile run of fairly flat terrain is decorated with multiple campsites both along the trail and set back into the granites under Granite Dome across Summit Creek.
Summit Creek first climbs above, then turns away from our trail where our series of campsites gives way to a set of steps climbing us into a series of ascending gravel washes above Summit Creek's increasingly isolated and tumultuous course.

We will know when we are at the end of this almost-flat run of Saucer Meadow campsites by the series of steps climbing out of it where Summit Creek bends away from our route just steps beyond the wedged snag (below).

Second Climb to Sheep Camp
After passing through the run of campsites above Saucer Meadow the TYT undulates through great washes of gravel eroding out from under the base of the North flank of our otherwise volcanic Northern valley wall. It appears that erosion is slowly washing this once-volcanic encased granite glacial debris out of its captivity. We can see this vast gravel creation and transport system operating right now and over grand scales of time to our North.
Looking to our South we can see the great solid block of almost motionless granite stretching between Granite Dome up to Black Hawk Mountain across their vast, shared massif.

We can see great expanses of fantastic scrambling terrain on the Black Hawk - Granite Dome Massif.

After crossing this ascending set of gravel washboards we enter a dense but tiny stand of forest at the bottom of a mini-canyon, a gorge really, wedged within the greater canyon. We're about to begin our second major climb along this middle segment of Summit Creek's Canyon, which brings us out of this forest cover and up onto unique golden granites and into a unique layout of granite terrain climbing onto a rocky ledge trail carved into the mountainside up to Sheep Camp. This granite shoulder/gorge is wedged in under the vast volcanic North wall of this canyon. We can see this is a unique configuration creates a special place.

Very Cool Zone
Observation indicates this "mini-head" of granite canyon is created by a narrowing, a pinching-together of the Northern volcanic and Southern granite walls of the canyon in such a way that it pushes our climbing trail into granite terrain and trail under and up into the arms of Black Hawk Mountain.

We are transitioning from hiking along the base of the Northern volcanic wall up into, on, then through a nifty slot in the magnificent granite-ridgeline terrain under Black Hawk Mountain.

Our trail makes a significant 360 foot climb from the top of the gravel washes through this pocket of granite up to Sheep Camp. We make the transition from the debris fields of the gravel washes into a nub of forest at the base of this nook of solid granite terrain where the volcanic walls of the North canyon and the granite walls of the South canyon pinch together to their narrowest span. Here we make a brief transition, climbing out of the volcanic debris we've been hiking through along the base of the North wall into solid granite terrain climbing up under Black Hawk Mountain.

And not just any granite terrain, but classic High Emigrant granites composed of sensually and geometrically shaped forms splendidly colored with their enchanting pinkish-red lines and circles on golden hued granites. Even more interesting is that the granite terrain we are hiking across on the South flank of this little granite gorge is wedged under, emerging out from just beyond the steep limit lines of the frozen ancient volcanic flows making-up the great volcanic ridge walls rising far above our heads to the North. Looking North we can again see that the emerging granite we were hiking up through along the base of the Northern wall of the canyon is capped-over by hundreds of feet of volcanic debris composing the vast volcanic ridge rising above. Relief Peak tops this section of this great ridge. What we are looking at from the head of this "little" gorge represents both the power and limits of these tremendous ancient lava flows, but most importantly, the little bits of heaven wedged between them and the granite wonders of Black Hawk Mountain and Granite Dome.

We hiked along the base of this bifurcated terrain climbing above Saucer Meadow into clean granite terrain to make our climbing approach to Sheep Camp. This segment of trail is as if we are entering into a sparkling temple of granite-like clarity, stability, and beauty hiking out of the stormy seas of forest, gravel, and eroding volcanic terrain. But something is strange here. Looking North, to our Left, we can see that the granite over there and above us is emerging out from under a rapidly eroding volcanic blanket.

The granite we are crossing as we hike up to the head of this narrow section of majestic granite canyon is wedged within the larger valley, and our position just under Sheep Camp both exists because this all was just a tad beyond the reach of these ancient volcanic flows.
Not all the granite here shares this "uncovered" history. Looking back down the valley we can see great slabs of granite previously covered by volcanic flows still eroding out from the under the edges of the massive volcanic walls of the North flank of our canyon.

There is a lot of granite under these ancient volcanic flows. Is there another "Granite Dome" under the volcanic material capping these vast ridges running up to the Sierra? I believe there is. I also believe much of it will be exposed by erosion over the next ten thousand years, if we have rain like we have had for the last ten thousand.

I doubt that is going to happen...

The Natural Trajectory of our Planet has been Altered.

"Read 'em & Weep:"
The Weather News

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Layers of Terrain
Layers
of Experience
Our close observations of terrain adds layers of meaning and understanding to our fundamental physical joy of hiking up this beautiful bit of hard granite trail wedged in and under soaring volcanic walls rising above us to our North.
Hiking up to the top of the trail we find a narrow romantic gap leading through a narrow channel in the granite crestline under Black Hawk Mountain into the bottom of the final and uppermost level of our hike through this canyon. Turning around here before hiking South through the gap we can see how our trail route was pushed into this pocket of granite reaching across the narrowness of this pinching portion of the canyon between the gravel washes below and the upper canyon opening up again above us.

This precipitous section of unique granite terrain wedged into and under the volcanic material to our North imparts an ancient feeling. Soaking up the last bit of it, we turn around to hike through this cleft, the gap at the head of this pinched bit of canyon leading us through a narrow passage into the expansive yet protected sandy flat of Sheep Camp under Black Hawk Mountain.
Before continuing, We must reiterate that this upper section of trail climbing into Sheep Camp is an utterly amazing section of trail highlighting the dramatic proximity and unique relationship between the terrains of fire and ice here in Emigrant Wilderness. The top of this fine segment of trail makes a remarkable transition from breathtaking vistas into the calm and peaceful scene of Sheep Camp's excellent break, water, and campsites.

To Lunch Meadow
Hiking through this Romantic Western Gap into the tranquility of Sheep Camp we immediately turn a hard Left. Our trail turns away from the expansive sandy flat hosting Sheep Camp's airy campsites. Our Left turn lines us up and puts us into an easy hike through a granite ramp and slot of yet more completely uniquely colored and shaped granite terrain, all on a very gentle incline roughly paralleling Summit Creek. We can see by the increasing distance between the valley walls ahead that we are passing out of the narrow neck of the valley that funneled us through Sheep Camp and we are now passing into its upper meadows. Shortly after departing Sheep Camp we pass by an expansive stock-group campsite before the upper valley widens more as we hike into the Northern, bottom end of Lunch Meadow.

To our North-northeast, our Southbound Left as we enter Lunch Meadow, the upper valley is still bounded by the great volcanic ridge we can now see is capped by the arching red horns of Relief Peak, as it has been throughout our hike. Ahead we see the mountain at the top of the valley Brown Bear Pass crosses to bring us into Emigrant Meadow. We will shortly see the pass itself as our trail bends back over to the volcanic Northern flank to hike around the edge of Lower Lunch Meadow. Once we get to the South end of Upper Lunch Meadow we will get our first clear view of Relief Peak to the Northwest, capping the vast volcanic ridge to our North, and a good look at Brown Bear Pass to our Southeast when we turn back around.

To our Southwest, our Southbound Right, our canyon is still walled-in by the grand granite ridge topped by Black Hawk Mountain on its Eastern end and Granite Dome on its Western. In the middle of this canyon between these two walls of very divergent color and texture are you and I. As we climb higher up the valley around the North edge of Lunch Meadow's moderate ascent our expanding view back down the canyon allows the valley itself to tell the violent story of its ancient history. What frk'n Glorious Terrain, and what a story it tells.
Now your experiences are part of its history.

Practical Consideration
Oh, and we're approaching 9000 feet carrying a heavy pack up, through, and around a set of steep climbs. The enduring legacy of beauty around us either escapes us through our emerging exhaustion, or our experience is perfectly enhanced by the physical stimulation. Our preparation determines which reality each of us will be experiencing.

Pragmatic History
The Great Red and Gray Valley
Here's the story as seen in my mind's eye: A long series of big and small volcanic eruptions along the Eastern flank and Sierra Crestline spewed lava and debris over onto the Western flank well before the last Ice Age began, and again before it ended 10,000 years ago. These eruptions pretty much completely covered huge expanses of the East flank of the Sierra and its ancient granite crestline. "Fingers" and flows of this ocean of lava and volcanic debris flowed over and down the Western flank of the Sierra.

The Sierra Crestline and most of the East flank from Tahoe to Yosemite were thereafter volcanic terrain, along with the areas where these eruptions splashed over and down the West flank of the Sierra.

In our Summit Creek valley these flows almost completely covered the whole Western flank of the Sierra, running down from the crest for 7 miles. From our position under Relief Peak these great fingers of volcanic flows down the Western flank extend to our North all the way up to the Tahoe Basin. From the South end of the Lake Tahoe Basin to Relief Peak we can find great flows, or "fingers" of volcanic material running from between 7 to 15 miles down the Western flank with great expanses of granite terrain between each volcanic "finger."

South of here that pattern ends.

Hiking South along the Pacific Crest Trail route from Lake Tahoe we have noted the preponderance of volcanic terrain from the Carson Range wrapping around the East Shore of the Tahoe Basin all the way down to Leavitt Peak and Big Sam.
Hiking the West flank route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail has brought us around the Western perimeter of many of these flows, then back up through them, as the route of the TYT drops off and then returns to the Sierra Crest.

This valley between the Relief Peak Ridge running up to Big Sam and the Granite Dome-Black Hawk Mountain massif marks the beginning of a vast boundary-line wrapping around the whole of Yosemite National Park, including this great stretch of granite terrain running North into Emigrant Wilderness out of Yosemite. From this point here to Donohue Pass at the South end of Yosemite we will be crossing this vast granite outcropping.
Relief Peak and its mighty volcanic ridge wraps around the North-westernmost edge of a vast plate of granite running almost 72 miles (+/-) all the way down the West flank of the Sierra to Mount Lyell, including the totality of Yosemite.

We again find serious volcanic activity surrounding Mammoth Mountain entering the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the South of Yosemite. This may affect our route, drawing us off the JMT into Fish Valley to enjoy the luxurious beauty of Iva Bell Hot Springs. Vulcanism is good!

Climbing to the Sierra Crest via the TYT South of Kennedy Meadows has brought us around the perimeter of the local outlines of this ancient violent volcanic boundary line. This is where the limits of these ancient eruptions have graciously preserved the great expanses of granite running down the West flank from the Sierra Crest wrapping around the High Emigrant Basin, and South across the North Yosemite Backcountry into Hetch Hetchy, ultimately reaching all the way down into Yosemite Valley. This is a profound stretch of granite terrain.

The present layout and distribution of High Sierra granite and volcanic terrain are the product of these ancient volcanic eruption patterns. That's the pattern of steady vulcanism the ice was carving and being carved by.

Hiking the routes of the TYT and the PCT has allowed us to explore the granite terrain on the West Flank below the volcanic cap covering the Sierra Crestline, and find its limits, while the PCT gave us the grand tour of the volcanic crestline and its precipitous views down and out the Eastern flank. Hiking the TYT up and down through these granite-volcanic interface as we hike through sections of the West flank canyons has given us some good looks at the shape and character of the granite-volcanic interface across the North Sierra unavailable along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Backpacking up Summit Creek is one of these observation-study sessions. The results of our study indicate we Southbound hikers are crossing a fascinating interface zone into a granite wonderland.

GEO LINKS GEO FORUM

Post up your geological experiences, information, & references.

Geo News:
Life at the Speed of Rock

hiker comments

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Final Cut
These ancient pre-Ice Age eruptions eventually subsided and cooled, leaving us with massive new layers of red volcanic terrain making up the NE side of this canyon, while the ancient majestic granite terrain of the canyon's SW wall, just feet to our South across Summit Creek, was left relatively untouched. Nothing a vast coating of glacial ice would not carve off...

Then came the Ice Age, cutting equally through the red and gray rocks independent of color, point of origin, composition, or age. It seems the last Ice Age went out with a bang in some locations, caused by fresh volcanic eruptions happening under the vast snow and ice depositions of the last ice age. This created lahars bigger than my imagination, sufficient to replace the ice filling vast river valleys with vast flows of steaming mud of various consistencies and compositions.
That's what appears to have happened here to some extent, though it appears these lava flows over the top of the Northern Emigrant and along the Sierra Crestline North into Carson Iceberg were of a much thicker consistency than those we saw up North.

In places like the South Upper Truckee (guide) and Noble Creek (guide) we've seen or will see evidence of vast watery-thin lahars flowing through, hardening, and being subsequently worn away by eons of erosion. Not so much evidence of those types of watery flows here, though there is some, it indicates thicker flows.

My take is fairly dense, rather than watery, volcanic flows covered this terrain,

Geography Links

Here, climbing into the bottom of Lunch Meadow, we find Summit Creek running between Red and White Terrain almost perfectly splitting the distance between the Northern volcanic and Southern granite walls of this canyon.

This is a striking interface. Well, it is now, but grows as we get higher, and becomes striking when we finally get a good, long overview. Entering Lunch Meadow now puts us very close to that point. I'd say this "red and white" has been a very intriguing interface to observed it close up one step at a time as we hiked up through its contradictions lower down in the canyon.
Now we have gained the necessary elevation for a mini "birds eye view" of the middle section of our climb as we approached Sheep Camp. Now, crossing Lunch Meadow we finally get longer and longer overviews of the big picture of the size of the profound geological forces which created and shaped this amazing canyon. We got a great, but brief view of this dramatic terrain approaching the gap in the mountain to Sheep Camp, but our best views are still ahead. Our broadest and best views come while climbing above Lunch Meadow on our final approach to Brown Bear Pass.

Levels of Lunch Meadow
Lunch Meadow's gentle Southbound ascent is accentuated by its hour glass shape. A closer look (map) shows Lunch Meadow is broken into two discernable levels of meadow divided by a short ascent through a low band of quite nifty granite dividing the upper and lower shelves of meadow. This granite segment is noticeably steeper than the gradual ascent around either the upper or lower meadows themselves. The upper meadow is short, terminating in choppy terrain wedged between the two differently colored converging walls as this uppermost portion of the canyon is pinching closer together towards the distinct volcanic-granite convergence line precisely marking the location of Brown Bear Pass above upper Lunch Meadow.

Our trail finally splits the color gap dividing the walls of this canyon crossing Brown Bear Pass.

Mosquito Pass Trail Junction
At the top of the Upper Lunch Meadow we find the 9000 foot post marking the end of campfires. From that post we also find some nice campsites off the trail to our Southbound Right, the Southwest, and more lower down near where Summit Creek flows through its granite channel between the upper and lower sections of Lunch Meadow. There's an obvious upper campsite just a few dozen yards off the trail under a nice stand of trees, but I prefer the ones invisible from the trail down the hillside closer to Summit Creek.

A brief climb South from Upper Lunch Meadow brings us to overlook a T -junction with a trail leading South. Here this fine trail fords Summit Creek to hike South over a low gap in the granite ridge line to our South called Mosquito Pass (below). Emigrant Lake on North Cherry Creek is on the other side of Mosquito Pass at the base of a great granite wall. We continue South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail up to Brown Bear Pass.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Last Climb to Brown Bear Pass
This begins our third and final "major" climb coming up from Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass, composed of the short steep section of trail from the Mosquito Pass trail junction above the South end of Upper Lunch Meadow to Brown Bear Pass.

Brown Bear Pass perfectly divides and marks the interface between the volcanic terrain making up the North wall of the valley from the granite terrain making up its Southern walls.

Brown Bear Pass is quite striking for more than being a unique interface between divergent terrains. Approaching Brown Bear Pass from the North, as we do, we get longer and longer views to the North back down this valley of contrasting color as we get higher and closer to the pass. The sweet spot for views sits in the last small lonely grove of whitebark pines below the North flank of Brown Bear Pass. This will be our last bit of shade for quite some time. Our view North back down the valley is obscured from Brown Bear Pass itself. One would think it difficult for our view to improve, but it does when we get a look at the view North as we approach the stands of whitebarks under Brown Bear Pass's North flank.

Our best views from Brown Bear Pass (below) itself are to the Southeast.

Beyond the Brown Bear
From Brown Bear Pass we get magnificent views of the other side of the mountain, to our Southeast. Looking over the South flank of Brown Bear Pass we see the line of peaks composing the Sierra Crestline running Southeast, wrapping around the North Yosemite Backcountry. This run of the Sierra Crest divides Emigrant Wilderness in our foreground on the Western flank from the Hoover Wilderness on the East flank in the distant background Left, from the North Yosemite Backcountry in the distant Right.

Will we cross this Southern terrain we are viewing as we continue down the long trails South to Tuolumne Meadows and hopefully on down to Mount Whitney. If not, we still have many trails we can use to circle around as much of the beauty of the Emigrant Wilderness terrain in the foreground of our Brown Bear Pass view as we possibly can, before being forced to turn back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Humm, better check my calendar...

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Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Loops
Mosquito Pass to Brown Bear Pass

Hikers considering loops back to Kennedy Meadows have lots of fantastic routes of varying distance back to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail utilizing the Mosquito Pass trail junction. Each of them involves crossing Mosquito Pass (junction below) (guide: Mosquito Pass) then turning up at some point back to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, to turn North back to Brown Bear Pass on the way back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. How far we hike South before we turn our loop around determines the length of our Emigrant Wilderness loop. We can expand our loop's length in any direction through the upcoming Grizzly Peak trail junction located between Brown Bear and Bond Passes along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail...

Emigrant Lake lays on the other side, the South side of Mosquito Pass. The quickest way back to Kennedy Meadows from Emigrant Lake is the short hike up North Cherry Creek past the scenic Blackbird, Middle Emigrant and Emigrant Meadow Lakes to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail crossing Emigrant Meadow. The trail junction running off the TYT down to Emigrant Lake is located off the Northeast shore of Emigrant Meadow Lake within view of our position at Brown Bear Pass.

That's a nice hike.

Big Picture Map Detailed Map
Sonora Pass Hiking Map
Scroll down to Emigrant Wilderness
Central High Emigrant Wilderness
Mosquito Pass Loop Map

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These Loops
Expand Like a Bubble
If we don't want to turn back towards civilization from Emigrant Lake, we find a trail tracking almost directly South from the far Northeastern shore of Emigrant Lake taking us past Bluebird Lake to Maxwell Lake. This pushes our next turnaround point down to Horse Meadow, further expanding our loop. Hiking past Horse Meadow to Snow Lake via Bigelow Lake pushes our turnaround point out to Twin Lakes below Summit Meadow. This route further expands our Emigrant Wilderness backpacking loops by pushing our turnaround point all the way out to just under the Eastern boundary of the Emigrant Wilderness with Yosemite National Park. The next-step threads our route through the Northwestern corner of Yosemite.

That involves crossing over Bond Pass into Yosemite. This marks the end of our Emigrant Wilderness hike for long distance backpackers continuing their hikes South, or marks the furthest turnaround point through the top of Jack Main Canyon for local loop hikers.

From the top of Jack Main Canyon we can turn back by hiking North on the PCT through Dorothy Lake Pass to the bottom of Kennedy Canyon. From the Kennedy Canyon trail junction at the top of Kennedy Canyon we can turn West to rejoin the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail via Kennedy Lake, rejoining the TYT 2.67 miles South of Kennedy Meadows at the Kennedy Lake trail junction.

Check the Emigrant Wilderness Schematic Trail map on the previous page.

This big 30 minute map below covers our most distant location at Twin Lakes along this grand loop around the high elevation portion of the Emigrant Wilderness:

These trail options could be part of a big loop from Kennedy Meadows back to Kennedy Meadows, or compose a significant lengthening of our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route between Kennedy Meadows Pack Station down to Tuolumne Meadows. This depends on what we have the time and energy to successfully and pleasurably complete.

This huge map below-Left lays out most of the possible routes we can hike around the High Emigrant Wilderness by tying the TYT & PCT together. Clicking the red dots on the two maps below links to guide entries, the black dots to detailed maps, with more red dots.

Sonora Pass Hiking Map
Scroll down to Emigrant Wilderness
Sonora Pass to Bensen Lake
PCT-TYT
Alternative Routes Emigrant Wilderness

 

I am currently focusing on completing the main body of the trail guide along the Sierra Crest between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney before I add trail guide pages for these side trails feeding great loops across and around the high elevation areas of Emigrant Wilderness.

Sample images & descriptions:
Backpacking Emigrant, Maxwell, Snow Lakes.

Emigrant Wilderness Loop Distances
I figure these loop backpacking trips around Emigrant Wilderness at between 50 to 90 miles, depending on how much of the High Emigrant Wilderness we want to see, if I'm not just planning on hiking the 70 miles (+/-, depending on route) from Hwy 108 to Tuolumne Meadows. Sometimes I start from the base of the Eastern Sierra at Walker Ca., hike to the PCT through the unmaintained trail North of Sonora Pass along the East Carson River (map) before switching over to the TYT South of Sonora Pass.

Point of Focus
My point is that you really can mix and match unique combinations of Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trails to suite your character, capacity, and curiosity. Enter Emigrant Wilderness through Leavitt Meadow or Leavitt Lake to expand our experiences into amazing East Sierra terrain. What ties all the trails on this website together are their relationships to the Sierra Crest. No matter where our backpacking trips begin or end every trail on this guide is organized by where it sits in relation to the Sierra Crest trails.

This Sonora Pass Region hiking map lays out a line of travel over Mosquito Pass that potentially reunites with our Southbound TYT route at various points. Though I've walked, photographed, and filmed these trails I cannot bring myself to write their guide pages or expand the maps into full coverage until I finish the main body of TYT, PCT, and JMT between Tahoe and Whitney. Sigh...

It's sad because I love the Emigrant Wilderness.

I have only laid out complete guide information for the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail routes across the Emigrant Wilderness, along with the main trails that connect them.
This information is almost sufficient to plan every loop and trailhead to trailhead trips possible around the high elevation zone of the Emigrant Wilderness. I will put up a new section with guide pages finishing these associated trails after finishing the main body of the Tahoe to Whitney guide. The backbone of the guide must be completed before adding ribs.

New 2016
Emigrant Wilderness Planning Guide

Standard PCT Planning Tool

Continue South down this page to explore this section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Emigrant Wilderness from Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass.

top of page

Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass

7226 to 9760 feet

+2534
feet of elevation
over

7.96 miles of
"intermediate +"
difficulty
miles

 

Map
North
Kennedy Meadows
to
Relief Reservoir

15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Emigrant Wilderness
Map Lists
TYT

PCT
Map
South
Relief Reservoir

to
Brown Bear Pass

15 min USGS Backpacking Map 


TYT & PCT
Miles and Elevations
Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
TYT
Tahoe to Yosemite Miles and Elevations
Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows
PCT
Pacific Crest Trail Miles and Elevations
top of page

Backpacking
EMIGRANT WILDERNESS
The
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Backpacker Resources

and
Hiker Information

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass

Index

Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass
Image, Miles, Elevations and Orientation

 

Introduction
This segment of Trail

 

Guide Page Index

 

Video
Relief Reservoir
to
Saucer Meadow

 

Grouse Creek Junction to
Relief Reservoir Campsites

 

Campsites
Relief Reservoir Campsites
(previous guide page)


South into
Temperate Forest

 

Stanislaus National Forest
Frog Team

 

Stanislaus National Forest
CCC Backcountry Trail Crew

 

Trail Junction
Brown Bear Pass
&
Relief Valley trail junction

 

Kennedy Meadows Riders

 

Turning up
Summit Creek Canyon

 

Volcanic-Granite Interface

 

Center of the Canyon

 

Looking Back
Relief Reservoir

 

Into the
Narrowing Canyon

 

Granite Dome

 

Easter Island Rock

 

Corky

 

Approaching
Saucer Meadow

 

Video
Approaching Saucer Meadow

 

South from Saucer Meadow

 

Campsites
Saucer Meadow
Campsites

 

Video
Saucer Meadow Campsites

 

Site Restoration Zones

 

South from First Campsites

 

Granite Flat

 

Camping Flat

 

Wedged Snag
Last Campsite and Waterfall

 

Video
Last Campsite North of Saucer Meadow to Campsite on North End of Lunch Meadow

 

South from Last Saucer Meadow Campsite

 

Into Gravel Waves

 

 

 

Emigrant Wilderness
&
North Yosemite Backcountry

 

Weather
and
Road Information

 

Below find
the
Closest Ground Stations,
Point and Regional Forecasts
near
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

 

Satellite and Radar Imagery
provides
Long Range and Regional
overviews.

 

Check
out the
Ground Reporting Stations
for
real-time current snow and temp data.

Emigrant Wilderness Weather Forecast

NWS
Sonora Pass
Point Forecast

 

Regional Forecasts

NWS
Regional Forecast
East Sierra

NWS
Regional Forecast
Northwest Sierra

All
Emigrant Wilderness & N Yosemite
Regional Weather Information
All
High Sierra Weather Resources
Real Time
Ground Reporting Stations

Emigrant Wilderness

Deadman Creek
near Kennedy Meadows reporting station

Sonora Pass
reporting station

Leavitt Lake
reporting station

Leavitt Meadow
reporting station

Lower Relief Valley

Horse Meadow
Reporting Station

South of our Position

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows

Tioga Pass
Dana Meadow

Tioga Entry Station

 

Southeast

Slide Mountain

All
Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest
N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Note that the ground reporting stations above are North and South of our position backpacking across the North Yosemite backcountry.

The reason is that there are no automated reporting stations in the North Yosemite Backcountry.

These reporting stations are given to ascertain snow conditions and temps at various altitudes and aspects of exposure.

Human Measured Stations

Relief Reservoir
(monthly)

Wilma Lake

Road Conditions

Caltrans Hwy 108

Big View
Radar

North
California
Radar

Big View
Space

Western US
Satellite

 

All
Weather
and
Fire Information

 

All
High Sierra Weather
Resources

 

 

Comprehensive
High Sierra Fire
and
Smoke Information

 

Summit Creek Wash

 

Goal
Sheep Camp

Emerging
Granite Terrain

 

Approaching
Gap to Sheep Camp

 

Great Slab Trail

 

Looking North down the Valley

 

Last Steps to Sheep Camp

 

Gap to Sheep Camp

 

View
North from Gap to Sheep Camp

 

Into
Sheep Camp

 

Campsites
Sheep Camp

 

Unique
Trail South

 

Rock and Meadow
South to Lunch Meadow

 

Campsite
Group Campsite

North of Lunch Meadow

 

Campsites
Lunch Meadow

 

Video
Lunch Meadow to Brown Bear Pass

 

Long view South up to the goal
Brown Bear Pass

 

View North across
Lower Lunch Meadow

 

Granite Feature between Upper and Lower Lunch Meadows

 

Into
Upper Lunch Meadow

 

Upper Lunch Meadow, 9000 foot no fire marker

 

Campsites
Campsites
at 9000 foot Marker above Upper Lunch Meadow

 

Trail Junction
Mosquito Pass to Emigrant Lake trail junction

 

Trail Dog and Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Horsepacker

 

Unique shapes, colors, compositions, and decorations of
Emigrant Wilderness Granite

 

Floral

 

Circular approach to Brown Bear Pass

 

View of Lunch Meadow and Summit Creek from the top.

 

Last Steps to
Brown Bear Pass

 

Pink Granite

 

16 things at once

 

Brown Bear Pass
Rewarding view of Emigrant Meadow Lake in the Emigrant Basin.

> Forum <

This trail guide is made to be a source of information for, and subsequently updated by its readers/hikers through the comments and forum links on each trail guide page.

Registered Members can post up stand alone posts about this section of the trail with images, maps and videos in the Trails Forum for this Kennedy Meadows to Tuolumne Meadows Pass section of the Trail Guide.

Add updates, questions, comments, and additional information through the comments links. Check out this supplemental information through the forum links.

Check out the Tahoe to Whitney .org Backpacking Trails and Topics forums

 

comments top of page

Video

Get Some Views
Relief Reservoir
to
Saucer Meadow.

10:29

High Sierra Backpacking Videos

Tahoe to Whitney
High Sierra YouTube Backpacking Videos

This Playlist
Kennedy Meadows
to
Bond Pass
All Playlists

 

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

comments Forum

Top of Page

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Trail from Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Relief Reservoir Campsites.

Forty Yards South of Grouse Creek

7360 feet of elevation

4.17 miles
North to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station Gate.

1.58 miles
South to Saucer Meadow.

4.06 miles
South to Sheep Camp.

6.75 miles
South to Brown Bear Pass.

Looking West across the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail at the faint main trail to the Relief Reservoir Campsites.

The North-South route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail is deeply grooved across the bottom of the image. The faint crease of trail angled off to the Northwest, to Relief Reservoir on the top Right of the image, is not as easily visible.

Now we will continue South, to our Left in the image above, along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Brown Bear Pass and Emigrant Meadow laid out below the South flank of Brown Bear pass.

Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Hiking South we continue under dense forest cover into a moist zone of temperate terrain sporting moss and fern growth. Our trail tracks through what appears to be a run of spring-fed sogginess.

We have a short run through a quagmire shored-up by some solid trail crew stonework.

comments Forum


Trail Climbing South above Relief Reservoir
Into a Temperate Zone

Trail to Lunch Meadow-Lower Relief Valley trail junction.

Trail to Lunch Meadow-Lower Relief Valley trail junction.

Moist areas create zones of temperate forest, and the image above shows us climbing into a temperate zone leading up to the trail junction T above the Southeast corner of Relief Reservoir.

Hiking Left, to our Southeast from this junction leads us up through Lunch Meadow to Brown Bear and Mosquito Passes.

Turning Right, to the Southwest from the upcoming T-junction leads Southwest to Lower Relief Valley. We can loop around the Southwest flank of Granite Dome via Lower Relief Valley to eventually reach Emigrant Lake, where we can turn back towards Kennedy Meadows through Mosquito Pass.

I've never hiked that particular loop, but I have been told it is a substantial hike. Both substantially beautiful, and a long run all the way around the South flank of the Granite Dome-Black Hawk Peak Massif to Emigrant Lake and a potential turnaround point, if we intend to return to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Before arriving at the upcoming trail junction we run into a couple of classic manifestations of High Sierra Trail Culture:

Scientists and Trail Crew

Stanislaus National Forest
Frog Counting Crew

Stanislaus National Forest Frog Counting Team 2009.

Stanislaus National Forest Frog Counting Team 2010.

Quote
"Frogs looked good this week."
July 26, 2010.

Scientists are a regular part of High Sierra Trail Culture. And scientists are also a force that can affect policy and law concerning the Sierra Nevada.

These including other counting teams, such as the one we encountered doing a general animal survey on Leavitt Peak.

I make this distinction between science and culture because we regularly encounter scientists as "civilian" backpackers, hiking and climbing the Sierra Nevada because of a deep personal love of the Sierra Nevada, in addition to the scientists working in the field, as above.

Living Things Forum
High Sierra Snakes, Lizards, and Frogs

Trail culture Forum

Living Things Forum
Reptile Guides

Frog Comments?

We regularly encounter scientists as parts of scientific expeditions encamped at established trail crew camps supplied by horsepackers deep in the Sierra, or, as in the case of the frog team above, performing regular monitoring of a species or ecosystem through multi day backpacking trips.

Scientists perform in a wide range of roles in the High Sierra. I'd say scientists make up a larger percentage of High Sierra Backpackers than their overall percentage of the American population would indicate. The scientists on the trail for personal preferences are over-represented on High Sierra trails.

I find scientists to be interesting in both of these roles in the High Sierra. If you do too, check out the Science in the High Sierra Forum. They are typically excellent observers of the finite, if not the infinite.

Maybe the Sierra helps them bridge that deep gap.

I know it helps me.

Forum
Science in the High Sierras

Backpacker News Weather News Science News

Trail Comments?

 

Top of Page Index

The
Stanislaus National Forest
Backcountry Trail Crew

CCC Backcountry Trail Crew 2010

Yesterday, while hiking down the sandy trail to the East shore of Relief Reservoir North of Grouse Creek we encountered three CCC trail crew members working the trail.

Today, we came across the main body of their Stanislaus CCC Backcountry Trail Crew, pictured below, working the trail South of Grouse Creek. Large Trail Crews often disperse smaller teams to perform various tasks.

I always ask the small teams about the location and activities of the main work sites, the small crews dispersed on various tasks, the location of the main camp, and what they've seen and done so far this season.

Dimes, Heather and Zack were working on the trail North of Grouse Creek, so I found out that I'd see the main body of the crew further down the trail.

The trail was looking real good because of all their hard work.

The Stanislaus National Forest Backcountry Trail Crew is on it.

Stanislaus National Forest backcountry trail crew July 26, 2009.

Stanislaus National Forest backcountry trail crew July 26, 2010.

Supplemented by a CCC Trail Crew.

Note the different colored helmets. Yellows are training blues.

A great bunch of top-notch kids, all. We will run into them under Grizzly Peak the next day, on July 27 as they took a day to shift their trail crew camp down to Horse Meadow, as the location of their work area shifted.

Trail Crew Forum

Stanislaus 2010 CCC Backcountry

 

CCC Backcountry Trails Program Information

CCC Backcountry Trails Program
California State Website

Trail Crew Comments?

Top of Page Index

Quick Moving Trail Kids

Trail crew are the strongest hikers.

Trail crew are at the top of the heap of the strongest hikers in the High Sierra.

It likely has something to do with living at high elevation while performing hard physical labor with heavy tools.

What was once difficult becomes easy,
What was once painful becomes pleasurable.

That's what the CCC does for a lot of kids.

Trail Crew Comments?

Top of Page Index

CCC Trail Crew
The Elders

2009 Stanislaus Backcountry Trail Crew Leaders.

Steven, Stephanie, and Morgan.

Creating an environment balancing kids and trail work.

CCC is fairly strict, keeping a tight leash on the kids. This is because it is a training program that often contains folks with some degree of motivation or discipline issues they are trying to straighten out, as well as imparting skills.

After these blue helmet kids pass the CCC training program they can work the pro National Forest yellow helmet and National Park red helmet crews (Anders-Yosemite). The professional crews and their camps are good folks living very well while working very hard in some of the very finest places on Earth.

Trail Crew Forum

Stanislaus 2010 CCC Backcountry

 

CCC Backcountry Trails Program Information

CCC Backcountry Trails Program
California State Website

Trail Crew Comments?


Let's get technical

Trail design and measurement.

Trail design and measurement.

The CCC trail crew was finishing up rerouting a section of the trail to improve its drainage. We've seen some substantial lengths of soft, sandy soil on the way up here that is highly susceptible to Spring Thaw erosion. Both areas I observed the CCC working they were improving and protecting soft sections of the trail.

They made careful measurements of the length of the new section of trail.

New Route of a Thousand Small Changes
I noted that this small bit of trail rerouting had lengthened the trail by at least 15 feet. This made me think about the number of trail repairs and reroutings that are made in the various Forests and Parks between Tahoe and Whitney every year.

Trail mileages are a moving target. Though we see that Trail Crew carefully notes distance changes caused by trail work, we can only find these new distances when they are eventually compiled and incorporated into map updates.

Decades later...

Miles and Mileages in the High Sierra
A Moving Target

Huge discrepancies between routes and distances depicted on USGS maps and the reality on the ground build up between map updates, and I've seen map updates which do not contain old route changes.

Trail Culture Forum
Trail Crew

Official
CCC Trail Crew Information

Trail Crew Comments?

Top of Page Index

Trail Junction
off the
Southeast Shore of Relief Reservoir

 

Southeast
Southbound Hiker Left
Left, up to Brown Bear Pass via Lunch Meadow.

      Southwest
Southbound Hiker Right
Right to Lower Relief Valley.
 
  Relief Valley Summit Creek trail junction. Relief Valley Summit Creek trail junction.  
  Kennedy Meadows is at our back, to the North.

MAP

Top of Page

 
Upper Relief Valley or Lunch Meadow trail junction.

7680 feet

5.37 miles
North to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station gate.

5.55 miles
South to Brown Bear Pass.

Roughly halfway between Kennedy Meadows and Brown Bear Pass.

A good time and cool location to take off the very heavy backpack and take a little break, though there is not good seating here. And, the moisture, shadow, and coolness we like also makes this area dense with mosquitoes. We are still in the moist temperate zone, and mosquito populations are always higher in wet zones.

The visible arrow on the trail junction post is pointing us Southeast towards Lunch Meadow and Brown Bear Pass just beyond.

Now the climb really begins.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

comments Forum

HOPP
High Sierra Trail Guide backpack.

HOPP, the good old Harness Of Pain fully equipped and ready to make me sweat... Wait. I've got to modify my pack's name from HOP to HOPP.

Harness of Pain AND Pleasure... yes, yes, that's even more accurate...

Tripod, two cameras, lots of batteries and a solar charger pump up the weight.

I have a lashing system that allows me to pack this sucker internally and externally. 14 day trip? No problem. We will lash and secure two external food bags to this bad boy.

Backpack Water, Shower, and Gear Lashing System

Unresupplied Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Final Analysis

Extra/camp/river crossing shoes add comfort, the tent brings shelter against the violence of Nature and the mosquitoes, while my full first aid kit has brought clumsy me and under-equipped backpackers much relief over the decades.

I've fixed up a lot of fucked up feet... a couple of bad knees, and more than a few sprains.

Some scoff at the weight of my pack. Until I feed them, dress their wounds, and stock their pack with some bandages and tape after fixing them up so they can get those fkd up feet down the trail...

Then they are happy that at least I carried what was necessary into the mountains.

Top of Page Index

Pack Lashing System

Backpack clip on and last system.

This clip allows me to securely attach very heavy gear and/or lots of food to my pack. During Summertime this is typically used for huge amounts of food. During Wintertime it secures various bits of gear, including snowshoes, poles, crampons, and other bits of gear rendered unnecessary by changing terrain.
We have to carry what we don't wear.

Snow Pack ! (guide)

Four Season High Sierra Fun Forum

The two black lines each lead to a 15lb food sack each suitable for supplying five days of hard travel. The white cord ties to my water jug. There is also a Garcia in the lowest compartment of the pack holding five days' of food.

Member's Favorites:
Bear Protection

The blue foam is my backpack strap tearing its insulation out from the stresses of overloading, but only after a gopher ate the salt out of the strap's seams.

Backpack Water, Shower, and Gear Lashing System

Harness
of
Pain and Pleasure

The Monster Load
High Sierra Backpack fully loaded for 11 day trip.

High Sierra Backpack fully overloaded for 17 day trip.

Each of these two very heavy external food sacks is attached to the frame clip and secured by the bungee. I make sure to set it up so none of my gear "bounces" as I walk.

Having a rig that shifts when you walk is very-very bad. Don't let that happen. Bouncing-shifting gear bleeds calories/energy/pain out of you for no good reason...

That bounce makes me think you might be stupid. Don't be stupid. Properly secure all gear.

The setup above weights about 84 lbs. I walked the whole Tahoe to Yosemite Trail without resupply carrying this rig. Each of the external black sacks carries five days of food and weighs 15 pounds apiece. The Garcia in the pack is carrying a solid five days of food at 20 pounds of weight.

That's fifty pounds of food & bear canister.

Unresupplied Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Final Analysis

I have cart-wheeled down mountains a couple of times and this setup has proven secure. My "clip and lines" system keeps everything from flying off and rolling down the mountain during a wreck. And, whenever I fall down I know I have a landing pad secured to my back... that would be my foam bedroll.

That pad has cushioned a lot of falls. I affect my falls to land on it when possible.

I've lost nothing but blood during my various falls. And I have the first aid kit to fix that right up within easy reach inside the pack.

Here's my rule:

Make sure you can "tape it and make it" out if you break it...

Top of Page Index

Southeast Shore
of
Relief Reservoir

Hiking Options through Lower Relief Valley

Fire up the
National Forest Emigrant Wilderness Map PDF

Here the trail makes a significant split for Southbound backpackers. The main Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route and all of us long-distance backpackers who are pointing ourselves Southeast up to the highest part of Emigrant Wilderness turn Left, Southeast towards the Sierra Crest here.

Our hike continues tracking the unique beauties of Summit Creek
climbing into the middle canyon, but from above and Northeast of its chaotic course.

Lunch Meadow trail junction above Relief Reservoir.
Looking Southeast up our Southbound TYT

Emigrant Wilderness hikers have other significant options at this trail junction

Though the route to the Right through this trail junction brings us around the West and Southwest flanks of Granite Dome would take us far off our Sierra Crest route, these Emigrant Wilderness hiking options are worth discussing and checking out.

Off the Crest

Around Granite Dome and Blackhawk Mountain
Turning Right here for the climb up into Upper Relief Valley puts us in position to circle around the Southwest flank of Granite Dome. Our standard TYT route passes around its Northeast flank. The trail Southwest from here turning Right into Lower Relief Valley opens up another whole different aspect of Emigrant Wilderness than the High Trails this guide explores.

Trail to Upper Relief Valley.
Trail to the Southwest to Upper Relief Valley.

The trail Southwest, turning Right from the South end of Relief Reservoir through Lower Relief Valley passes around the South side of the Granite Dome Massif opening up the possibility of a big backpacking loop counterclockwise around Granite Dome (Deer Lake to Buck Lake to Emigrant Lake...), back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. But I believe there are better options.
The line of trail around the Southwest flank of Granite Dome offers access to a series of trails running Southwest through Granite canyons filled with deep forests and sky blue lakes wedged between the tops of a series of granite ridges descending down the Western Sierra flank below the Southwestern flank of Granite Dome.
Trails fan out to a series of classic High Sierra Trailheads spread along the Southwestern perimeter of Emigrant Wilderness accessible from Pinecrest Lake up to along the lower section of the Highway 108 corridor.

Fire up the
National Forest Emigrant Wilderness Map PDF

Lower Emigrant Wilderness
From within these lake-filled forested valleys running Southwest off Granite Dome trails run down to the Waterhouse, Gianelli, and Crabtree Trailheads located at various points along the perimeter of the Western boundary of Emigrant Wilderness.
Hiking Southeast all the way around the bottom of Granite Dome links us up with either Bucks Meadow Creek or North Cherry Creek. We can follow N Cherry Creek upstream to Emigrant Lake, or Bucks Meadow Creek downstream towards Pinecrest Lake and its many trailheads.

We have the option of hiking Southwest through the Relief Valley down the West flank of the Sierra to Highway 108 down the Western Sierra Flank through Pinecrest Lake.

Roll Your Own
My version of a cross-country hiking trip descending the Western Flank of the Emigrant Wilderness begins at the top, from Grizzly Meadow. Take your map and compass and extend your normal scrambling trips into a self-navigated cross country trip down to Pinecrest Lake. Trips like this are a real gas, but you must do lots of preparation and explorations before launching any cross country adventure.

Get to know the lay of the land and your own limits before pushing too far off trail.

Scrambland
Cross country trips must be a logical extension of our normal scrambling. Scrambling is how we gain familiarity with the terrain beyond the trail. Starting with a favorite camping location on the trail we'll start exploring bigger and bigger circles of the surrounding terrain until we can navigate between points without trail.

Intro to Navigation

For a "bird's eye view" of these hiking and scrambling options around Emigrant Wilderness, download the FREE USGS Bridgeport 30 minute hiking map.

Online Digital Maps

Matt Bloom and his horsepackers know the territory on the Southwest side of Granite Dome like the back of their hooves, I mean hands... haha... Talking to the folks at Kennedy Meadows Pack Stat ion can be real instructive.

Be nice to the cowboys!

Take You Higher
Hikers turning Left with the TYT at this trail junction continuing their climb South up Summit Creek route will experience the degrees of beauty associated with ascending up through the high elevation zones of Emigrant Wilderness.

And, here along Summit Creek we will examine the limit line of an ancient volcanic eruption's over even older granite terrain as we climb higher and higher up this amazing canyon.

Top of Page

Cowboys riding
through
Shadow and Light
of a
High Sierra Sunrise

Riders in the Light
Colin riding South out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Kicking back at the junction I first began to feel the deep thumping vibes of hooves reverbing through living Sierra Soils before I could hear the sound. I knew Horses and riders were approaching. Then the sound of cracking of leather harness on muscled beast, then their heavy, hollow breathing, then they physically broke through into the kaleidoscope of shadow and light.

Colin and another rider breaking through light and shadow riding South out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station early in the morning.

Hey Colin, What's Up?

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

Top of Page Index
Yo Bro
Colin riding for Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Colin is a damn crazy kid and a hell of a horse packer.

Rock Solid Dude.

When I compare the faces of horsepackers and their horses I find the horses generally more attentive... maybe even more intelligent...

haha...

I like horsepackers, but we've got to keep things in context.

Kennedy Meadows Mule train moving up Summit Creek, Emigrant Wilderness.

Up the Valley
End of the line of mules heading Southeast up Summit Creek towards Lunch Meadow and Brown Bear Pass.

Colin and his pal are running almost unladen mules.

I heard something the previous day when I was passing through Kennedy Meadows about shifting a fishing party established at Huckleberry Lake to another premium fishing spot in the High Emigrant Wilderness.

Thus the mules are unladen, except for what I figure is a food resupply.

Matt will haul you and your pack out into the middle of Emigrant Wilderness and leave you there. Or he will set up a camp, and leave you there with pro cowboy cooks. The Kennedy Meadows horse packers will resupply and support your trips in any way you specify.

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

Now we Climb East
up into the
Beauties of Summit Creek's Valley
between
Granite Dome and Relief Peak

rock formation in full daylight.

Above the trail junction our trail twists around great granite features, specifically winding its way around the base of this fine piece of rock.

Let's step back in time and space to get the full view.

comments Forum
Rock formation above Relief Reservoir trail junction.

Here this sweet rock face picks up the first direct light of the day.

Same Rock, different time of day and different season.

A different feel for each part of the day and each season of the year is a fundamental expression of the many faces of Nature.

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View South across Canyon

Entering the narrowing mouth of the gorge-valley of Summit Creek above and Southeast of Relief Reservoir... we look directly South through a gap in the brush and terrain over at Granite Dome.
Entering the gorge-valley of Summit Creek.

Great Granite formations on the Granite Dome Massif emerge as we climb out of the top of the surrounding forest.

We are approaching the center of the canyon hiking up into an interface, like the layering of a cake, climbing between layers of red volcanic cake on top and granite layers on the bottom.
This granite terrain lower down was beyond the reach of encroaching lava and debris flows. That further up was covered, but under an uneven pattern of coverage.

We are now climbing up into, then above the line of this volcanic layering on our Northern flank of this fantastic valley.

The other flank, the Southern flank, making up the Southern side of this narrowing mouth of this valley is composed of sparkling granite.

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Rock Stars

Emigrant Wilderness granite formation.

Looking to the Northeast, to our Left and Up while hiking Southbound.

Hiking up into the mouth of the gorge Summit Creek flows down, above and South of Relief Reservoir. Above us we have great granite formations capped with hundreds of feet of volcanic material above them, up to the ridgetop.

We find some fine granite below the encroaching volcanic cap.

This canyon was once all granite, until an ancient flow covered the whole Northeast side of the canyon. Granite remnants sit in pockets and alcoves protected from, or beyond the reach of the ancient flows along the base of this otherwise volcanic ridge.

I noticed a little glowing spot of red high up on the rock.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

 

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Life Everywhere

Flowers growing in great granite terrain, Emigrant Wilderness.

Cool.

Under an angled rock, that did not quite fall flat, a little splash of red pushes towards the sky, until the rock finally falls, and they die.

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Leaving Relief Reservoir Behind

Last glimpse of Relief Reservoir hiking up Summit Creek.

We strain for our last glimpse of Relief Reservoir hiking Southeast climbing deeper up towards the mouth of the narrowing gorge-valley along the middle part of our hike along Summit Creek from Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass on the TYT.

As we climb towards Saucer Meadow the South end of Relief Reservoir blinks in and out of sight through trees and terrain until finally being blocked out by the terrain.

MAP

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Beauty in all Directions

View North by Northwest while climbing Southeast into the throat of Summit Creek's cool central gorge.
West view towards Relief Valley beyond projecting granite formation.

West view beyond projecting granite formation towards volcanic ridge bounding West flank of Lower Relief Valley and the upper part of the ridge wrapping around the West shore of Relief Reservoir.

We are looking back across the South Shore of Relief Reservoir, which is below our line of sight. The ridge composing the Western ridge above Relief Reservoir is visible in the furthest distance beyond the granite formations in the middle of the image.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Volcanic terrain on top, Granite Below

Interface between granite and volcanic terrain.

View Northeast

This picture is worth a thousand words describing the ancient geological history stacked up on this terrain.

An amazing horizontal interface between stacked granite and volcanic terrain. As we climb higher up and gain grand views of this valley we will note how the natural limits of the ancient lava flows over the granite created the unique juxtapositions of terrain we enjoy in this valley.

God's ice cream sandwich.

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Looking Southeast down the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Saucer Meadow's Campsites sit just within the slot of the Narrowing Granite Valley to our Southeast

To the Center of the Valley
Summit City Creek below Granite Dome.

Ahead we see Summit Creek running through its narrow gap in the center of the valley below the North flank of the Granite Dome Massif. The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail bends to our Left working the mostly volcanic North side of this valley hiking up to Saucer Meadow.

Once we get over there our steep climb moderates.

Saucer Meadow Campsites
Saucer Meadow's formal location is just beyond the throat of that gorge, it's location is marked well to the Northeast of Summit Creek on the 7.5 map. The campsites in proximity to Saucer Meadow are located about a quarter mile beyond the formal location of Saucer Meadow on the map, located where the trail and Summit Creek converge.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Once we climb our way up to Saucer Meadow & into the center of the upcoming narrow section of the valley, the trail slightly descends to our Right to the flat with the big granite boulder campsite and access to Summit Creek's water source that are called the "Saucer Meadow" campsites for their proximity to Saucer Meadow.

Saucer Meadow itself, though well vegetated, has no nearby flowing water. The campsites just South of Saucer Meadow are where we gain access to Summit Creek.

Access to Granite Dome
Saucer Meadow's very few unrestricted campsites are on a narrow forested flat between granite terrain topped with a volcanic cap to our North and the expansive raw granite of Granite Dome to our South. Here we find the beginning of a run of access points for scrambling into the wonders of Granite Dome.

HIGHLY RESTRICTED CAMPING ZONE
Though there are a few nice flats around the big granite boulder, more and more of these sites have been marked as "site restoration zones" and off limits for camping. (As of Sept 2013 to July 2016)

This first flat in the run of Saucer Meadow campsites is full up with three small hiking parties. No worries. From the Boulder Campsite hiking South we will see that this forested flat is extensive, maybe 3/8ths of a mile long, with a run of many fine campsites scattered along Summit Creek from the first boulder campsite above Saucer Meadow to the fallen tree camp marking the end of Saucer Meadow's run of campsites.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Relief Reservoir

Relief Reservoir, Stanislaus National Forest.

Looking Northwest back down the terrain we just climbed to get up here from Relief Reservoir, at the Southwestern Shore of Relief Reservoir.

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Trail

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail up Summit Creek above Relief Reservoir.

Hiking Southeast climbing up and towards the center of the valley, eventually, as we trace the wide mouth of the canyon narrowing down into its throat, being the center of the narrowing canyon in the images above.

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View of the Terrain to the Southwest
South of Relief Reservoir

East Flange Rock
Glimpse Southwest of Relief Valley as we climb into Summit Creek's gorge.

Glimpse to the Southwest of the mountain to the Southwest of Relief Reservoir, East Flange Rock, located above Relief Valley. We are now seeing long and far to all compass points as we climb higher into great views, before we enter the throat of Summit Creek's narrowing canyon/gorge, and the terrain of the canyon becomes the sole object of our observations.

We are hiking into a "box," in a manner of speaking. A box of very interesting design and construction.

The feature above is the East Flange Rock above the West shore of Relief Creek South of Relief Reservoir.

Though we are following the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail our route up Summit Creek's Canyon is pointing Southeast by the compass.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Southwest
the
Majestic Granites
rising to
Granite Dome appear

Northwest ridge of Granite Dome.

Majestic granite formations of the Northwest ridge and flank of the Granite Dome Massif.

Peak 9113 on map below-Left.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

Panorama

Canyon above Relief Reservoir.

I spliced together the three pictures above to indicate our trail's position in the funneling up into the narrowing mouth of the middle section of canyon.

The granite on its South flank is pinching in to the North, while the volcanic terrain we are threading through is pinching South, though we can see great blocks of granite emerging from their ancient volcanic coverings above us to the North, our Southbound Left.

Summit Creek flows down through where these two distinct terrains touch, and we are hiking there now.

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The
Granite Dome and Black Hawk Mountain
Massif
featuring
Peaks
9752
and 9113
from
Left to Right
and
GRANITE DOME
Granite Dome and Blackhawk Peak Emigrant Wilderness.

GRANITE DOME and its MASSIF
We are looking almost directly to our geographic South, maybe a little West of South. We are looking across the course of Summit Creek near the top of our climb South up from Relief Reservoir to where this wide forested canyon funnels in, narrowing as it climbs up to the center of the canyon and our entrance into the middle canyon.

The View
From our position above we're looking South across Summit Creek at the Western end of the Granite Dome Massif, its Northwestern end. The furthest distant bit of granite wall we can see peeking out of the center of the image between two closer formations is Granite Dome.

The highpoint on the West side, the high point on the furthest Right crest of the Granite Dome Massif is Peak 9113. The high point of the rounded dome on the far Left is Peak 9752.

Between the two is Granite Dome in the furthest distance.

Continuing South
Our trail into the middle canyon is funneling us up and gradually towards the center of the canyon.

We are on the Northern side, the volcanic side of the canyon, hiking East by the compass (South on the TYT), towards the Left edge of the image above. Our trail South on this volcanic side of the canyon will converge with the base of the massive massif of Granite Dome's mighty granite ridge we see in the image above, and it will be delightful.

Our TYT route is funneling in, climbing the narrowing shape of the canyon's mouth towards its center where our volcanic North wall of the canyon, the base of Relief Peak, comes into close proximity with the Southern granite wall composed of the base of the Granite Dome & Black Hawk Mountain Massif. This configuration creates a unique canyon.

Our position hiking along through granite terrain under the over-capping volcanic cap of Relief Peak is gradually changing has we hike higher up and deeper into the volcanic half of this canyon.

Approaching Saucer Meadow
Saucer Meadow is a nice dry flat under a vast granite wall gouged out of the otherwise volcanic mountainside just below the point where the converging walls we've been climbing finally reach up into the narrow middle run of canyon, where trail and canyon walls North and South are wrapped close-in around Summit Creek, and we begin following its course upstream in the center of the valley. Reaching this point we find a fantastic forested creekside flat stretches for almost a half mile South alongside Summit Creek, filled with the "Saucer Meadow Campsites." This flat, forested run of campsites begins with the big boulder campsite about a half-mile South of Saucer Meadow.

We are seriously impressed by the grand beauty of the Granite Dome - Black Hawk Mountain Massif and its striking contrast with the great red volcanic ridge capped by Relief Peak. These features are striking on their own, but when sharing the different sides of the same canyon they create a startling beauty encompassing most of the processes that drove the creation of the range we hike today.

Main Peaks Visible Above
Peak 9113 on far Right (West), and Peak 9752 to the Left (Southeast).
A bit of Granite Dome visible in the furthest distance between them.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

That's the bonus view in the image above. The very top of Granite Dome is visible sticking up over the low gap between Peaks 9113 and 9752.

The full extent of the Granite Dome-Black Hawk Mountain Massif is one massively impressive piece of rock. It is also amazingly accessible for scrambling, cross-country backpacking, and all forms of sensible exploration.

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Working our way South
around the
North Flank of the Narrowing and Rising Canyon

I felt something watching me.

We find examples of ancient granite beyond the reach of the volcanic flows that covered the ridge above our Northern, Left-hand shoulder.

I felt something watching me.

Easter Island Rock

Easter Island Rock on the Sierra Trails!

It was
Easter Island Rock.

Climbing higher we reach a shelf of highly jointed granite, This shelf appears to sit both above and below volcanic terrain.

A little island of granite sticking out of a frozen sea of volcanic terrain.

Its existence is a function of the shape of the volcanic flows that engulfed the granite here, with this bit granite being "pushed out" far enough above and beyond the apparent main lines of the volcanic flows to survive.

This surviving segment of our now buried ancient granite ridge is what's sticking out from under the overtopping volcanic material because a section of the ancient volcanic ridge bulged outward far enough to avoid getting buried by surrounding rivers of volcanic debris.

This peculiarity of terrain and luck put this run of amazing granite out of the path of the ancient lava flows.

What Ifs..
These kinds of features make me wonder about how much granite terrain, and what it looks like, is buried under the hundreds of feet of volcanic debris across and along hundreds of miles of the Sierra Nevada Crestline.

If the eruptions had just been a bit different the character of the Sierra would me much different. Yet all things happen over the vast fullness of time.

Mountains rising in gleaming granite glory. Capped and Cut by Ice. Fired and coated with volcanoes, and eventually all is worn away to reform and be reborn yet again.

The range of experience between first rise and last fall is vast.

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The Corkster

Corky the Horsepacker

A few miles and a few hours later Corky rode by leading day riders deep into the Emigrant Wilderness out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. The Corkster is one hell of a guy. I'd ride or hike with him anytime, anywhere.

Well, I don't think we'll see Corky hiking, unless things go really wrong! Corky is a life long High Sierra professional horse packer. He's won awards at Mule Days in Bishop, and rode to and through retirement as a Yosemite National Park horse packer. This man rides, not hikes.

Corky is now riding out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. He's available for everything from day rides out to Lunch Meadow to major multi-day hunting and fishing expeditions. Or just observing Nature, and shooting it with our camera.

Call and Talk to Matt about having Corky ride your ass around Emigrant Wilderness. He knows his way around the mountain trails up and down the Sierra Nevada Crest and Valleys.

Corky on the trail.

Speaking of work, they broke the mold after they made Corky.

Corky's horse is taking a deep look, listen, and scent of me. Neither Corky or his horse can understand why someone would not ride these beautiful trails.

Good looking horse. Corky on the other hand...

Location
climbing to Saucer Meadow

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

Kennedy Meadows Riders

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Corky's Riders

Corky's riders passing up the valley.

Above: Riders with Corky follow him up the trail towards Saucer Meadow.

Kennedy Meadows Pack station will bring you on extensive day rides If you want to get a deep look at this terrain without walking it.

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Corky

Corky, experienced Emigrant and Yosemite horse packer.

Corky rides down the trail.

Later, Bro.

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

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Complex Terrain up Summit Creek

The image below does not convey the majesty of the scene we are hiking into.

We've funneled in, climbing towards the center of Summit Creek's middle canyon from the Northwest since departing Relief Reservoir. Now we are beginning to see the grand scale of the granite terrain funneling up to the center of the canyon on the other side, the South side of this bifurcated canyon.

See, our hike up the North side of the "funnel" up to the center of the middle canyon is across mixed granite and volcanic terrain, while the South flank of the canyon is pure, clean, magnificent granite. The South flank of the middle and upper sections of our hike are composed of the massive granites of the Granite Dome on its Western end running up to Black Hawk Mountain on its East end.

The North wall of our canyon is exposing itself as the North flank of the vast ridge of burnt-red volcanic materials capped by Relief Peak. Except the places below and beyond the furthest reach of the volcanic flows. These places include the lower Western-most parts of our climb East from Relief Reservoir, but diminish as we climb higher into the over-capping volcanic coverage as we hike Southeast.

At our position in the image below we can make out the center of the funnel ahead, the center of the canyon where both sides of this grand two-tone funnel come together marking the beginning of the next segment of our hike through the middle segment of this canyon.

At this point we realize (if we are observing and analyzing properly) we are coming to a fairly flat strip of forested terrain stuck between monumental granite to our South with epic volcanic terrain rising to our North.

Wow. This is delightfully complex terrain.

Saucer Meadow Campsites
But yes, down there in the center of the image below, and a little ways further upstream, is where a series of fine campsites begin that run upriver along a flat run of Summit Creek for about 3/8ths of a mile.


Granite Dome
Granite Dome approaching Sheep Camp.

Granite Dome approaching Saucer Meadow

Saucer Meadows Campsites
Approach

Peak 9752 foreground-middle Left with crest of Granite Dome rising from background-furthest Right. But it's what's on the ground ahead that is as important as the mountainscape.

Saucer Meadow's campsites are South, further down the trail from the location of Saucer Meadow ahead of us, as shown on our customized backpacking MAP.

In the image above we can see how the steep terrain we climbed from Relief Reservoir is further moderating into a nice flat ahead, where the convergence of lower canyon walls ends, and the run of the middle canyon from Saucer Meadow to the foot of the climb up to Sheep Camp begins.

This is a moderate degree of difficulty segment of trail.

The location of Saucer Meadow on the map is correct, but the trail does not come close to Summit Creek for about a half mile South of Saucer Meadow's marked location on the map. The campsites begin where the trail, deep pools along Summit Creek, and a nice forested flat along the creek come together nicely.

A little piece of perfection.

 

Video Saucer
I hike through the green but dry Saucer Meadow at 5:58 deep into the Relief Reservoir to Saucer Meadow video above.
Below a short video reflects the terrain from Saucer Meadow South to its associated campsites.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations


Emigrant Wilderness Backpacking Videos

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Approaching Saucer Meadow

Hiking South into Saucer Meadow.

Coming over a low rise we begin dropping into the shallow bowl that captures the moisture sustaining Saucer Meadow.

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VIDEO

Saucer Meadow South to its Associated Campsites
Camping under Granite Dome

 

Above Relief Reservoir
Hiking Southeast of Relief Reservoir we find ourselves climbing a hard traverse up the North side of Summit Creek's canyon, gradually funneling ourselves up to a slot where the granite and volcanic terrain come together along Summit Creek running down the center of the canyon.

Being on the North flank of the ascending canyon puts us on the volcanic side of the canyon, except that the volcanic terrain is only capping this end of the ridge. The end of abrupt horizontal transition lines between granite terrain sticking out from under the limits of the volcanic flows that poured over the granite from above show us the outlines of the furthest limits of this ancient lava flow over the even older granite it covered.

Observing the terrain carefully tells us that this vast volcanic ridge to our North was created by volcanic flows over, and capping the granite ridge that at one time made up the North flank of this canyon.

We can see this granite sticking out beyond the furthest extents of the lava flows. We can also see once fully-encased super hard granites eroding out of their soft volcanic jackets above the horizontal interface line dividing the volcanic material on top from the granite underneath.

Everything is telling stories to the observant backpacker.

Life never stops talking if we don't stop listening.

To Saucer Meadow
Our immediate goal to our South is Saucer Meadow. The video below walks us into and through Saucer Meadow on our way to the Saucer Meadow Campsites, which are located about a half-mile South of the dry and exposed position of Saucer Meadow.

 
   

South of Saucer Meadow:
Saucer Meadow Campsites
Once we hike past the massive granite formations dominating and marking the North limit of Saucer Meadow we finish hiking up a little climbing section before a gentle downhill brings us into the first forested flat hosting the first in a series of fine campsites extending South for a bit less than a half mile along Summit Creek.

These are the Saucer Meadow Campsites.

The first site we encounter off to our Right is characterized by a low wide granite rock feature in a nice flat above Summit Creek. I call it the big rock site.
As we approach we'll see the big granite rock protects a little fire ring and shelters a couple of nice sleeping flats. This first site does not have the best access to water, but a little walk upriver fixes that.

Looking around we see another flat upstream, but it's a restoration zone.

I stop here to lean up against the cool boulder for lunch and a break, and to check out hikers.

Unfortunately, too many campers find this small spot as handsome as we do. Well, it is a brilliant site... a pretty and peaceful place. The almost invisible lines of force circulating in the currents through great pool under the big rock are nice. This first cluster of campsites along this stretch of Summit Creek is mostly staked off-limits by Stanislaus National Forest as restoration zones.
That's why I don't camp here. I stop for a nice break to rest and observe, but move on after some food and water. Not to worry.

There are many more campsites than these, stretching for about 3/8ths of a mile upstream from these first Saucer Meadow campsites at the big rock site.

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Kennedy Meadows
to
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Access to Granite Dome Scrambles
This strip of trail for the next half-mile is where things get interesting. Looking South across Summit Creek we see various lines of access into the amazing scrambling granite terrain of Granite Dome.
Continuing South from these first Saucer Meadow Campsites we make a low climb up to a granite flat South of this first set of campsites to find more campsites and across Summit Creek we can see great many access points into the expanses of granite climbing up to Granite Dome and its associated peaks, lakes, and gorges decorating its bulky massif.

We've found scrambling access up to the series of lakes surrounding Granite Dome.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

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Observe and Explore
Besides holding many fine campsites tucked in along the trail, the interfaces between rock, forest, and routes climbing up into the lower slabs of Granite Dome's expansive granite on the other shore (the South shore) of Summit Creek hold even more isolated camps and make this flat section generally delightful to just sit and observe or engage through careful scrambling.

Find your Perfect Spot
There are a lot of beautiful isolated sites all over that massive granite slab called Granite Dome. There's likely a beautiful spot that only your well made plans modified by on-the-spot observations will lead you to, the perfect place for you.

If we give ourselves the time to scout out the locations we hike through and we will find many hidden treasures. Here we've found the key to the whole treasure chest, being scrambling access onto the Granite Dome Massif.

This strip of flat forested terrain above Saucer Meadow offers fantastic access to Granite Dome up to the point where the trail climbs Southbound into the gravel washes.

The beginning of this series of campsites along the trail South of Saucer Meadow is marked by the granite boulder campsite feature below, which we see off to our Right as we enter the first forested flat hiking South of Saucer Meadow.

Once we get to these Saucer Meadow Campsites we should begin looking South across Summit Creek for campsites and access to scrambling on Granite Dome.

Dedicated Emigrant Wilderness Scrambling Trips
The flat strip of terrain to the South of Saucer Meadow along the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from where the Saucer Meadow Campsites begin South to the gravel washes offer us excellent scrambling access Southwest into Granite Dome's incredible beauty and beauteous scrambling terrain.

Hiking up to Saucer Meadow with the intention of scrambling into/onto Granite Dome for a couple of days is a great idea.

Just be careful, don't get in over your head, and you will have the time of your life.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Saucer Meadow

Saucer Meadow.

Hiking South into Saucer Meadow.

Saucer Meadow opens up ahead and to our Right, the South-Southeast. The ridge to the Left, the Northeast, is the great volcanic ridgeline running East up to the Sierra Crest.

To our West and Southwest we have the great granite mass of Granite Dome making up the South wall of the canyon down here, and Black Hawk Mountain caps the granite ridge as we approach the Sierra Crest.

Note the granite on the Left of the image ahead. These bits of granite along the North flank escaped the flows that capped the rest of the North ridge.

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Saucer Meadow

Saucer Meadow, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Hiking Through Saucer Meadow

Walking South down to Saucer Meadow. Here we note the massive granite feature that characterizes the North flank of this meadow, and marks its Northeastern extent.


Saucer Meadow Granite

Saucer Meadow granite formation.

View North

Great granite feature making up the Northeastern wall of the canyon rising out of Saucer Meadow. Beyond this granite wall the top of the ridge rises and forms itself into Relief Peak's massive volcanic horn.

The flows of the ancient eruptions that covered the ridge above were insufficient to reach over and all the way down to cover this amazing protruding nub of a granite feature.

Thus we are seeing bits and pieces of a horizontal line of volcanic material running out to its Westernmost extent. Unsubmerged granite as seen above reminds us of the buried granite serving as the foundation for the vast volcanic ridge deposited on top of it.

Rising out of its Grave
Higher up the flank of the volcanic Northern wall of this canyon (below) we can see veins of granite buried under volcanic material slowly eroding out, emerging out of their volcanic graves as tens of thousands of years of erosion slowly scours away the overcapping soft volcanic materials to reveal the hard granites long ago buried under mind-boggling flows of vast volcanic eruptions.

Think of Noah's Flood, but with lava...

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Saucer Meadow Blooming

Saucer Meadow blooming in Emigrant Wilderness along the TYT.

Looking South across Saucer Meadow.

Mid-June. Mosquitoes thick and aggressive.

Seasonal Mosquitoes Mosquito News

Our trail is hiking South-Southeast by the compass out of the upper-Left edge of the image above. The perspective above is looking South across Saucer Meadow at the granite on the Granite Dome side of the canyon.

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Composite Boulder

Compostie boulders sitting in boulder garden on South side of Saucer Meadow.

Composite Boulder Garden

Above is a composite boulder, one of a set making up what I call a composite boulder garden on South edge of Saucer Meadow. This may seem a bit strange and out of place, as we just passed the great wall of granite making up part of the North wall marking out the Northern extent of Saucer Meadow.

We can see this composite boulder is the product of, and tumbled down from far above the horizontal interface marking out the the underlying granite terrain from the overlaying volcanic terrain. This is a part of that flow over the top of this canyon's North wall, when it was once granite far in the past, and then flowed down its South-facing flank, scooping up the encased granite debris we see breaking out today.

These chunks of consolidated boulders making up this rock garden pictured above fell off the volcanic mountainside piled up above our granite wall. About ten thousand years ago a massive eruption along the Sierra Crest and its Eastern flank stretched from the Carson Range South to Mammoth Lakes.
I figure this network of volcanoes was producing series of alternating volcanic eruptions through their system over the span of a few thousand years.
Picture it as a kind of game of "wack-a-mole," with volcanoes popping up instead of moles... The eruptions popped up through this volcanic network in an irregular pattern, by my reckoning.

An eruption here, an eruption there, then one over here, and one over there, with this irregular pattern repeating itself over and over again for a few thousand very active years. All this intense volcanic activity happened at the end of the last ice age.
Other volcanic structures, such as the Dardanelles, is millions of years old. Others, such as the North wall of our canyon up Summit Creek to Brown Bear Pass, are much more recent. For more information on High Sierra Geology, and a specific look at the geological history of Emigrant Wilderness, see:

New

Geology Links

Geology News

and

The Sierra Club's Naturalist's Guide to the Sierra Nevada

and

Mineral Resources of the Emigrant Basin Primitive Area,
California, (USGS, Tooker, Morris, Fillow, and Oliver, 1970).

 

Imagine a volcano erupting along the Sierra Crest while buried under a few thousand feet of Ice Age ice. Imagine rivers of muck a thousand feet deep created by under-ice eruptions melting canyon-fulls of volcanic slurry sweeping down the Western flank.

Imagine looking at a remaining "piece" of one of these ancient rivers of volcanic muck that's frozen in time and place, that's thousands of feet thick, and that's breaking off big chunks and tumbling them down its deteriorating flanks.

That's how I see composite boulders, as one of the end stages of a very, very long process.

This Earth is amazing.

Here in the image above we can see a much thicker flow swept up and encased glacial debris in a very hard volcanic shell. The lava was almost as dense as the rocks it swept up within its flow, but it was not hot enough to melt these captured rocks. This is very different than the "soft," composite flows of even cooler materials we see in other volcanic valleys off the Sierra Crest, where the encasing volcanic material can be as soft as a weak mixture of cement.

Also See
Notes on
Composite Boulders, Reynolds Peak

Composite Boulders, South Upper Truckee

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Looking North across Saucer Meadow
Back the way we Came

Looking North across Saucer Meadow.

The Fall Zone
Above we turn around while climbing out the South end of Saucer Meadow, to take a look North, back the way we came across Saucer Meadow along the TYT South from Kennedy Meadows.

We can see the ridge in the distance dropping down toward Relief Reservoir.

A gentle climb behind us brings us deeper into Summit Creek's middle canyon. After a short climb we begin a brief descent to the big rock campsite, the first in the series of, "Saucer Meadow Campsites."

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Last Climb South
of
Saucer Meadow
before reaching
Campsites

Hiking out of upper Saucer Meadow.

A gentle climb brings us out of Saucer Meadow.

We've climbed up, and funneled into the narrowing middle segment of the canyon during the hike up from Relief Reservoir.

Though we've entered the middle segment of the canyon, our trail is still climbing, but more gently. Our trail is still following the line of the still-narrowing canyon walls towards the center of the canyon, albeit on a much more gentle angle.

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Dropping down
to the
Saucer Meadow Camp Sites

Down to the Saucer Meadows Campsites.

Entering last segment of trail approaching Saucer Meadow Campsites.

Hiking to the lowest point ahead we come first to Summit Creek, then a series of campsites.

Around the Berm into the Flat

Hiking South into the Saucer Meadow camp sites.

Here we begin a short descent to Summit Creek running through a nice series of deep pools in the center of the canyon under sheltering forest.

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Summit Creek below Camp Sites

Summit Creek below Saucer Meadow campsite area.

Reaching Summit Creek-Approaching Campsite Zone

We exit the berm to a flat above and along Summit Creek about wide enough for our trail. Across Summit Creek we see promising sites... but...

We're still about a hundred yards North of the campsites.

We can see campsites across the creek as we approach the main campsite area.

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Main Saucer Meadow Campsite

Last steps South to Saucer Meadow campsites.

Big Rock Campsite
Last steps hiking South into Saucer Meadow campsites area.

The most distant low granite feature is the big rock marking the location of the first of a series of campsites along our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail for the next 3/8ths of a mile.

Our trail leads into this first nicely forested Saucer Meadow Campsites area, while the actual location Saucer Meadow is a bit behind us to the North. In any case this is not where the premium campsites at "Saucer Meadow" are located. We've got to continue South to find them.

The campsites in the first forested flat above Saucer Meadow, which we are looking at above, would be the best places to camp, if the heavy use drawn to this spot's optimal location and beauty had not also drawn-in camping restrictions.

The very suitability of this place for camping has drawn campsite restrictions here.

Most of the potential campsites on this little upcoming flat are marked with "restoration area" posts, but not the key site at the big rock.

The granite rock in the middle-distant Right is the main, and still legal campsite here during the 2016 season. This guide was designed to be updated through its Trails Forums. Post up your observations and analysis of camping opportunities here, and the current status of the restrictions:

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Saucer Meadow Big Rock Campsites

Saucer Meadow Campsite, Emigrant Wilderness.

The Big Granite Rock Campsite of the Lower Saucer Meadow Campsites

Above we see the distinctive boulder campsite marking the beginning of the series of campsites at, and running about a half mile South of this first campsite. Summit Creek flows past through a fine pool on the backside of this boulder.

Though this little flat is pretty busy during Summer, there are not many campsites here. The site pictured above is the main campsite.

But don't worry if you hike into here tired and sweaty only to see someone camped here!

A series of campsites, and the best sites here at Saucer Meadow are only a short distance further South upriver along the trail.

Over the years I've hiked through, and taken breaks here, I've always seen a party at this site during weekends during the height of the Summertime backpacking season. There will be another party camped here at the less optimal spot.

No problem. I generally take a break here to refresh myself after the climb up from Relief Reservoir, and to enjoy the special beauty of this site, and the nice swirling pool along a bend of Summit Creek behind the big rock, even though I don't camp here. It's still a beautiful spot.

My favorite spots are just a short ways further up the trail.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
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   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Video
Saucer Meadow Campsites

Video: Saucer Meadow Campsites.

5:26

 

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Campsite at the Boulder at Saucer Meadow

Fire ring at Saucer Meadow along TYT in Emigrant Wilderness.

Fire ring and collected firewood at Saucer Meadow Boulder along TYT in Emigrant Wilderness July 2012.

Too bad I don't make fires... nor stay overnight at this particular location.

Forum: Fires

Flat Areas 30 yards South of the boulder

Much of Saucer Meadow is a restoration site.

Site Restoration
Just steps South of the Boulder Campsite within this same forested flat is another fine site for camping. Too many other backpackers have felt the same, triggering the installation of a "site restoration" post.

Much of this first Saucer Meadow camping flat is a restoration site, posted with no camping posts like the one above.

Since this first flat is pretty small, these restoration site posts cover most of this area.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Site Restoration at Saucer Meadow

Saucer Meadow restoration post.

Saucer Meadow site restoration post.

Stanislaus National Forest regulations tell us not to camp within one hundred feet of these restoration posts.

Can't Camp Here!

Saucer Meadow Resident

Saucer Meadow Caterpillar.

Saucer Meadow Caterpillar.

I leaned back against the cool shaded rock of the main boulder campsite as I pulled my hot and sweaty hat off, tossing it onto the ground beside me. I was done with all the work of collecting trail guide information.

Then I noticed a piece of fluorescent fury surging across the forest floor.

My first thought, "food," was interrupted by the delight generated by the intense color and activity of this mini might.

Most of the insect world seems to well-justify occupation of its position in the chain of life by how well it supports the increasing sophistication of the web of life, by both eating and being eaten. Food.

Thus my "food" though. Don't get me wrong. Food is beautiful on so many levels. I cherish and respect food, as well as enjoy it. But this was more.

Under examination each piece of the food chain is inherently beautiful.

This little sucker needed no examination! It was beautiful "on the hoof."

Hooves. Many of them.

As it swept past in its furiously undulating beauty it evoked images in my mind of beautiful butterflies emerging from their chrysalis stage, of the beauty of the short and long cycles of evolution coming neatly together in one creature's radically changing life...

... and, the florescence of this little devil was pleasing on its own merits.

Pretty Food !

I put my trail guide writer hat back on (after the creature exited my hat!) and chased this bug around a bit, despite being previously exhausted by all the chases on the hike up here...

When the opportunity to reflect the beauty of nature arises, I rise as if from the dead to answer. The web of life draws out and expresses all aspects of existence in the execution of its design.

This guy rewarded me with its unceasing energy expressed as undulating fluorescent beauty.

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Trail South from First Flat

Trail South from first Saucer Meadow camp sites.

South from First Campsites

Hiking South from the first campsites above Saucer Meadow (the boulder site) our trail follows this rocky trail to top a low rise where the next narrow flats suitable for camping are wedged in along Summit Creek.

We have this low climb pictured above leading to the next two and a half flats. The first upcoming flat is the granite flat pictured below, then there's a forested flat beyond it a bit further South where the horses are pictured tied-off below.

Lots of places to camp at both places.

Best "Saucer Meadow" Campsites
Another short length of trail beyond both of those next two camping areas brings us gently up to the last set of campsites, not really situated on a "flat" (thus the 2.5 flats), but along a somewhat jumbled forested section of trail twisting through forest and among scattered granite features.
We will know we are at the end of this series of campsites when the angle of our trail steps up a noticeable grade of difficulty into a set of steps climbing into a wet section of trail. That's the end of the line of Saucer Meadow Campsites. After climbing the steps through temperate terrain (ferns) the terrain shifts from temperate forest to thin forest shading a series of vast gravel washes.

Access to Granite Dome
This segment of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail along this narrow flat above Saucer Meadow also gives us fantastic access to our South up into the granite wonderland of the Granite Dome Massif around and between Granite Dome and Black Hawk Mountain.

We've got to cross over to the South shore of Summit Creek for access.
We cross Summit Creek to either explore and scramble, or find a nice secluded camp site on the South shore of the creek.

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Granite Dome Massif

Granite Dome from above Saucer Meadow.

Granite Dome from "Middle" Saucer Meadow Campsites

We are looking over our Right shoulder at Granite Dome in the above image as we hike South. We have a view of the massive granite of Granite Dome to our South across a massive slab of granite. Our Southbound trail is taking us from the Right to Left, though we are traveling East by Southeast by compass heading.

Hunting around over there on the South shore of Summit Creek will reveal nice campsites. Very nice. We also have campsites behind us at the big rock site, and ahead at the wedged snag site, before we begin seriously climbing to our next campsites at Sheep Camp.

At our position in the picture above we are above and South of the first set of Saucer Meadow campsites, which are out of the Right edge from the picture's perspective, and we are walking towards the last set of Saucer Meadow campsites to our South, which are out of sight beyond the Left edge of the image above.

Color Line
Summit Creek is flowing down mountain Left to Right across the middle of the image, hidden in its granite channel between the near reddish and more distant steel gray granite. I figure the iron in the volcanic materials of the South wall of our canyon is leeching out as oxide and coloring all the rock on this side North Shore of Summit Creek. Summit Creek is the limit line for the volcanic stained granites.

Besides marking the color line, we can see that crossing Summit Creek in the correct location along this strip of terrain gives us access into miles and miles of fantastic granite terrain perfect for scrambling around Granite Dome's Massif and peak, as well as access to Black Hawk Mountain.

This is not just a zone of camping along Summit Creek, but our access into the Granite Dome-Blackhawk Mountain Massif.

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Second set of Campsites

Stock tied up above Saucer Meadow.

Day Riders
Stock tied on a Line above Saucer Meadow.

A big group of private day riders rode up to the second "Saucer Meadow" campsite flat pictured above, above the big rock site. They rode South past me as I lounged around in the big rock campsite, chased bugs around, got some water, and rested up a bit.

Nice folks. We exchanged greetings and I said hello to their dogs who came over to check me out as the group rode past. Good dogs. The dogs were happy to see someone they could, "scout out," as they ran alongside the mounted riders with engaged joy.

These were riders out of the Kennedy Meadows Trailhead, though not affiliated with Kennedy Meadows Pack Station's stock or riders, as far as I could tell. This is a great place for the horsefolks to exercise their riding and packing skills.

It looks like these horsefolk day-riders even packed a mule to carry their lunch. Must've been a great lunch! That mule can pack 180 lbs of food!

That means a cold beer with lunch!

Backcountry Horsemen of California

This is great riding country. Hell, this is great country for the human spirit, be it on foot or horseback. The spirit soars like an eagle here, be it launched from hoof or heel, the flight of the Spirit here is real.

The dogs certainly were digging it.

Moving On

Past the second flat the trail takes a couple of kinked turns, rises a little, then makes an almost straight stretch South through what appears to be a jumbled, almost confused bit of forested terrain running right alongside Summit Creek.

We'll make out a few sad campsites and restoration posts, until we reach the wedged snag.

The key things to consider if we're planning on staying at Saucer Meadow Campsites is where they end, for we don't want to walk past the end of this strip of campsites. The next consideration is which is the best site for us.

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Far Southern End of Saucer Meadow
Campsites

The Wedged Snag

Fallen tree wedged between two standing trees.

The Wedged Snag

Above we are looking at the fallen snag landmark wedged between two standing trees from the custom campsite pictured below. This snag, easily visible from the trail, marks the location of the best sites and access to other sites at the very South end of the strip of Saucer Meadow campsites along this nice flat above Saucer Meadow.

We hiked South past that snag, with the snag to our Left, and turned Left (North) off the trail into the fine campsite pictured below.

The TYT route is off to the Left of this view above of the wedged snag. We're looking North back down the trail after making camp...

Hiking South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
When we see this wedged snag hiking South up from Saucer Meadow we know that it marks our approach to the end of the series of campsites above Saucer Meadow, and also locates some of the nicest campsites here along Summit Creek above Saucer Meadow.

The wedged snag marks the point where we Southbound hikers will look for the little waterfall off to our Right, the premium campsite off to our Left, and Summit Creek flowing down towards us below its little waterfall, flowing through a series of beautiful sculpted granite pools. The sensuous shapes of these shoreline granite features were sculpted by the furious phase of thousands of cycles of Spring Thaw's surging waters along Summit Creek, that now, later in the season, provide us with deeply relaxing gallery of sculpted granite decorating a string of peaceful placid pools of relaxation.

I love pools of relaxation and contemplation...

We can cross Summit Creek here to find a series of sites along its far shore. There's a nice site above the waterfall on the South shore of Summit Creek.

Now we are at the best sites above Saucer Meadow for camping in beautiful forested granite terrain with volcanic terrain stacked above it, above us on on the North wall of the canyon. To our South across Summit Creek we are blessed with stunning views of the great granites making up the South wall of our canyon, with access to amazing scrambling routes into the granite terrain of, and between Granite Dome and Black Hawk Mountain.

And, our position is going to allow us to make it far South along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail into the North Yosemite backcountry during tomorrow's hike. Unless we plan a second night here to give us a day of scrambling before continuing South.

A Series of Fine Campsites
Summit Creek takes it real easy as it flows into this last series of fine campsites, once the high point of the Spring Thaw passes. Summit Creek begins its nice run past this whole series of Saucer Meadow Campsites starting out of its little pocket waterfall.
I call waterfalls that are sunk into the terrain pocket falls. There are three nearby campsites along the South shore of Summit Creek, the other side of the creek across from our position on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. In fact, the granite on the South side of the creek invites scramblers to hike on in and explore.

Very nice terrain around here...

More Restoration Posts
During the Summer of 2013 the National Forest peppered this area with "restoration" posts, where there were none before, but there are still lots of good campsites here. Hell, there is only one site here for me, the main site in the flat behind the granite a bit Northeast of the wedged snag, by the compass.

How to find it: Walking South on the TYT to the Wedged Snag we look 45 degrees to our Left off the line of the TYT (look Northeast), and we should see this fine site within ten steps further Southbound down the TYT.

By the map we hike South of the wedged snag and look to our North-Northeast to find this campsite.

This particular site has a great soft flat, rock and tree protection from the elements, a beautiful granite feature to lean comfortably against, easy access to look at, listen to, and drink water. That is, this site is within hearing of the gentle tinkling background melody of the waterfall and the sounds of Summit Creek flowing through priceless works of granite sculpture it is still carving and polishing.
Each aspect of the terrain surrounding these sites contributes its strand to the weave of complexity surrounding this wonderful place. We find these factors create a place offering deep beauty, peace, and relaxation within this weave of complexity.
This place has it all.

Make sure we don't hike past it! These last campsites are not obvious, and we must be observing the surrounding terrain carefully or we will hike right past them. Thus the fallen snag landmark tells us when we are near these fine sites.

A few dozen yards South of the fallen wedged snag pictured above this segment of our trail South climbs a set of steps out of this line of Saucer Meadow Campsites. Beyond the wedged snag we are leaving behind the best and last of this series of nice camping flats strung out along the trail above Saucer Meadow's location on the maps.

Next
To Sheep Camp

I have the distance from Saucer Meadow, meaning the actual meadow site named on the maps, to Sheep Camp at 2.48 miles climbing 840 feet of elevation.

I have the distance from Saucer Meadow, meaning the actual meadow site named on the maps, to the last in the series of Saucer Meadow Campsites campsites at the wedged flat at three-eight's of a mile.

That puts the Sheep Camp campsites 2.03 miles South of last of the Saucer Meadow campsites just yards South of the wedged snag.

There are major differences between Saucer Meadow and Sheep Camp's characters.

Sheep Camp also locates beautiful campsites. Both the Saucer Meadow and Sheep Camp campsites are beautiful spots located in unique terrain. Saucer Meadow has many more sites that Sheep Camp. This is because Saucer Meadow's sites are located along a narrow, but long run of flat terrain along Summit Creek. Sheep Camp is a discrete, single location. This makes for very different characters.

Campsites at Sheep Camp are centralized in and around the edge of an expansive sandy open flat surrounded by encircling granite features, all under the main arm of ridgeline running Northeast off Black Hawk Peak.

Though Saucer Meadow's sites are strung-out along an almost half-mile length of Summit Creek, they feel more close-in than Sheep Camps' site, in the sense that the forests are denser, the granite formations and canyon walls are closer by, and we have the feeling these Saucer Meadow Camps are "wedged in" along this line of forest and creek in a narrow canyon.

On the other hand,
Sheep Camp reminds me of a small sandy riding arena circled by low granite walls. Sheep Camp sports thin tree cover, mostly around its perimeter. I'd put its total size at about seventy yards by a hundred yards. Despite its rock encirclement, Sheep Camp has a "wide open" feel, like being inside a mini-ampitheater. Summit Creek circles around the South edge of Sheep Camp's sandy flat following its unique route through the rock terrain into the steep granite gorge we climbed to reach Sheep Camp. After its steep drop below Sheep Camp, Summit Creek calms down into its flatter run past the gravel washes and into the long flat holding the Saucer Meadow Campsites.

 

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Backpacker
Physical Status

Our constant climbing and exposure to the burning Sun since departing Kennedy Meadows moderates significantly after we climbed past Saucer Meadow to enter this narrow flat of shaded terrain along Summit Creek.

The North wall of this canyon rising above us is capped by a great volcanic mass rising up atop the granite it overwhelmed and drowned. Across Summit Creek the pure granite of the South wall of our canyon rises up to deserve its designation as Granite Dome.

Once we encounter the Boulder campsite, the first campsite flat where this series of Saucer Meadow's campsites strung out to the South begins, we will note a series of nice little campsites stretching for about three eight's of a mile down the Southbound trail along this fairly flat strip of terrain with an endearing length of Summit Creek in close proximity under some nice tree cover. It gets better.

Looking South across Summit Creek through the tree cover we find fantastic views of the Granite Dome-Black Hawk Massif and potential access points into this mass of majestic granite.

Below we see our last view up Summit Creek before we enter the set of steps bringing us out of this forested run of sites alongside Summit Creek into a series of granite washes running above and around a great channel of Summit Creek approaching its cascading course down the steep canyon from Sheep Camp.

Mini
Waterfall
at the
South End
of the

Saucer Meadow Campsites

Summit Creek through Sheep Camp.

Summit Creek Waterfall
Summit Creek at the South end of the almost half-mile long run of campsites South of Saucer Meadow. At this last place of easy fine camping there are lots of campsites off both shores of Summit Creek.

There's a nice campsite above the falls on a flat to its upper Right, on the far side of the creek. We can just see this campsite location in the upper Right of the image above. There is also another campsite off to the middle-Right of the creek below the falls, out of view of this picture.

I'm standing on the North shore of the Creek, and behind me is the nice campsite pictured below.

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Cold Pools below twice sculpted granite

Summit Creek pools at Sheep Camp.

The length of Summit Creek below this little waterfall flows through a delightful field of ice and then water sculpted granite.

First the frozen water of great glaciers cut out the crude shapes of this canyon and its rock, now the liquid water of Summit Creek is oh so very gradually finish-shaping the rock along its course, especially during the Spring Thaw, into quite beautiful water sculptures.

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Main Campsite
along a run of
fine campsites stretching
about a
Half Mile South of the Saucer Meadow Boulder Site

Fine campsite at Sheep Camp.

I like this Campsite

This is the last site hiking South from Saucer Meadow on the North shore of Summit Creek. Just a few feet South of this site the trail climbs out of this nice flat, and makes its way into a series of gravel washes.

There are a couple of sites further South on the other side of the creek, over above the South bank of Summit Creek's little waterfall.

This site above is a fine wind and sun protected campsite suitable for larger parties with a nice fire ring and seating we can see in the background. Well, the fire ring is now gone. And the only protection from mosquitoes is offered by my tent, pictured without its rain fly, as its only job during the fine weather of the trip pictured above was to provide me with mosquito-free sleeping.

The rest of my hiking day mosquito protection is offered by clothing, DEET, and/or my mosquito net. Don't underestimate the mosquitoes, especially before the middle of August.

To fully enjoy the beauty and experiences here we must fully protect ourselves from its hazards, of which the mosquitoes are a big one.

Seasonal Mosquitoes Mosquito News

The big boulder campsite area has long been an area of "restoration" and restricted camping. These restoration zones have recently spread South along the whole length of the run of campsites strung out along Summit Creek in the forested flats above Saucer Meadow.

I have never seen the main, and first site, the big boulder site, ever posted as being off-limits by a camping restriction post.

The below pertains to the last flat of campsites above Saucer Meadow, the ones in proximity to the Wedged Snag:

2010: No restrictions in upper campsites

2012: Trail Crew has disassembled most of the fire rings and placed restoration markers in many of the more popular campsites. Restoration posts also in sites across Summit Creek, on its South bank.

2013: More restoration sites in these upper Saucer Meadow sites, on both sides of Summit Creek, but the site pictured above, my favorite, was still open in Fall of 2013. No worries. Many sites still open on both sides of creek.
The fire ring and fireside seating has been scattered by trail crew.

2016: Extensive restrictions still in place, but the first and last sites, the Boulder Site and the Wedged Snag sites, respectively, are both still open for use.

Post a Report
Do you Have Information?
Status, size and distribution of the Restoration Zones at the
Saucer Meadow Campsites?

Ring
of
Fire
&
Social
Philosophy

Backpackers typically love fires. The campfire is emblematic of camping, hiking and backpacking. The classic sign of a backpacker's camp is the fire ring surrounded by boulder and split-timber benches.

The National Forest's mission of preserving wilderness motivates them to disassemble backpackers camps, hide the split timber benches, and roll the fire ring and our seating boulders away.

I am of the opinion that the National Forest Service should not disassemble all of the fire rings, nor its surrounding seating, in any popular camping area. They should leave the main fire rings in the main sites. And the benches too... These fire rings and these site constructions are here because hiker traffic supports them.

Hikers will inevitably restore the main fire rings and main campsite features. Why fight it?

I fully agree with disassembling all the satellite site fire rings. And the overbuilt features in satellite sites. We hikers should not make extra fire rings or build benches & etc. outside of the fire rings and benches established at the main campsites in any location.

Too many campsites is bad. No campsites will induce their construction.
A middle ground is called for.

A Modest Proposal
The main sites in popular areas should be reasonably maintained and not disassembled by the Forest Service. Satellite sites in popular areas should not be built up with fire rings or benches by backpackers, and should be fully restored to natural status by backpackers after use. The Forest Service should disassemble built-up satellite camp sites in popular areas.

How about that for a "middle of the trail" proposal?

This reasonable policy would allow us to intelligently deal with, and concentrate heavy use in specific campsites, while maintaining the overall natural character of popular camping areas. Maybe rotate the location of an area's "main site" as necessary.

Both the National Forest Service and backpackers must modify their behavior to obtain a degree of balance and stability for highly used sites such as these.

Personally, I never build camp chairs or benches. I don't make fires except during emergencies. Fires obscure our vision of the night, and focus our attention into a cone of light that we cannot see outside of.

Darkness is our friend.

Navigating out of Society's Cones of Stupid.

Backpacker's Astronomical Tools and Information Forum

Time and Space Information

The key is to be able to navigate through both darkness and light, without being too dependent on either, and comfortable in both.

 

Backpacking Trail Tips
Fires, Tents, and People in the High Sierras

 

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
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   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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VIEW from UPPER "SAUCER MEADOW" CAMPSITES
Northwest Flank of Granite Dome

Granite Dome sunset.
Detail on a magnificent scale dwarfing man.
July 2010

A Golden Mountain
NORTHWEST FLANK OF PEAK 9129

A view through the trees looking Southeast from the far South end of Saucer Meadow's strip of campsites at the Northeast flank of Granite Dome's Mountain Massif under the last direct rays of twilight.

This flank of the great Granite Dome Massif rises above Lewis Lake, while the base of its North flank composes Summit Creek's upper canyon leading us all the way up to Brown Bear Pass.

Between
Vulcan and Pluton
Summit Creek and our canyon up to Brown Bear Pass swing around the base of the North flank of that dome above (and below) as we trace out the line of our trail along the North edge, the Northern boundary line of this mighty granite massif and the vast plate of granite of which it is the Northwestern corner, following this interface between the volcanic and plutonic up to the Sierra Crest out of the Left edge of the image above (and below).

Above we can see the shadows of evening climbing out of the darkness along Summit Creek below. Deepening sunset is transmuting the fading light into the burnt colored range of the "sunset spectrum," pushing into deep reds, orange, and yellows before the climbing fingers of nightfall finally engulfs this massive chunk of rock in darkness.

What a beautiful golden sunset that was. Below is a view of a straight no-refraction bright white sunlight sunset on the same frkn massive granite feature:

Blackhawk Mountain.
Above and below: Sept 2010
Above: Great dome below and Northeast of Granite Dome's Peak. We can see the main crestline in the distant Right background. The dome above is viewed by us looking to the Southeast from the last of the line of Saucer Meadow Campsites. Summit Creek and our canyon wrap up and around the North flank of that feature, or its Left flank, as we climb up under the North flank of Black Hawk Mountain approaching Sheep Camp.

We won't see Black Hawk Mountain behind it, until we clear the North (Left) edge of that dome.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

We will be hiking up under the North flank of Black Hawk Mountain as we wrap around the North flank of the dome pictured above. Black Hawk Mountain is the peak topping the Eastern end of this vast granite ridge composing what I call the "Granite Dome Massif." This granite ridge to our South, above, is actually part of an epic outcropping of granite running East and West along the middle and upper segments of our hike up to Brown Bear Pass. From the perspective above Black Hawk Mountain is located about a mile and a half to the South by Southeast behind the Left edge of the dome above. This amazing dome is marked as Peak 9523 on the USGS 7.5 series Emigrant Lake map linked to above.

Granite Dome's crestline is beyond the Western end (Right flank) of this great granite ridge, while Black Hawk Peak dominates its Eastern end, is also mostly obscured by this killer dome.

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Emigrant Wilderness
Wildfire

Emigrant Wilderness Wildfire.
Emigrant Wilderness High Elevation Wildfire

Getting the full potential of the views while camping at the last campsite in this string-of-pearls run of campsites strung out South from Saucer Meadow requires a bit of hiking around to clear obstructions from between us and the stunning views of the surrounding terrain.

We can see bits and pieces of the surrounding granite mountains, domes, ridge tops and canyons all protruding through the forest cover to the South of our campsite. If we hike around just a wee little bit we will find expansive views of all these fine features.

Well, I was done with the day's backpacking, and finished with the evening's "wee" bit of scouting, and very ready to lay about and only observe nearby forest, rock, the sounds of water and starlight from the sky from a stationary position. I was ready to reduce observation to watching only the things which come to me under their own power, when I noticed puffs of smoke shooting skyward out of the forest to the South by Southwest.

A forest fire!

The thinness of the forest and the predominance of rock terrain naturally limited the spread of this fire, but it puffed up some inspiring smoke signals until it began smoldering in the understory, and burned itself out. At our elevation with the timber cover so thin, this is not just a rare event, but a positive for the fertility of the forest affected.

This is the second gentle forest fire I've encountered in the high elevation section of the Emigrant Wilderness. Both appeared to be productive of sustained and increased fertility, unlike the massive blazes which are consuming our low elevation Sierra flank forests, as if they are burning in a furnace.

These high elevation blazes appear to be part of the natural process of slowly converting rock into soil. After vegetation and trees begin to exploit and expand cracks in the rock and grow for a few generations they gently catch on fire to better convert the previous generations of plant growth into productive soil for the subsequent gens.

This invigorated soil seeps deeper into cracks in rock its own roots had previously pried a bit further apart, which will be followed by its ancestors roots expanding these cracks while continuing to break rock into soil by adding its own biomass. And a bit of fire.

These high elevation fires are very different from the low elevation fires burning like furnaces consuming whole forests while sterilizing ancient soils. These fires up here are still expanding fertility, rather than destroying it.

Tracking the Emergence of New Global Weather Patterns

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Video
Last Campsite North
of

Saucer Meadow
to
Campsite on North End of Lunch Meadow

Check out the terrain following Summit Creek's canyon up to Sheep Camp on our way into the bottom of Lunch Meadow.

16:17

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Kennedy Meadows
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Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
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Summit Creek Waterfall

Sheep Camp Falls along Summit Creek.

Pocket falls along Summit Creek.

This little falls is inset at the bottom of its own granite channel.

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Summit Creek Waterfall

Summit Creek waterfall.

SUMMIT CREEK
Pocket waterfall marks the South end of the series of forested flats with campsites above Saucer Meadow.

The trail beyond, South of this waterfall climbs out of the series of Saucer Meadow Campsites across a wet zone of temperate forest and brush into a series of dry gravel washes.

Keep your eyes open for the waterfall above to the Right past the wedged snag. Directly behind us lays the premium campsite described above.

Just a few feet hiking further South the trail begins climbing a set of steps to leave all of these fine sites behind, with no premium camping available until we arrive at Sheep Camp.

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South
from
Saucer Meadow Campsites

All good things must end. At least change, as we mark the end of this almost half-mile long flat along Summit Creek peppered with campsites.

The end of this fine flat forested stretch with campsites finishes with a series of really beautiful campsites along a section of creek with a waterfall followed by sweet pools flowing through water sculpted granite.

Now we begin a moderate climb through a short wet zone into a series of gravel waves. Our Southbound trail is climbing up and around a section of Summit Creek flowing through a steep and narrow granite channel.

This impassable section along the creek pushes the trail route up the mountain away from the creek to begin crossing over a series of undulating great gravel waves, washes really, composed of huge fields of fine gravel rocks that have been worn out of the composite volcanic material capping the cliffs rising to our North. This gravel has been eroded out and washed gradually down, season by season, towards Summit Creek by the tumultuous force of thousands of years of Spring Thaws.

Huge energy is slowly eroding this ancient granite rock out of its volcanic captivity, then pushing and pulling these rivers of gravel down into Summit Creek.

This next section of trail South, without campsites, begins where we see the almost-uprooted tree hanging on for dear life, below. I've been waiting for that sucker to slide off the edge for years!

Between this point, located about a mile and a half North of Sheep Camp, there is not much in the way of camping until we arrive at Sheep Camp.

When we look to our Right and see the little pocket waterfall pictured above (while hiking South) we are about to depart the strip of Saucer Meadow Campsites and begin that climb to Sheep Camp.

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South
from the
Last Saucer Meadow Campsites

Trail to Sheep Camp.

We turn up hiking South from the last of the string of Saucer Meadow Campsites strung along Summit Creek above Saucer Meadow proper.

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Steps through Wetness

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Sheep Camp.

Hiking South our next destination is the sweet flat behind a gap in the granite mountain flank under Black Hawk Mountain called Sheep Camp. It is very picturesque terrain hiking the last half-mile up to Sheep Camp. Real special.

Above we have an excellent example of how to maintain a trail through a wet section of terrain. I've always thought there is a spring located here. We are climbing up to the gravel section.

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Into the Gravel Waves

Gravel washes between Saucer Meadow and Sheep Camp.

Gravel washes between Saucer Meadow and Sheep Camp.


Lewis Lake Canyon

Post Corral Canyon, Emigrant Wilderness.

View to the Southwest, to our Southbound Right, as we are walking South.

I'm thinking we are getting a look at the canyon holding Lewis Lake, as its marked on the USGS maps.

This is a fantastic example of the granite terrain around and between Black Hawk Mountain and Granite Dome.

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Gravel washes between campsites North of Sheep Camp.

Serious Gravel Washes

This section of serious gravel washes makes camping hard and hiking challenging for about a mile between the end of our long string of Saucer Meadow campsites to where we begin our final climb up to Sheep Camp.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
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   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Southeast view of Summit Creek in Morning Shadow and Brightness

Summit Creek North of Sheep Camp.

Summit Creek North of Sheep Camp.

Crossing the gravel washes we draw back towards the creek to get a great view upriver at a section of the North ridgeline of Black Hawk Mountain. That's it, Black Hawk Mountain, in the furthest distant upper-Right beyond the dome in the middle distance. We can see that distant ridge rising to the peak of Black Hawk Mountain.

Sheep Camp sits at the base of the prominent dome along Black Hawk Mountain's descending Northeastern ridgeline.

We will continue straight where Summit Creek bends Right, seeking the ledge up across the steep granite terrain bringing us to the top of this middle section of the valley, and to the base of that dome. At the top we will find a narrow gap in the ridgeline leading us through a narrow channel to Sheep Camp. That puts us at the bottom of the uppermost and final segment of this canyon's run across Lunch Meadow up to Brown Bear Pass.

Sheep Camp lays at the foot of the dome on the ridgeline in the image above. We can see where we pass through the ridgline running across the base of that dome. Our passage through that crack in the ridgeline is just to the Left of the base of the Dome protruding above the ridgeline in the furthest distance.

I call that dome Peak 9800 as depicted on the Northeast flank just below Black Hawk Mountain on the USGS Emigrant Lake 7.5 minute map.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Closer to us we see a steeply eroding bank, which I figure is the mother of all the washes running across its surface. Our trail crosses the top of the bank, with the bend in Summit Creek eroding it back and away, revealing that this great bank is composed mostly of a whole lot of piled-up gravel.
We are just South of the end of the string of Saucer Meadow campsites. We are hiking up to our Left around the slide as we see in the fourth image below.

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Afternoon Shadows drawing over Summit Creek above Saucer Meadow

Summit Creek a mile South of Saucer Meadow.

Turning Left, Northeast, where Summit Creek bends to the Southeast, we can begin to see our traversing route up to the gap in the mountains leading to Sheep Camp.

Keep the sunscreen handy and the hat properly adjusted, because we will shortly need their protection.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Morning Light

Terrain North flank Blackhawk Mountain.

Cool cone below Black Hawk Mountain.

Sheep Camp sits at the base of that cone. Black Hawk Mountain caps the top of the ridge.

Detail

Detail North flank Blackhawk Mountain.

Detail of dome on the North flank, running up to the peak of Black Hawk Mountain.

We cut through a gap in the mountains into the flat of Sheep Camp at the base of this cone feature. Is that not cool?

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Trail around Summit Creek Wash

Trail around Summit Creek wash.

Trail around a section of Summit Creek driving the great gravel wash down the mountain and eventually into the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River on its long trip to the Pacific Ocean.

Well, I'll bet some small portion of this mass of gravel is passing out of the Golden Gate on every big outbound tide as sure as clockwork.


Detail from Above Image:
Hanging in there
at the
Edge of Life.

Eroded creek bank South of Sheep Camp.

Tree ready to go from edge of the eroded creek bank South of Saucer Meadow.

How many seasons until this tree comes by Kennedy Meadows on the high tide of a massive Spring Thaw?

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South
of
Saucer Meadow
Campsites

Brief Climb South from the Saucer Meadow Campsite pictured above brings panoramic views of a vast swath of Granite Dome's mighty massif through forest as we follow Summit Creek rotating around its Northern limits.

The Granite Dome Massif
Black Hawk Mountain.

Looking to our Southwest at the vast expanses of open granite terrain across the Granite Dome Massif imparts the monumental scale of this massive sheet of granite terrain. This is part of a vast sheet of granite stretching out beyond the Northwestern boundary of Yosemite.

This sheet of granite stretches and descends far South and Southwest beyond the South flank of Granite Dome. The sheet of granite below Granite Dome runs a series of valleys down to Pinecrest Lake off its Southwestern edge, and South all the way down to Cherry Lake.

Our view of this mighty massif above is from the Northwestern-most edge of this great sheet of granite. We are going to cross the Northwestern edge of this great sheet of granite into the Northwestern corner of Yosemite. I figure this edge of this sheet of granite is the Northwestern-most edge of the great sheet that reaches all the way down to Yosemite Valley, eventually. This sheet of granite continues South along the Sierra Crest to Tioga Pass, and continues South through the Cathedral Range.

This route along the TYT allows us to inspect this world class granite terrain from this position on its very NW corner all the way down to Tuolumne Meadows, if we want to. Some of us will continue down, descending into the deepest root of this massive granite plate, down to Yosemite Valley. Other backpackers will continue South following the TYT & PCT routes along the Sierra Crest to and through Tuolumne Meadows, hiking South until we finally exit this vast stretch of granite as we pass out the South end of Yosemite into the ring of volcanic terrain wrapping around Mammoth Mountain as we continue our hike South along the Sierra Crest to from Tahoe to Mount Whitney.

I prefer to include a swing down to Yosemite Valley and back to the Crest in my Tahoe to Whitney hikes.

But make no mistake, we are making a slow but profound transition out of this amazing interface zone of volcanic and granite grandeur here in Emigrant Wilderness, hiking across its edge, while pointing ourselves towards the center of the High Sierra's widest and deepest run of unadulterated granite. That would be the run from the Sierra Crest to Yosemite Valley and out the South end of Yosemite across this monumentally vast sheet of granite.

This vast run of granite stretches from just about our present position until we finally reenter volcanic terrain South of Yosemite, if we visit the Western-most edge this vast deposit of granite by hiking down to Yosemite Valley along the way, or not.

In either case, this is one big sheet of granite we are looking at the edge of....

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Daytime "over there"

Emigrant Wilderness Granite near North side of Lunch Meadow.

Sunrise sweeping away shadow and chill from the Great Granite dome decorating the Northeastern ridge arm descending off Black Hawk Mountain. The image above shows the terrain above and around the Southeast perimeter of Sheep Camp. We are looking to our Southeast.

Summit Creek passes through the bright gap to the Right of the section of illuminated granite ridgeline below the dome. Our smaller gap is located to the Left, the NE, along that ridgeline. Once we pass through the gap into Sheep Camp we will understand that Sheep Camp sits just a short ways below the bottom of Lunch Meadow.

Local
Sunrise & Set
Astronomical times of Sunrise and Sunset changes each day in its annual cycle of consistency. When we observe Sunsets and Sunrise are a local phenomena determined by the terrain in the High Sierra. The local Sunrise and Set will be determined by our position in relation to the surrounding mountains and ridges.

This may be earlier than astronomical rise and set times. Our local position in the terrain finally determines exactly when we feel the first and last rays of each day.

Astronomical Information

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Pocket of Forest North of Climb to Sheep Camp

Tahoe Yosemite Trail through forest and rock before entering Lunch Meadow.   Emigrant Wilderness section of Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

The very rocky terrain, our hike through a series of gravel washes is finally transitioning as we climb higher up the washes. The 100 percent gravel surface is now being contrasted by great granite blocks and the surface diluted with soil. This explains and justifies the forest thickening nicely as our trail continues climbing moderately to the Southeast (South on the Trail, almost East by the Compass) bringing us up to the head of this middle segment of Summit Creek's canyon.

Above we can see we are gradually transitioning from gravel onto a surface with a higher percentage of soil, precluding us from calling the surface a "wash" any longer. It is an "ex" wash transitioning into stable forest. Generations of trees are depositing their bodies in an increasing bank of organic soil here, rather than into a gravel wash.

Long ago the forest here began trying to stabilize the wash by depositing organics, its dead, into the gravel. This long march of life out of death has increased both the soils and the forest, and we can feel the long, transformative nature of the trees as we climb out of the thin forest and starkness of the gravel washes into increasing densities of soil and forest.

The percentage of soil and forest grows as we climb closer to the top of this segment of the canyon.

But the surface is still very very rocky.

At the top of this segment of mixed, but changing terrain we pass out of gravel washes into thickening forest ending in a nice stand at the top of the canyon. The gradually changing composition of our gravel into soil surface transitions again at the head of this narrowing canyon, this time abruptly onto solid granite.

Our hike through gravel washes, then transitioning surfaces and thickening forest now abruptly transitions again, but this time into exposed granite where we begin the final climb for the gap to Sheep Camp, and into the bottom of Lunch Meadow.

The end of the stretch of Saucer Meadow campsites was marked the change in surface from soft soils to a very rocky soil, into terrain that can be characterized as one great section of gravel washes. These washes gave way to gravelly forests, then denser bits of forest, and now transitions again, this time into a stretch of solid granite.

 

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Out of the Forest

Rock terrain above Summit Creek.

The trail emerges from the forest-covered gravel washes into a final stand of forest. This last, uppermost stand of the forest is closely wrapped. The top of the forest is surrounded by rising walls of uniquely tinted and jointed granite narrowing down to wrap around the head of this gorge-like last segment of trail climbing us up to the gap to Sheep Camp.

We find a ledge of trail switchbacking up to a traverse trail chipped into the top of this rocky canyon.

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Looking North back down the canyon

Below Sheep Camp and above Saucer Meadow.

Below Sheep Camp and above Saucer Meadow.

Once we leave this last bit of forest cover we are not going to have a lot of sustained cover, if any at all for sustained lengths of trail, until we cross Bond Pass to drop into Jack Main Canyon.

Time to keep a close eye on exposure and hydration.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Climbing to see the volcanic Terrain Stacked on the Granite

To the North
Granite-volcanic interface down Summit Creek drainage.

Our view to the North-Northeast, at the top of the volcanic North canyon wall rising above this alcove of granite wedged into this narrow throat of the middle segment of canyon.

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Southbound
View Left, Northeast

South of Sheep Camp volcanic-granite terrain.

Dramatic example of volcanic-granite interface above us.

This view gives us an idea of the scale of these ancient eruptions. The granite of the Sierra Nevada is substantial, yet we can see volcanic flows completely drowned great expanses of High Sierra Granite.

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Looking South up to Our Gap through the Top of the Canyon

Backpacking South across Emigrant Wilderness on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Sheep Camp from Saucer Meadow.

We are approaching the narrow channel to Sheep Camp across nifty granite terrain.

Note that there are two ridgelines sharing the horizon of the image above.

Steel Gray Granite vs Oxide Soaked Granite
The most distant ridgeline we are hiking towards is the steel gray granite descending from the crest of Black Hawk Mountain. Below that we can see the near ridgeline, the one we are climbing up, is an almost pinkish golden granite. These pink and gold granites are the ones coming out from under the volcanic Northern wall of the canyon, while the steel gray granites are separated from volcanic staining by Summit Creek.

We slip through a gap in the pinkish golden granite over to a flat, Sheep Camp, through the small space between the near and distant ridgelines, to come out under the steep ascending walls of steel gray rising to Black Hawk Mountain.

Summit Creek again marks out a visible line between the mineral stained pink and golden granites in contact with the volcanic cap to its North from those only colored by their own internal mineral composition and their own unique processes of environmental staining to its South.

I find this subtle interface of differently stained granites is deeply satisfying.

Nature just makes me smile.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Switchbacks

Switchback below Sheep Camp.

Switchback below Sheep Camp. Our rocky track begins to switchback up the broken granite flank.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map


Trail across fine slabs

Favorite Slabs
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail crosses perfect granite slabs.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's last traverse up to the rocky gap starts across a sweet section of perfectly flat granite slabs.

It's a natural causeway.

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Flank & Trail
Trail to Sheep Camp, Emigrant Wilderness.

To the Head of this Segment of Canyon
We can see the traverse of the trail cut across the nose of this brightly-lit granite slab. Note the precipitous line of the ridge in the background.

That's where we're going.


Looking back
at
Granite & Volcanic
Terrain above our Trail's Route

Magnificent Terrain
Granite terrain overcapped by volcanic terrain along Summit Creek, Emigrant Wilderness.

Higher up our trail to the gap bends South, opening up fine views of the North ridge running down to Relief Reservoir. We can see how the granite terrain our trail threads through, and all the granite on the North shore of Summit Creek, emerge out from a volcanic encasement. We can see this in the image above. The top of the ridge these great granite features are protruding out of was capped by great volcanic flows.

We can see the depth of erosion that has taken place by the heights of the volcanic spires just beyond the granite slabs. The question of how much of this granite was originally buried, and how much has eroded out since, comes to mind.

As we climb higher up towards the headwaters of Summit Creek at the base of Brown Bear Pass we will be able to see this distinct boundary line dividing the massive ancient volcanic flows covering the granite on the North side of this great valley while leaving the granite on the South side exposed.

Note the close up view of the Upper Left granite formation.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Same Flank, Different Light

Sunrise Highlights
Summit Creek sunrise on Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Emigrant Wilderness.

A backward glance to the NW reveals first rays of sunlight breeching the shadowy depths of Summit Creek's middle canyon. We get a feeling for how volcanic material flowed over the underlying granite.

I discuss how the volcanic material is eroding much faster than the underlying granite, resulting in a long slow reemergence of the granite terrain from under its volcanic mantle as we hiked through the high bits of East Carson River hiking South on the PCT.

This is one very cool place on a very cool planet.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Southern Wall of this Gorge

Rust, gold, and brown colors begin to pervade the rock as we climb higher, and more rock is exposed from forest and lava.

A range of rusts, burnt reds, golds, and browns pervades the granites of Emigrant Wilderness. The colors are rivaled by the shapes of the granites of Emigrant. They are shaped as pleasingly as they're colored, and the range of their unique combinations is unrivaled. Here color, shape, and the bright rays of the rising Sun all come into as we move higher up into free rock, granite emerging from its forest and lava jacketing all around.

Two sides of the canyon's walls
pinch together behind us
and
open up below us

The Run from Saucer Meadow
View North approaching Sheep Camp.

We are just feet from passing to our South through the narrow defile composing the gap to Sheep Camp. Passing through this gap also marks the point of convergence, where the iron stained granite coming out from the Northern wall of the canyon reaches to the North bank of Summit Creek. where the steel gray granites making up the Southern wall of the canyon rise above its South bank.

We're roughly crossing the line of these subtle contrasts as we pass through the gap.

But first we turn around to take in the view North above, to review the big picture perspective of our route up here before leaving it behind.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

Though the topo map depicts the narrowing gorge of the canyon running up to the gap to Sheep Camp, it does not convey subtle differences in granite staining, nor the unique compost ion of the layering of granite and volcanic terrain our visit reveals.

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Let's get a better look at our View emerging from both forest cover and morning shadow
View of the Terrain from the Last Saucer Meadow Campsite South to the Gap below Sheep Camp

North view of Summit Creek Canyon from near Sheep Camp.

Looking back
-Northwest-
At the Trail up to our Current Position

At our back (Southeast) is the gap South through the mountaintop to Sheep Camp

The view above looking Northwest reveals the terrain of the length of the middle segment of our hike through the valley from the uppermost & last of the Saucer Meadow campsites to our current position. To our South, behind us, we are standing next to the gap to Sheep Camp.

I figure we can roughly see where the the last of the Saucer Meadow campsites is located in the image above. The last site is located near where the bottom of the descending line of the distant shadowed Northern volcanic ridge arm crosses behind the bright granite of the interceding North canyon wall.

This image above overlooks the majority of the terrain we cross from the last Saucer Meadow campsite to the gap to Sheep Camp.

Though the image above is not the highest quality, it contains a lot of information. Note that the position of the granite dome on the far-right edge at the middle of the image above was offset just far enough Southwest from the volcanic flows that created the ridge rising behind it, to exist this day.
That distance offsetting it from the main body of the ridge saved those/these granite formations from being submerged under the same volcanic debris that created Relief Peak. This offset configured this pinching segment of granite gorge within the greater shape of the surrounding canyon, and determined the best route for Summit Creek that our trail follows today.

That granite and its dome is actually on the North side of the canyon, but far enough offset, pushed out to the Southwest that the ancient flows that created the vast volcanic ridge behind it were not quite able to engulf it within its Pyroclastic flows. Thus we have the pleasure of observing this excellent section of granite trail under a vast volcanic ridge leading us up to Sheep Camp.

Map Time
This all means it's time to pull out the map and put our environment into context. When we get a good long view it's always a good idea to pull out the map, line it up with the terrain and compass, and get a feel for the seen and unseen details of our environment revealed by the map, or by our hike up here. Many times and places I hike with map in hand.

The bend we see at the bottom of this segment of the valley (and the bend in the course of Summit Creek) in the furthest distance are all pivoting around Peak 9819 capping the top of that shadowed volcanic ridge arm in the image above. Peak 9819 is visible in the upper Right corner of the image above and on our Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass Map. The base of that descending ridge arm where Summit Creek flows by is where the last campsites South of Saucer Meadow are located.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Just South of those campsites down there, a bit closer to our position, are the gravel washes we hiked across. The washes are hidden under the thin forests at the far end of the shaded valley in the middle of the image above.

The gravel washes give way to terrain composed of more solid soils about halfway between our position and the bend in the valley. Off to the middle-Right of the image we can see where we emerge from our forest covered trail onto the exposed granite terrain leading up to our current position.

It's not a great image of a really cool location.
I strongly suggest you get out to see this place yourself.

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Relaxing moments

Tinkling of little creeklet drew my attention.

Relaxing sounds of tinkling stream draws attention.

There are a number of unmarked springs and streams between Saucer Meadow and Sheep Camp. I'd depend on none of them for reliable water, while enjoying the jingling melodic joy of each.


Last steps up to the Gap to Sheep Camp.

Gap to Sheep Camp on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Hiking South up thinning trail.

This is really cool terrain. The switchbacks gave way to a gently increasing traverse after getting us up high enough.

Note the silver mountain in the background, contrasted by the rusty granite in the foreground.

Sheep Camp lays through a gap over to a sweet protected sandy flat between these two different expressions of the local granite's wide range of characters.

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Oh So Sweet Trails

Sheep Camp in Emigrant Wilderness, Stanislaus National Forest.

Check out that trail surface. Nice. Watch your footing.

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The Gap to Sheep Camp

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail to Sheep Camp.

The gap to Sheep Camp.

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Through the gap to Sheep Camp

Rock dominates the terrain as we enter the North end of Lunch Meadow.   Sunrise over Lunch Meadow.

View from the Gap

Northeast

Above we walk through the gap North to South.

Looking to our Left, North-Northeast at the top of the surrounding granite ridgeline as we hike through the gap to Sheep Camp.

View Northeast entering Gap in Ridgeline to Sheep Camp

The Volcanic and the Granite pinch together
Northwest view of opening terrain hiking up Lunch Meadow.

The Pinch Between
Middle and Upper
Canyons
We are looking to the Northeast across the centerline of the canyon, which is opening up to the South, to the Right, into Lunch Meadow. Note the solid volcanic terrain over across on the North flank, the far side of the valley. The mass of Relief Peak is rising out of frame to the Left in the image above. In the middle of the image above we can see where the furthest extent of the volcanic flows bumped-up against Black Hawk Mountain's vast ridge arm descending to the Northeast.

Note the top of the near granite ridgeline in the foreground middle Right, bending down and around to the lower Left of the image. That is also the line of the trail we hiked up to our current position.

We are essentially hiking into the bottom of the next level of this canyon by hiking up onto the bottom of a great flat reaching up through the Lunch Meadows towards Brown Bear Pass as we pass South through the gap into Sheep Camp. Sheep Camp and Lunch Meadow are like an exclamation mark. Sheep Camp represents the point, the dot below the (bent) exclamation slash of Lunch Meadow pointing to Brown Bear Pass.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map

Our Southbound trail is pointing us through the gap behind us that through this ridgeline ending the middle segment of our hike from Relief Reservoir to Sheep Camp and beginning the last and uppermost part of our hike through the uppermost segment of Summit Creek's canyons up to Brown Bear Pass. In the image above we are turning around for one last look to our North, in this case a look Northeast across this narrow pinch-point that separates the middle from upper segments of our hike to Brown Bear Pass.

Views like these, up here at the top of this unique section of Summit Creek's long valley, are why we must keep our eyes on the beauty and complexity of the surrounding terrain, as well as on the trail itself, as we hike through.

We can't let one overwhelm the other.

Keeping our eyes on the trail and the terrain splits our energy and attention.

It's a cursed tradeoff: The faster we go the less we see.

Entering Sheep Camp we will make a hard Left to begin hiking a curving line to the Southeast into the bottom of Lunch Meadow.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

We turn around from the position this picture above was taken to hike South through the nifty narrow gap in the top of the crestline into Sheep Camp.

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Southbound Entering Sheep Camp

South into Sheep Camp, Emigrant Wilderness.

Last steps in the gap before entering Sheep Camp's cool campsite area.

 

The details of the terrain around Sheep Camp are esthetically delicious, in a very physical way.

Sheep Camp is a lightly forested sandy flat surrounded by arms of encircling, wind protective granite. Looking to the South we can see that Sheep Camp sits under the rising mass of a vast granite dome decorating the ridgeline running up to the top of Black Hawk Mountain.

After entering Sheep Camp Southbound the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail bends sharply to our Left while the expansive granite-encircled sandy flat of Sheep Camp runs before us down to Summit Creek.

Those wanting water will find Summit Creek winding around the South side of Sheep Camp. I figure that passing through this gap marks the top, and end of the middle section of canyon from Relief Reservoir to Sheep Camp.

Turning a hard Left to our geographic East after passing through the gap into Sheep Camp's sandy flat keeps us pointed Southbound on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. We hike about fifty yards to exit Sheep Camp as we entered it, by passing through a narrow channel of uniquely shaped and colored rust-pinkish granite formations. The one we entered was pointed NW and SE, the one we Exit is pointed NE and SW.

The Southbound TYT leads us into light forest in the center of the upper canyon as the line of our trail gradually bends Southeast while the terrain gradually opens up into the bottom of Lunch Meadow.

Hiking a just feet South of Sheep Camp brings us out from under the shadow of this massive spur of granite ridge nestled in under Black Hawk Mountain. Our trail first brings us back into the center of the canyon from its granite Southern flank, and then back up under the volcanic Northern wall of the canyon for our final and uppermost segment of our hike around the North edge of Lunch Meadow to Brown Bear Pass. We're almost there.

MAP

There are a few nice campsites on the South side of Sheep Camp near the Creek.


Standing on the Northwest Edge of Sheep Camp Looking Southeast

We Just Hiked South into the NW Corner of Sheep Camp
Hiking South into Sheep Camp.

View Hiking South into Sheep Camp.
We've just stepped through the South side of the Gap.

Sheep Camp sites directly ahead and to our Right,
we turn 90 degrees Left following the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

8800 feet
of elevation.

8.23 miles
South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station gate.

1 mile
to North end, the bottom of Lunch Meadow.

2.69 miles
South to Brown Bear Pass.

7.81 miles
South to Bond Pass, Yosemite boundary.

Note the trail moving Left. That's the route South to Lunch Meadow.

Summit Creek is straight ahead, on the far side of Sheep Camp along with a couple of nice level campsites on the South end of Sheep Camp under the trees by the rock over in the middle-left of the image above.

There's another big campsite out of the frame of the Right side of the image, the Northwest side of Sheep Camp.

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Sheep Camp

Sitting in a Sheep Camp Campsite
Sitting in Sheep Camp.

Sitting in Sheep Camp having a nice lunch and water break.
We're looking Northwest at the way we walked in from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station through the gap.

We're looking at the location we took the picture above, as that picture is looking to this position, one of the nice campsites in Sheep Camp.

Our trail continuing South to Lunch Meadow is up by the granite rock beyond our campsite. We'll turn Right to Lunch Meadow.

If we were hiking North back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station we would follow the trail straight through the gap in that granite. So, North on the TYT is straight ahead from this perspective, while the Southbound TYT moves out the Right edge of the image up where we see the granite.

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South from Sheep Camp

Turning Left after passing through the gap we cross some nice granite formations.

Turning Left after passing through the gap to Sheep Camp we find a very sandy surface as we hike along Sheep Camp's Northern end to another gap in the granite encircling Sheep Camp.

We find and cross some interesting granite formations to exit Sheep Camp. First, let's check out Sheep Camp more closely.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Sheep Camp

Sitting in Sheep Camp
Sheep Camp campsite.

If we hike straight South across Sheep Camp towards Summit Creek instead of turning Left following the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail we encounter the campsites with fire rings in the central stand of trees, pictured above, in Sheep Camp.

Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Sheep Camp Fire Ring

Fire ring at one of Sheep Camp's sites.

Sheep Camp fire ring.

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Hiking South from Sheep Camp

After passing through the gap South into Sheep Camp hikers continuing South for Lunch Meadow turn 90 degrees Left. After hiking about fifty yards East across the sandy North edge of Sheep Camp we come to the unusual granite feature below.

Note in the film that hikers have placed rocks making a 90 degree perimeter turn guiding the Southbound hiker South. Otherwise Southbound hikers coming through the gap can step into a large sandbox with no indication of the direction of the trail.

I've seen it both ways over the years, marked and unmarked. Well, as Sheep Camp is a mini little "box canyon," the only other main route out is the one leading East to Lunch Meadow.

If this turn happens to be unmarked, do what I do. Stop. Look and find the perimeter of the trackless area. Scan the perimeter for indications of resuming trail. If we cannot find trail sign we are going to hike in the direction of our best guess where the trail restarts, but we will carefully note exactly how to get back to our starting point if our potential route goes bust.

That's just good practice, but a little overboard here.

Here on the South side of the gap to Sheep Camp we turn 90 degrees to our Left to hike South across Sheep Camp's sandbox to hike through this unique granite channel pictured below into the forest leading us up into the bottom end, the North end of Lunch Meadow.

Rock trail South from Sheep Camp.

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail South through granite slot into moderate forest cover. The course of Summit Creek is flowing off to our Right, to our South.

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Nifty Granite Channel hiking South out of Sheep Camp

Sheep Camp South to Lunch Meadow.

The trail crosses this set of unique granite channels hiking South out of Sheep Camp.


Fine Rock Formations along our trail South

Trail to Lunch Meadow.

Trail to Lunch Meadow.

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Beautiful Golden Hued Granite Forms

Golden granites of Emigrant Wilderness.

Pleasing terrain.

Leeching iron oxides out of the volcanic soils.

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Still A bit North of Lunch Meadow

Still below Lunch Meadow we can spot Brown Bear Pass.

Still below, a bit North of Lunch Meadow we can spot Brown Bear Pass in the distant middle-Right of the image above. Brown Bear Pass is on the Right side of that red peak on the far distant Right of the image above, the one we can just see through the intervening trees, still spackled with a bit of snow.

Brown Bear Pass is located in a low shoulder on the Right side of that peak that exactly marks the seam between the volcanic and granite terrain at the very top of this canyon.

Note how we are passing through bits of forest and meadow while still well below Lunch Meadow.

A large campsite sits in the next grove ahead, still a bit North of Lunch Meadow.

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Large Campsite North of Lunch Meadow

Large campsite North of Lunch Meadow.

Large campsite North of Lunch Meadow, South of Sheep Camp.

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Sage and volcanic terrain hiking South into Lunch Meadow.

The volcanic North wall of our canyon is showing lots of color and detail as we approach Lunch Meadow.

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Campsite on North End of Lunch Meadow

Campsites on North side of Lunch Meadow.

Entering the North end of Lunch Meadow. This is the lowest end of Lunch Meadow. To our Right across Summit Creek we find nice soft campsites and forested shade.

In the middle distance on the Left of the image we can see the low rise dividing the upper and lower sections of Lunch Meadow. Lunch Meadow has levels.

In the distant Left we see the volcanic mountain marking the Southern extent of Summit Creek's headwaters, and the bulk of the peak that Brown Bear Pass cuts through. The final steps of our trail up to Brown Bear Pass traverses the visible flank of that brownish-red volcanic peak from Left to Right up to Brown Bear Pass, which is located just out of sight behind the tree...

We can see how the final steps of our trail lead directly up to the seam dividing the volcanic terrain making up the North wall of this long valley from the granite making up the South. We're going to get some amazing views looking back down this bifurcated valley as we climb to its top.

Nonetheless, we can see the end of this long climb up from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station up there on Brown Bear Pass.

The Bottom of Lunch Meadow

8960
feet of elevation.

1.69 miles
South to Brown Bear Pass.

9.23 miles
South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station gate.

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Lower Lunch Meadow Campsites
Campsite on North side of Lunch Meadow, Emigrant Wilderness, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

A short hike South, first over some interesting granite then through bits of forest and meadow brings us to where we can see Summit Creek to our Right twisting around the granite rimmed flat marking our entrance into the North side of Lunch Meadow.

Crossing Summit Creek we find this flat provides a pleasant campsite, though in 2012 I did find a "restoration site" post about 30 yards downstream on the other side of Summit Creek pictured above.

That was a shock.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Video
Lunch Meadow to Brown Bear Pass

Hike along from the bottom of Lunch Meadow to Brown Bear Pass. Nothing fancy, we just take a look at the trail and surrounding terrain along the way.

11:27

High Sierra Backpacking Videos:
Hiking Emigrant Wilderness

Tahoe to Whitney
High Sierra YouTube Backpacking Videos

This Playlist
Kennedy Meadows
to
Bond Pass
All Playlists

 

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Looking South across Lunch Meadow at Brown Bear Pass in the Distance

Brown Bear Pass is visible from the far North side of Lunch Meadow.

Brown Bear Pass lays on the Right side of the distant volcanic mass behind the top of the granite formation at the center-Right of the above image.

Note that Lunch Meadow sits on two levels, divided by a granite rise, or maybe a belt of granite between its expansive lower and compact upper meadows. In the image above we are looking South while approaching the South end of the lower level of Lunch Meadow. Note the granite rise crossing Lunch Meadow in the middle distance ahead. That rise divides the upper level of Lunch Meadow from the lower. Hike up that rise we will encounter the 9000 foot marker at the top of the upper level of Lunch Meadow.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Looking North at the North End of Lunch Meadow

View North down towards Sheep Camp.

View North down towards the campsite on the North end of Lunch Meadow, We can get an idea of how Sheep Camp is nestled in under the ridge about a mile beyond the North end of Lunch Meadow. Also take note of the volcanic formation on the upper North flank of the valley against the contrast of the granite making up the South flank. These divergent flanks are pinching together around the top of the canyon above us.

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Southbound Around Lunch Meadow

Lunch Meadow, Emigrant Wilderness.

Note how the Southbound trail pushes up to higher and drier terrain by routing around the North edge of Lunch Meadow avoiding Spring soggy and boggy conditions.

We're hiking up towards the upcoming granite formations.

An amazing set of granite features divides the upper shelf of Lunch Meadow from the lower shelf.

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Belt of Granite

Lunch Meadow granite shelf.

Up onto granite on the South end of lower Lunch Meadow.

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View South across the Granite Belt

Granite shelf dividing Upper from Lower Lunch Meadow.

This line of sweet shaped and colored granite formations reaches across Lunch Meadow effectively dividing the meadow into upper and lower shelves.

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The Trail South

Hiking South towards the upper section of Lunch Meadow.

Upper Lunch Meadow and No Shade for A While
Above we're hiking South out of the granite belt towards the upper shelf of the rapidly narrowing South end of Upper Lunch Meadow. Shade is again getting scarce, and we will experience no sustained shadow until we approach Jack Main Canyon inside the Northwestern corner of Yosemite.

Our trail up to and crossing Brown Bear Pass bringing us across High Emigrant Meadow, Grizzly Meadow, and Summit Meadow up to Bond Pass is all across exposed terrain. In fact, we've been crossing exposed terrain since coming out of the gravel washes above Saucer Meadow.

Get out the sunscreen!

I'm going to enjoy the last little bit of upcoming shade that we can see up ahead by taking a break there. The 9000 foot marker sits under those upcoming tress.

To cover this line of trail we're going to check out our next map, the

Emigrant Basin Backpacking Map
USGS 15 Minute Topo Hiking Map

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Uppermost South end of Lunch Meadow

Upper Lunch Meadow and Brown Bear Pass.

Coming off the South end of the granite formation cutting Lunch Meadow in half we see the little shelf Upper Lunch Meadow sits on laid out in front of us. It's a cute little shelf of meadow.

The granite we can see hidden in a stand of trees ahead of us, in the upper-Left of the middle of the image above, is where the 9000 foot no fires post and a couple of nice campsites sit.

In the furthest beyond the granite at the very upper end of Upper Lunch Meadow we see the iconic volcanic mountaintop which makes up the Left, the Northeast flank of Brown Bear Pass. We also notice that the vast bulk of the granite ridge to our Right (South by the compass) as well as the volcanic ridge to our North are both thinning out as they approach the Sierra Crest. These massive ridges are narrowing and no longer towering over us as we approach the 9000 foot mark and the 9760 feet of elevation passing through Brown Bear Pass.

We're getting up to the elevation where the tops of the mountains are not as far away as they once were.

We Walk the Line
We are not quite there, yet, to the Sierra Crest. The line of the Sierra Crest runs South from Leavitt Peak to Big Sam to Grizzly Peak to Forsyth Peak, so we will soon be walking the line. We'll see Grizzly, Forsyth, and Tower Peaks from Brown Bear Pass, but will have to get down into Emigrant Meadow before we can identify Big Sam.

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Upper Lunch Meadow

Hiking South into Upper Lunch Meadow.

Hiking South into Upper Lunch Meadow.

The very top of the Black Hawk Mountain-Granite Dome Massif (the granites to our Right) is taking on the unique shapes of carved granite typical of the formations decorating the perimeter of High Emigrant Basin. These are wedge-shaded blocks of granite.
Granite formations of this type surround and run down-mountain from the series of Emigrant, Grizzly, and Summit Meadows composing what I call
"The High Emigrant Basin." (definition)

The shapes of those domes and ridges we see ahead are created and left behind by the vast pressure waves and subsequent motions of the overtopping ice sheet. This is what results when an ice sheet is cutting granite so hard that it was simultaneously being deflected away by the granite it was cutting. This ancient ice was deflected by the hardness of the granite into a series of pressure waves. The structure of these pressure waves flowing through great masses of ice acted as an unseen "hand" guiding the moving ice to sculpt these amazing shapes through this hard granite rock.

These pressure waves settled down as the overcapping ice flowed down across the relatively unyielding, and now very smooth granites, of the Black Hawk-Granite Dome Massif.

IT, being these raw forces of Nature are, was, is, and will ever be a machine of beauty and life, if we see its actions over the endless oceans of time and space It operates across, if we get just a glimpse of these present wonders, or see them not at all.

Summit Creek runs North across Upper Lunch Meadow to be joined by a significant tributary at the bottom of this small shelf composing Upper Lunch Meadow. We can see this tributary flowing through its custom granite channel to our Right on the lower end of Upper Lunch Meadow.

Brown Bear Pas draws near, seen beyond the upper meadow, below.

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Brown Bear Pass

We catch a glimpse of the line of the last steps of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail up the North Side of Brown Bear Pass before reaching the 9000 foot marker in the upper section of Lunch Meadow.

Always look around at the surrounding terrain. The things you see will amaze you.

I Feel Good
Brown Bear Pass Emigrant Wilderness.

Top of the Canyon
Above we are looking East-Southeast over the top of Upper Lunch Meadow at Brown Bear Pass beyond. We can see the pinkish-red color of the granite despite the rising glare of the early morning Sun. We can also see the smoothness of the granite in the glare. We can feel the very different textures of the granite and volcanic terrains through all of our senses.
Our eyes feel the different reflectance, our feet the different surfaces, our minds can see their distant past, but it is only in our hearts that the sum total of all our senses are melted together with our outer metal processes to give us the ability to feel the differences between these terrains and their textures. And, It Feels Good!

The faint line along the base of the dark volcanic mass ahead is the last bit of our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail up to Brown Bear Pass. We're close. Less than a mile and a half from here.

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To the Top of Upper Lunch Meadow

Along North edge of Upper Lunch Meadow.

Along North edge of Upper Lunch Meadow.

As with Lower Lunch Meadow, our trail to its upper shelf takes to the Northern volcanic flank to get around Upper Lunch Meadow.

Brown Bear Pass itself is out of sight, masked by the descending granite. That granite obscuring Brown Bear Pass actually runs up to the pass to compose the South flank of Brown Bear Pass.

From our perspective here it's obscuring the pass. But it is the pass!

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To the 9000 Foot Marker

South to the Lunch Meadow elevation post.

Last feet South to the Upper Lunch Meadow elevation post, access to water, and two levels of campsites.

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9000 Foot No Fire Marker

9000 foot no fire post Lunch Meadow.

9000 foot no fire post in Upper Lunch Meadow.

Fires permitted below 9000 feet, prohibited above.


Break time in Lunch Meadow

Lunch Meadow lunch in the shade at the 9000 foot no fires marker.
9000 foot marker in Lunch Meadow.   Lunch Meadow Lunch in the shade around the 9000 foot marker.

9000 foot elevation marker:

No Fires!

 

The little island of shifting shadow under a little stand of whitebarks at the elevation marker provided the shade to take in the surrounding terrain with some calories.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Birds also Hanging About the little stand of Whitebarks

Bird in Lunch Meadow.

Crazy birds.


Always Keep an Eye on the Humans

Bird in Lunch Meadow spots me.

Bird in Lunch Meadow spots me.

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Upper Lunch Meadow Campsite

Upper Lunch Meadow campsite.

Our view of the Upper Lunch Meadow Campsites from the 9000 foot no fires marker, which is just above the level of the campsites.

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Upper Lunch Meadow Campsite

Upper Lunch Meadow campsite.

Fire ring at the Upper Lunch Meadow campsite.

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Upper Lunch Meadow Twilight

From the sites below the elevation marker
Upper Lunch Meadow twilight.

View West across Upper Lunch Meadow during sunset.

We've hiked down to Summit Creek below the campsites near the trail and the 9000 foot marker. There are a couple of nice campsites down here.

Ahead
Mosquito Pass Trail Junction
We've the small bit of hill to climb South of the 9000 foot marker before the trail twists down to the Mosquito Pass trail Junction. The trail over Mosquito Pass points South over a fairly low pass to Emigrant Lake.

Emigrant Lake sits at the base of a vast granite cliff along the North Fork of Cherry Creek.

Continuing South on the TYT we will see Emigrant Meadow Lake in Emigrant Meadow once we get a view South from Brown Bear Pass. Emigrant Meadow and its Emigrant Meadow Lake are the headwaters of the North fork of Cherry Creek.
A sweet segment of trail runs South down the really scenic canyon from Emigrant Meadow Lake to Emigrant Lake past the properly-named Middle Emigrant Lake. That length of trail from the South end of this upcoming trail over Mosquito Pass and back to this Mosquito Pass trail junction via Brown Bear Pass gives us a potential route to hike a fantastic "lollypop loop" around the top of Summit Creek's Canyon, if we throw in the top of North Cherry Creek, too.

Local hikers can bend the top of their local hike up Summit Creek into a very scenic loop turning back around to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station by hiking through both Brown Bear and Mosquito Passes, connecting these passes via the trail through the canyon the North Fork of Cherry Creek runs through from Emigrant Meadow Lake down to Emigrant Lake.

That's some very scenic terrain.

Emigrant Wilderness Hiking Map
Click the Routes and Red Dots on this Map

I have this image (guide) looking South from near the top of Big Sam, looking down across the route of the TYT running past the North Shore of Emigrant Meadow Lake. Beyond Emigrant Meadow Lake we can see Middle Emigrant Lake in the canyon running South on its way to Emigrant Lake. From Big Sam we can look a-ways South down into the amazing beauty of North Cherry Creek's canyon connecting Emigrant Meadow to Emigrant Lake.

In any case, arriving at Upper Lunch Meadow leaves only the last bit our hike up to Brown Bear Pass ahead of us, if we bypass the trail leading South over Mosquito Pass. From Brown Bear Pass our view to the Southeast takes in the North Shore of Emigrant Meadow Lake. Unless we are turning South through Mosquito Pass for the hike to Emigrant Lake.

Let's take a look at the Trail Schematic Map I made, with selected mileages.

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High Emigrant Wilderness
Trail Schematic Map
Schematic backpacking map of Emigrant Wilderness.

Mosquito Pass
Emigrant Lake Trail Junction

Trail junction Southeast to Emigrant Lake from North side of Brown Bear Pass.

Trail junction South over Mosquito Pass to Emigrant Lake from near the top of Summit Creek's upper canyon.

9040 feet
Elevation

1.23 miles
South to Brown Bear Pass.

9.69 miles
North to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station gate.

This trail junction crossing Mosquito Pass offers an alternative route to get to Bond Pass or can open up routes visiting the series of lakes paralleling the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, but at a slightly lower elevation.

Relief Reservoir
to
Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
  Kennedy Meadows
to
Jack Main Canyon

Miles and Elevations

I've hiked over Mosquito Pass, and up and down all the trails and many routes I make up myself in Emigrant Wilderness. Most of these will not be on the trail guide until I get the PCT-TYT-JMT routes between Tahoe to Whitney laid out.

Correction:
Review Page: Emigrant Lake to Snow Lake

In early 2014 Backpacker Magazine contacted me for information about an Emigrant Wilderness backpacking trip they were writing.

I put up a page that depicts the terrain from here at the Mosquito Pass junction past Emigrant and Blackbird Lakes, Horse Meadow to Snow Lake.

This section represents a "third level" of trails from Highway 108 into Yosemite.

The first would be the Pacific Crest Trail, the second would be the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, and the third would be this route to Emigrant, Blackbird, and Maxwell Lakes on our way to return to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail via either Horse Meadow or over the unmaintained trail to Snow Lake via Black Bear and Bigelow Lakes.

Again, check out the big regional map:

Emigrant Wilderness Hiking Map
Click the Routes and Red Dots on this Map

Check out the page over Mosquito Pass as described above here.

 

TRAIL GUIDE SUPPLEMENT
Mosquito Pass to Horse Meadow

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Mosquito Pass

Mosquito Pass trail junction.

The Mosquito Pass trail junction is posted next to Summit Creek.

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Trail to Mosquito Pass

Mosquito Pass trail fords Summit Creek.

The trail up to Mosquito Pass fords Summit Creek here.


South towards Brown Bear Pass

South from Mosquito Pass trail junction.

This last run of our trail South to Brown Bear Pass from the Mosquito Pass junction starts in a meadow, but soon bends to our Left through very jumbled terrain to set itself up for the climbing traverse up the great red mountain feature ahead.

We are going to "buttonhook" a curving trail first straight, then taking a big-assed bending curve to the Left, which then begins bending a long arcing curve up and to the Right, arcing around from North to South as it brings us up to Brown Bear Pass.

One of the joys of hiking is that we never know what will pop up along the long trail. How about a dog?

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Riggs
Scouting the Terrain

Horsepacker dog, Emigrant Wilderness.

A dog trotted up the trail, gave me a bored look and proceeded to scout the trail on the way up to Brown Bear Pass. I could read the dog's thoughts: "Yet another backpacker-Yawn."

That would be Riggs, the dog of Gina, one of Matt Bloom's horsepackers out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station. I said, "Hey Riggs," but Riggs had more important things on his mind. He was looking for potential trouble, and I was not a problem.

The year these pictures were taken I believe Gina and Riggs were packing supplies out to the CCC Trail Crew pictured above on this page and on the next page at the Horse Meadow trail junction in Grizzly Meadow.

Services Over the Edge of Civilization

Dog was looking everything over before the following mule trail came by. Besides seeing dog coming by I could feel the vibes of the mule train as it approached. Sierra soils resonate.

But I also knew it was a Horsepacker dog running point.

Story
When Dogs Attack!?

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Sure Enough

Horsepacker approaching Brown Bear Pass from the North.

Gina the horsepacker rides by quickly approaching Brown Bear Pass from Kennedy Meadows out of the North. The dog, Riggs, is out front scouting.

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

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Emigrant Wilderness Granite: Patterns

Emigrant Wilderness rock patterns.

Emigrant Wilderness mineral staining rock patterns.

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Emigrant Wilderness Granite

Emigrant Wilderness rock inscribed with unique decorations and shapes.

Emigrant Wilderness rock inscribed with unique decorations and cut into bizarre shapes.

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Emigrant Wilderness Granite Color and Shape

Stains and shapes on Emigrant Wilderness granite is delightful.

Stains and shapes on Emigrant Wilderness granite are delightful.

How does this happen?

"Coffee-Ring Phenomenon?"

High Sierra Geology

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Flowers grow up to Brown Bear Pass and Bees follow

Purple High Sierra Flowers.

Purple High Sierra Flowers.

I am thinking they are some kind of Flax...

Purple Flower Forum

High Sierra Flower Identification

Bumble Bee

Bumblebee working the flowers on the North side of Brown Bear Pass.

Bumblebee working the flowers on the North side of Brown Bear Pass. Sept 2, 2010. What a delightful aspect of nature to work within.

These bees don't sting.

The Buzz
Bee News

Bee Forum

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Lovely Flower

Red flower spattered with pollen after a bumblebee visit.

Wine purple-red flower spattered with pollen after a bumblebee visit. Sept 2, 2010.

High Sierra Flower Identification

Have any ideas about what type of flower this is?

A Geranium? What do you think?

Birdmom:
Purple High Sierra Wildflowers

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MAP

Ridgeline North of Brown Bear Pass

Brown Bear Pass from Upper Summit Creek.

View Northeast
Ridgeline North of Brown Bear Pass from Upper Summit Creek.

Our trail is now bending to our Left, towards the Northeast, to swing around to begin climbing before we traverse traverse across the burnt red volcanic peak to Brown Bear Pass.

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Final Approach to Brown Bear Pass

Brown Bear Pass from the top of Summit Creek.

View Southeast
The faint line of trail crossing Brown Bear Pass is visible between granite and lava.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Emigrant Wilderness Granite Form and Color

Emigrant Wilderness decorated rock formations.

Emigrant Wilderness decorated rock formations.

Sometimes in the Wilderness we feel as if we are walking through the grandest gallery of the finest art museum in the world.

That's because we are...

Looking West by Southwest across Upper Lunch Meadow

Black Hawk and Granite Dome from North of Brown Bear Pass.

Black Hawk and Granite Dome Massif from the TYT just North of Brown Bear Pass.

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Pussypaw

Pussypaw along Upper Summit Creek, Emigrant Wilderness.

Tiny pussypaw made large with digital technology.

High Sierra Flower Identification

High Sierra Backpacker's Wildflower Forum


The Granite

Emigrant Wilderness rock shape and color.

Emigrant Wilderness rock color and shape.

High Sierra Geology

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The Volcanic

Melting Volcanic Lion

Red rust mineral exposed.

Red rust mineral exposed. Looks like the outline of the head of a female lion emerging from the red mineral mass at the center of the image.

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Summit Creek's Final Run to Headwaters

Summit Creek below Brown Bear Pass.

Summit Creek below Brown Bear Pass.

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Last Trees-Shade below Brown Bear Pass

Last tree cover below Brown Bear Pass.

Last tree cover with best views below Brown Bear Pass.

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Approaching Brown Bear Pass exposes the seam
between
volcanic and granite terrain composing Brown Bear Pass

Brown Bear Pass.

Granite on Southwest flank of Brown Bear Pass, Volcanic on Northeast.

Ten thousand years ago this is where the flood tide of volcanic fury flowing over already ancient granite froze in place.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Granite Volcanic Interface at Brown Bear Pass

Granite on Southwest side of Brown Bear Pass, Volcanic on Northeast.

Detail of granite on Southwest flank of Brown Bear Pass.

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Range of Granites

Close jointed granite on Southwest side of Brown Bear Pass.

Close jointed granite on Southwest flank of Brown Bear Pass contrasts the massive virtually unjointed slabs of smooth granite seen in the image above.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Lunch Meadow spreads out below us to the Northwest

Looking back down Summit Creek valley we just climbed.

Looking West across the uppermost segment of the Summit Creek valley we just climbed. From here we can see the levels of Lunch Meadow. Also note the valley divides the terrain into granite on the Southwest side and volcanic on the Northeast.

Our route has been tracing out the limit line of an ancient volcanic eruption.

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Detail of Lunch Meadow and Valley below

Volcanic granite terrain interface detail.

Volcanic-granite terrain interface detail. Especially note how the isolated granite feature in the middle-Right of the image emerges from its surrounding volcanic jacket.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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last longest view back the way we came

Long view North down Summit Creek across Lunch Meadow before final climb to Brown Bear Pass.

Long view North down Summit Creek across Lunch Meadow before the terrain clips our view during final climb to Brown Bear Pass.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Last Length of Trail South up to Brown Bear Pass

Last bit of trail up North side to Brown Bear Pass.

Last bit of shattered rock trail up the North flank of Brown Bear Pass.

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Shattered and Smooth Terrain

Trail up to Brown Bear Pass from the North side.

Trials within Trails within Trails
All terrain requires careful foot placement, especially carrying a heavy backpack. Here the pack mules have cleared spots along the rocky path that fit their gait over the length of their Summer carrying season.

The seasonal snow and thaw will redistribute the rock on the trail, and each subsequent Summer horse, mule, and backpacker will kick some of them off their regular stepping spots.

This means that there is a trail within the trail. The more clearly you see this the easier your hikes become.

Every few years a trail crew will come by and fancy it all up.

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Volcanic Burnt Red Terrain alongside Pink Granite

North side of Brown Bear Pass.

Trail across savagely broken volcanic terrain next to baby-butt smooth granite.

We can see how the proximity to the minerals in the volcanic terrain have stained the granite a reddish-pink.

A pinkish red?

Pinko Red Pass?

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Final Approach to Brown Bear Pass

Last steps to Brown Bear Pass.

Perspective shifts one step at a time providing thousands of fine views across a few short feet. At Brown Bear Pass I'll also take a break overlooking the Southbound Sierra Crestline, air out my feet, and switch my sweated socks with the dry socks sun-bleaching on my pack.

I always have one pair of socks sun-bleaching on my pack as I am sweating up another. Switching pairs every few hours keeps both pairs very sanitary for up to three hiking days.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

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Brown Bear Pass Break
and
Foot Inspection

Time to Chill Out the Old Hooves...

Bottom Lines...
I stopped in Brown Bear Pass to inspect and air out the feet. Right and Left had a hard year, but were healing up well for the upcoming Winter...
September 2010 the feet had almost healed up. 2010 was not a good year for the feet.
September 2010 the feet had almost healed up. 2010 was not a good year for the feet.

Aggressive trips during the Winter and early Spring tore up my feet, which had softened up during a period of injury.

Problems persisted through the 2010 Summer hiking season. This required accommodating the problems with plenty of first aid gear and an excellent system to use it properly and effectively.

Good first aid technics allow heavy hiking with heavy blisters.

These Reports from Emigrant & Yosemite, filmed at about 3 and 25 miles South of our current position depicts the combination of traveling 70 miles through the High Sierra when it is in Massive Mosquito Attack Mode (for the whole trip) on a set of well-perforated feet. This situation may be considered typical of routine issues that pop up on the trail.

We laugh at the mosquitoes and scoff at minor injury when we have the proper gear and know how to use it.

Be Ready.

Be Very Ready.

Mosquitoes and Minor Injuries will torture you if your are improperly geared.

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Sixteen things at once

Hiking is sixteen things at once. Breathing, heart rate, food and water consumption are the important standard internal metrics for our mobil observation unit, our bodies, until something else goes wrong.

Is a storm forming, is your stomach churning, is the river ford surging?

Is your ankle turning, is your skin burning, are your allergies emerging?

Are your knees creaking, are your fears tweaking, is your water leaking?

Are your blisters bleeding, is your food feeding, is your map misleading?

Is your motor running down, your gear too thin, your pack attacking your back?

All of these things will pop up or be persistent backpacking companions at some point during your travels. You must be ready to deal with each way life can get hard.

If you spend enough time on the trail everything that can happen will happen to you out there.

Hell may seem a long distance away while sitting in heaven, but your subjective state can shift in the blink of an eye in the High Sierra. You must be able to protect yourself. This protection requires thinking, not shooting. You can't shoot stupid... I've hiked with him too long... and I hike solo.

Have the ability to take a day off. Have bandages, proper food, clothing, shelter, bear protection, and most importantly have the proper expectations to properly define your needs for safe mountain travel. Having expectations which distinguish too much from too little gear, too long from too short of a trip, and too much from too little food are good places to start.

I don't expect to get pounded on the trail, but I am not surprised when shit happens.

Balancing, or more accurately juggling these internal and external factors before and during the trip brings clarity unavailable elsewhere.

What's important becomes crystal clear on the long trails.

16 Things at Once

Mountain Safety Forum

Gear List

Gear Forum

View East-Southeast off the South Flank of Brown Bear Pass

South through Brown Bear Pass.

Crossing over to South Flank of Brown Bear Pass overlooking Emigrant Meadow. 2013.
The view from our breakspot. There is afternoon shade off to our Right under the granite.

Entering
High Emigrant Basin
Definition

9760
feet of elevation

10.92 miles
South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station gate.

Looking South on the TYT

Three Important Local Trail Junctions
ahead along the TYT good for local loops:

Next guide page South:

1.41 miles
South to
Emigrant Meadow Lake Trail Junction

2.68 miles
South to
Horse Meadow unmarked Trail Junction

2.91 miles
South to
Grizzly Peak Trail Junction

 

Important Points South
on the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
from
Brown Bear Pass

Guide pages South:

Bond Pass
5.12 miles

Tilden Lake Junction & Loop
12.46 miles

Wilmer Lake Junction
14.21 miles

Tuolumne Meadows
61.51 miles

Schematic backpacking map of Emigrant Wilderness.

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Grizzly and Tower Peaks across Emigrant Meadow.

Grizzly Peak in Left foreground, Tower Peak jutting up in the far middle distance, and Forsyth Peak rising above the PCT's entrance to the Northeast corner of Yosemite via Dorothy Lake Pass. We are seeing all of this looking East-Southeast across Emigrant Meadow Lake in Emigrant Meadow in the foreground.

Check this out in Spring on the next guide page South.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
   Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

Late Summer (Aug 23 2012) into early Fall tunes down the intensity of High Sierra greenery and transitions these vibrant greens into the golden tones of Fall.

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Cool Pools Compose NW side of Emigrant Meadow Lake

First look into the High Emigrant Meadow or Basin, and Emigrant Meadow Lake.

These beautiful pools are MLZ.

Mosquito Launch Zones.

The High Emigrant Basin is full of mosquitoes all Summer long. Those lush green grasses and expansive surface waters we see are indicative of massive populations of mosquitoes. These mosquitoes will rise from the grasses as we brush through them, or as they pick up our scent.

Independent of how they zero-in on us, they will be going for our blood as we hike across the meadow. A headwind helps, but during Spring a brimmed hat with mosquito net to a collared long sleeve shit is nice protection to have.

DEET for the face and the backs of the hands.

The "drop dead" date for mosquitoes in the High Sierra is August 15 during a "typical" year, whatever that is.

During years of average rainfall and a normal Spring the wet meadows generally dry out by August 15. Drier years this happens earlier and later during wet years. But Emigrant Meadow is special, and typical of many MLZ across the Sierra Nevada. What makes this place special for the mosquitoes is what we don't see.

Emigrant Meadow is composed of eroded sediments from the surrounding peaks. These sediments are deposited on a rock foundation. Note the flattish shape of the granite plates on the far side of Middle Emigrant Lake.

These great granite plates underlay Emigrant Meadow, trapping water, and keeping the meadow moist and full of mosquitoes long after surrounding terrain has dried out.

Get out the DEET if you don't want to become a mosquito TREET.

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass
15 min USGS Backpacking Map
 Kennedy Meadows to Jack Main Canyon
Miles and Elevations

High Sierra Mosquito Information

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Brown Bear Pass

One Gateway into the High Emigrant Basin

Most people refer to the area on the Southeast flank of Brown Bear Pass as High Emigrant Meadow. I refer to the two meadows sitting on the big flat on South side of Brown Bear Pass as the High Emigrant Basin containing both Emigrant and Grizzly Meadows. The Basin drops down to the Southeast to include Summit Meadow on a subordinate shelf just below the High Sierra Crest line.

High Emigrant Basin is essentially a shelf, or set of shelves nestled in just below the crestline running along the top of the Western flank of the Sierra Crestline stretching South from Brown Bear Pass marking its Northwestern corner, Big Sam its Northern extent with Bond Pass marking its Southernmost end.

See this high elevation view of High Emigrant Basin from the North:
Big Sam

This expansive high elevation flat containing both meadows is ringed with mountains around its North and Northwestern sides while to the Southwest the High Emigrant Basin drains through complex sets of granite valleys descending into deep forests that span from Hetch Hetchy to the Southeast to Pinecrest Lake to the Northwest.

Emigrant Basin's Northeast shoulder composes the Western flank of the West Walker River watershed draining Northeast out of the Eastern Sierra through Leavitt Meadow below Sonora Pass. It is splendid.

In any case the High Emigrant Basin we are now entering through Brown Bear Pass holds a hub of trails radiating to all the cardinal compass points. I have just two words to describe this:

Woooo-Hoooo!!

Let's do them all, then make up some of our own...

Map

Mileage

7.96 miles
South from North end of Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass

10.92 miles
South from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Brown Bear Pass.

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North: Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir                                                 South: Brown Bear Pass to Bond Pass

Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Hub of Trails Below Grizzly Peak

To our Northwest:
TYT trailhead at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station on Highway 108

To our North:
PCT trailhead at Sonora Pass on Highway 108

To our Northeast:
Trailheads at Leavitt Lake and Leavitt Meadow

To our South: Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails both heading South towards Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. We can also run Jack Main Canyon all the way down to Hetch Hetchy.

Recap

This leg of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between Relief Reservoir and Brown Bear Pass is not just one segment of the longer TYT trail but also opens up many opportunities for a wide range of loops and trailhead to trailhead trips around and across Emigrant Wilderness.

On the way up to Brown Bear Pass we passed both the trail into Relief Valley and the Mosquito Pass trail junction. Both of these trails offers access to a wide variety of loop routes around Emigrant Wilderness of various length.

 

Emigrant Wilderness Topo Hiking Maps

7.5 Map:
Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass

30 min Map:
Highway 108 to Bensen Lake

Miles and Elevations

South: Brown Bear Pass to Bond Pass

Backpacking Trail Guide

TYT
North

Kennedy Meadows
to
Relief Reservoir

North
to
PCT

Kennedy Canyon
to
High Emigrant Basin

Compass and map point the way on the trail guide.

Backpacking Trail Guide

TYT
South
to
PCT
in
Yosemite

Brown Bear Pass
to
Bond Pass

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Trailhead
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Granite Chief, West side afternoon.

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

Your Guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails

Granite Chief bathed in Sunset's glow, in Emigrant Wilderness.
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail