Camping with the bros at Relief Reservoir. Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your classic High Sierra Trail Guide. Perch, a PCT hiker during 2916 approaching the top of Jack Main Canyon.
Looking back at Relief Reservoir climbing South towards Saucer Meadow.
Camping with the bros at Relief Reservoir.

Looking back at Relief Reservoir as we climb South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail towards Brown Bear Pass.

Perch, a PCT hiker



The Trails



Current Weather Conditions

Weather Notes
Northern High Sierras
Central High Sierras
Southern High Sierras


Gear List
Gettin Started
Testing yourself and your gear
Gear Reviews


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Part III
Backpacking Trip

Trip Report
Trail Culture

Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Emigrant Wilderness
Its Local Backpackers





Trail Arts

The art of walking


Physical Preperation


Trail Skills

The trail
Off the trail
Camp skills





Photo Catagories
Trail Stories
Trail Culture
News and Science


Terms and Conditions of Use

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Trail Culture
in the
High Sierra
2010 2013 Trail
Kennedy Meadows
Pack Station
Emigrant Wilderness


Yosemite Wilderness


PCT Hikers North Yosemite

maps index

Part III
The Backpacking Trip, Trails, and Culture

Emigrant Wilderness

into the
North Yosemite Backcountry

Trip & Trail Culture

Emigrant Wilderness
The North Yosemite Backcountry

The page below deals with hiking the 16.04 miles Southeast on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through the gate at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Bond Pass. Bond Pass is where the TYT departs Emigrant Wilderness entering the very Northwestern corner of Yosemite National Park.

Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Maps, Miles, & Trail Guide Information


Kennedy Meadows Resupply
Yet this trip begins before we even begin hiking. There are so many Pacific Crest Trail hikers resupplying at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station early in the hiking season that we feel as if we're already on the trail when we arrive at Kennedy Meadows. We are, in the sense of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station is a critical resupply spot for most hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Though offset 9 miles down the West Flank from the PCT across Sonora Pass, Kennedy Meadows feels like part of the PCT.

Thus we are seeing lots of PCT hikers making their resupply stops at Kennedy Meadows as soon as the Sierra Crest trails become passable, and they can hike themselves that far North.

Highway 108 is just a bit more than 1000 miles (1016.9) North of the Mexican border along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Edge of Trail Culture
Long and Local

Though we come into contact with a whole bunch of Long Distance PCT hikers at Kennedy Meadows from around our country and around the world, Kennedy Meadows is also very local.

Besides the constant flow of early season PCT hikers through Kennedy Meadows, we note it's a very "local" backpacking trailhead where lots of local folks and horsefolks out of the San Joaquin Valley are camping, hiking, staying in cabins, and beginning local trips into Emigrant Wilderness.

KM has a unique local character and culture that's all its own, as well as reflecting the national and international characters of PCT hikers...

Trail Culture

Hiking out of Kennedy Meadows South across Emigrant Wilderness on the route of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail will put us far from the flow of PCT hikers we encountered at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Our route following the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail typically bring us into contact with a nice selection of short and medium distance local backpackers enjoying the deep beauty that even short backpacking trips into Emigrant Wilderness brings.

We check out a sample of Emigrant's Backpackers of 2016, below.

We will again run into the thick flow of Northbound Pacific Crest Trail hikers once our TYT crosses over Bond Pass out of Emigrant Wilderness and into Yosemite to where it rejoins the PCT in the top of Jack Main Canyon.

Then the trail gets busy again.

Let's get this party started!

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Trip Report and Trail Culture Review


Part III


Start Point
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station and Resort
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station and Resort on the Edge of the Emigrant Wilderness off Highway 108 on the West Sierra Flank.
We can see the firewood box on the far left of the lodge for guests in the cabins. Above the firewood we see where the payphones are located on the far-Left end of the deck. There is no cell-service at Kennedy Meadows. The store sits behind the phones, while the restaurant is on the furthest Right side of the building. The office sits between the store and restaurant.

Correction: One Carrier?

Beyond the far end of the Lodge we can see the gate where our trip begins by picking up the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail continuing South from Kennedy Meadows into Emigrant Wilderness. Backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail have hitched down to Kennedy Meadows from Sonora Pass, which means they have to hitch or find a ride back up to the route of the PCT crossing Sonora Pass at the top of Highway 108 to continue their trips.

Sonora Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail are located 9 miles East of Kennedy Meadows. Nine miles of the most steeply climbing section of Highway 108 up the West Flank.

Our trip South on the TYT starts through that gate beyond the Kennedy Meadows Lodge.


Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
Backpacker Resupply Page


At Kennedy Meadows
Starting our backpacking trip into Emigrant Wilderness out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station immediately brought us into contact with those PCT hikers resupplying at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station on July 6 and 7 of 2016. These are the services they are accessing at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station:

Kennedy Meadows
Backpacker Services

Bear Canister



Killer Food

Excellent Store


Into and Out of
Kennedy Meadows
Pack Station

Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows
Map & Guide


Why Resupply
Kennedy Meadows?

Pack Attack
PCT backpackers arriving at Kennedy Meadows are asked to stash their packs on the back deck
to keep the main deck clear for all guests.

Backpacks of PCT hikers resupplying at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

Kennedy Meadows provides minimal text and email wi-fi (?) and charging service.
I believe one carrier has connection up there...


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Trail Report
Culture Review

Over the Years

Trail Culture
Trail Culture
Trail Culture


We see a steady stream of long distance Pacific Crest Trail hikers passing through Kennedy Meadows picking up their resupply, meeting friends, making friends, then typically continuing North. The vast majority of PCT hikers roll South to North, though we do meet the occasional North to South hiker.

Why are these People Smiling? Kira kicking back at Kennedy Meadows while hiking the PCT in 2016.
Kira kicking back at Kennedy Meadows while hiking the PCT in 2016.

All in the Family
"Double D's," a father-son PCT hiking team enjoying the Kennedy Meadows Resupply.
"Double D's," a father-son PCT hiking team enjoying the Kennedy Meadows Resupply.

Emily, a long time Summer visitor to Kennedy Meadows gave PCT hikers a series of rides up to Sonora Pass to continue their adventures.
Emily, a long time Summer visitor to Kennedy Meadows gave PCT hikers a series of rides up to Sonora Pass to continue their adventures. What a really really nice lady!

Emily has family, relatives, and friends deployed around Kennedy Meadows all having a good time.

I believe Emily started down her path to "Trail Angel" to really help out a PCT hiker in need, then just naturally helped out the rest of the PCT hikers until she was worn out!

Arriving at Kennedy Meadows a PCT hiker discovered her mother was ill, and in a hospital awaiting surgery. She had to get out of the Sierra Nevada and to an airport as quickly as possible. I saw Emily speaking with the PCT hiker and the Kennedy Meadows staff, and I believe Emily gave the PCT lady a ride up to Carson City or Minden.

Returning to Kennedy Meadows Emily began talking to the very interesting groups of PCT hikers about their fellow hiker, and their trips, which induced Emily to give a bunch of PCT hikers rides up to Sonora Pass to continue their Northbound hikes.

PCT hikers can expect to see folks like Emily who's good will helps them through a tough spot along the trip. These folks are known as "Trail Angels" by the PCT hikers, and the things they do, as, "Trail Magic."

Emily is typical of the many folks who visit the Sierra every year that I look forward to meeting.
There are lots of good folks in the mountains.

Emily is one of them.

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2015 & Earlier

A Cross-Section of PCT Hikers over the past few Years.

Richard Walker and his hiking buddie at Kennedy Meadows during 2015
Richard Walker and his hiking buddy at Kennedy Meadows during 2015

Trail Angels to Support
Three pals come up to support Tumbleweed during 2013.
Three pals come up to support Tumbleweed, on far Right, during his 2013 PCT hike.

Great Spirit Within
Real nice PCT group resupplying and eating lots of food during 2012.
Real nice PCT group resupplying and eating lots of food during 2012.

Smiles are Windows of the Soul
This sweet couple hiking the PCT was really nice!
This sweet couple hiking the PCT in 2012 was really nice!

One thing is for sure: You will meet the nicest folks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Well, we are going to test this theory in the field when our upcoming hike South across Emigrant Wilderness on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail passes into Yosemite and our route hooks up with that of the PCT.

We will run into a steady stream of this year's Northbound PCT hikers on the trail when we turn into the North Yosemite Backcountry.

In the meantime we're going to check out the local terrain and those exploring it as we backpack South across Emigrant Wilderness out of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

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Backpacking Into Emigrant Wilderness

Before getting started we need the trail guide information for backpacking the TYT South into Emigrant Wilderness, and to put this information into a usable context. Here it is below, including information on the route of the PCT.

Sonora Pass
Kennedy Meadows
Highway 108
Highway 120

Hwy 108
Tuolumne Meadows

Highway 108 Corridor
Backpacking Map
High Emigrant


Relief Reservoir


and Elevations


Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir
Our 4.1 mile hike up to Relief Reservoir's campsites from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station brings us up a total of 1200 feet of elevation. Though the reservoir itself is not 1200 feet above Kennedy Meadows, we climb considerably higher than its surface elevation on our approach.

Our final approach to Relief Reservoir descends the last mile to our campsite's location on its Southeast shore. I prefer making this climb/hike up to Relief Reservoir during the morning or evening when the narrowness of the lower canyon has not build up excessive heat, and the exposure across our final approach is minimal.

Starting our trip into altitude, climbing, and heat simultaneously is stressful.


Trail Guide Page
Kennedy Meadows Pack Station to Relief Reservoir

Kennedy Meadows to Relief Reservoir


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The 3 Bros
Relief Reservoir

After setting up my camp on the Southeastern shore of Relief Reservoir in the very late afternoon I was wandering around scouting out the other campsites in the area and situating the location main trail leading from the campsites back to the TYT. I had taken the shortcut from the Southbound TYT into the campsite area. I was taking the main route back to the TYT.

The main route connecting Relief Reservoir campsites to the TYT terminates in a nice, big campsite under a big fat juniper tree (Trail Guide: Relief Reservoir Campsites) where I found the Three Bros camped. The dudes invited me to kick back and enjoy the warmth of their nice fire, their good will and spirits, and the good spirits from their bottle.

So I had a nice drink and a great conversation.

It was very nice to meet the Three Bros at Relief Reservoir.

The Ideal Weekender
Dudes were taking a couple of nights under the stars with a couple of complimentary days of fishing, hiking, and relaxing. This appeared to be the goal of most of the backpackers I observed at Relief Reservoir, though I did see many backpackers bypassing Relief Reservoir as they hiked deeper into the Emigrant Wilderness.

I passed through the Three Bro's camp again on my way South the next day and kicked back for a while before hitting the trail South.

Dave fishing at Relief Reservoir in 2016.
Dave down on the point fishing.

Good Campsite Conversation
Chris Tran and his buddies after backpacking to Relief Reservoir.
Chris Tran.

Dudes backpacking to Relief Reservoir.
Classic Old School expedition tent.

Chris likes his hammock setup.
Chris likes his hammock setup.

Dave's backpacking camp chair.
Dave comes back from fishing and offers me his nice backpacking camp chair to kick back on.

Nice Setup
Dave likes his MSR tent and Marmot sleeping bag.
Dave likes his very light MSR tent and Marmot sleeping bag combination.
It's a sweet setup.

After my second visit with the three bros I followed the main trail back to the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. Along the way I was thinking that their short but sweet trip into Relief Reservoir for a long relaxing weekend was something I should do more of.

I was thinking it would be nice to spend another night at Relief Reservoir and kick it with the 3 Bros, but decided to push South.

Following the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite Trail next brings the long steady climb to Brown Bear Pass accessing the Emigrant Basin along the Sierra Crest.

Trail Guide Page
Relief Reservoir to Brown Bear Pass

Relief Reservoir to Yosemite Boundary

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Relief Reservoir
Brown Bear Pass


Miles and Elevations


To the Crest
We are pointing ourselves East for the climb to the Sierra Crest once we turn Left where the trail climbing South beyond Relief Reservoir tees-out. Our route along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail turns East following Summit Creek climbing up into the narrowing mouth of this bifurcated canyon. We'll follow Summit Creek running East by the compass climbing for 6.89 miles from Relief Reservoir climbing to Brown Bear Pass through this very interesting canyon above the Southeast shore of Relief Reservoir.

This image shows us climbing up from Relief Reservoir to get into the center, the mouth of the canyon, where Summit Creek runs.

I describe the canyon as "bifurcated" and "very interesting" because the South wall of the canyon is composed of the pure granite of the amazing Granite Dome feature, while the North wall of the canyon is the Western nose, the West end of the amazing volcanic ridge capped by Relief Peak.

The massive beauty of Granite Dome and the associated granite of Black Hawk Peak rising to its East compose the fantastic granite terrain making up the South wall of this whole canyon up to Brown Bear Pass. The terrain to our South up into Granite Dome and Black Hawk Peak presents seemingly endless scrambling opportunities.
The North wall of the canyon is the massive burnt red volcanic ridge arm topped by the distinctive Relief Peak, running West off the Sierra Crest.

These images give us some idea of how the canyon is uniquely split down the middle between granite and volcanic terrain.

We find a series of very nice campsites located along Summit Creek running all the way up to Brown Bear Pass once we climb up into the mouth of the valley.

First we hike up to and by the series of mostly-restricted campsites above Saucer Meadow (as of 2016, contact Summit Ranger Station), then make the climb up through a narrowing canyon into and through an amazing gap leading us out into the constrained open space at Sheep Camp, and finally we hike into expanding meadow as we pass by the sites located at the bottom and then the top of Lunch Meadow as we make our final approach to Brown Bear Pass.


Trail Guide Entries
Emigrant Wilderness
Backpacking Campsites

Saucer Meadow
Sheep Camp
Lunch Meadow
Lunch Meadow
9000 foot marker
Lunch Meadow Campsites

I like all of these campsite locations, and have sequenced trips over the years so I could eventually camp at all of them, independent of the mileage demanded by hiking the long trails.

Along this year's hike we encountered backpackers typical of the range of folks we meet out here backpacking Emigrant Wilderness.

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Summit Creek

There was a steady stream of individuals, pairs, and small groups hiking up Summit Creek towards Brown Bear and Mosquito Passes.

Cool Folk on the Trail
Ryan Moore and Jonathan Lipps backpacking in Emigrant Wilderness.
Ryan Moore and Jonathan Lipps backpacking in Emigrant Wilderness.

Andrew and Tanja
Andrew and Tanja doing an eighty mile trip ending at Kennedy Meadows.
Andrew and Tanja doing an eighty mile trip ending at Kennedy Meadows.
My notes indicate they came from "WDF," which I can not figure out for the life of me!

I've been struggling to put together a decent charging system for my cameras. Andrew and Tanja were running a solar charging system they really liked.

Andrew and Tanja were sporting a nice charging system they really liked from Suntastics, which I have noted as, "12 x 8" size.

Andrew likes his Suntastics Charging System.
Andrew likes his Suntastics Charging System.

Mountain Rescue

Sunday July 10, 2016

While camping at the upper end of Saucer Meadow's line of campsites one of Bloom's horsepackers from Kennedy Meadows Pack Station rode in with an extra saddled mount.

He rode to a group of seven or eight dudes that was camped nearby, and it became apparent that one of them had badly sprained or possibly fractured his ankle. Our location about six miles Southwest of Kennedy Meadows made it possible for them to contact Kennedy Meadows and arrange for a ride back to the trailhead and medical treatment.

They loaded the guy on the horse, and he rode his wounded body back to Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

I'll post more about this when I learn more.

Frampton Family Weekender
Frampton family backpacking Emigrant Wilderness.
A nice getaway with time for the son's first High Sierra fishing experience and catch.

Last Steps to Brown Bear Pass
10.92 Miles South of Kennedy Meadows Pack Station
9760 feet of elevation through the Gap
Last steps to Brown Bear Pass along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail in Emigrant Wilderness.
The very top of our climb South up Summit Creek from Kennedy Meadows.
Crossing Brown Bear Pass puts us into a completely different watershed than the Middle Stanislaus.
The Cherry Creeks draining the other side of the mountain all end up in the Tuolumne River.

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Brown Bear Pass
Looking into Yosemite.
10.92 miles South of Kennedy Meadows:
View from Brown Bear Pass
Looking into Yosemite. Well, we are actually looking across the Emigrant Basin of Emigrant Wilderness from Brown Bear Pass at two mountains defining the Northwestern boundary of Yosemite, while one of them also clues us into the location of the nearby Pacific Crest Trail.

The middle peak in the furthest distance is Tower Peak marking the line of the Yosemite Boundary along the Sierra Crest. We first observed and began "tracking" Tower Peak approaching Sonora Pass along the PCT, and began to see greater detail (guide) as we got closer to the Yosemite boundary. Our route along the TYT will put us under fine views of Tower Peak from Tilden Lake (guide).

The mountain in the middle-distance on the far Right is Forsyth Peak (Guide Page) marking both the top of Jack Main Canyon and the Yosemite boundary along the Sierra Crest. The PCT runs down the Western Flank through Jack Main Canyon along the base of Forsyth just below where it entered Yosemite through Dorothy Lake Pass. So, the PCT runs along the near base of Forsyth Peak, while Dorothy Lake Pass is located just to the Left of Forsyth Peak.

Grizzly Peak is the volcanic core located closest-Left. It marks the line of the Sierra Crest, but across the Emigrant Basin. Trails in every cardinal compass point emanate from three trail junctions located at the base of the Western flank of Grizzly Peak.

Check out the map of the relationship of Brown Bear Pass, Grizzly, Forsyth and Tower Peaks:

Relief Reservoir to Yosemite Boundary

Trail Guide Page
Brown Bear Pass to Bond Pass

Brown Bear Pass to Bond Pass
Across Emigrant Basin
5.99 miles
Miles and Elevations


Our line on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail tracks almost directly to Grizzly Peak, bending around the Left shore of Emigrant Meadow Lake. Arriving at the trail junction under the West flank of Grizzly Peak we turn Right, to our South on the now combined Tungsten Road-TYT towards our Bond Pass entrance into Yosemite National Park. In the image above our line on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail just a tad bit to the Right of Forsyth Peak in the top of Jack Main Canyon.

In fact, we can see the ridgeline dividing Emigrant from Yosemite descending towards Bond Pass obscuring the base of Forsyth Peak.

But first, we make almost a straight line for Grizzly Peak, the nearest and most-Left of the three major peaks in the image above. There are three trail junctions at the Western base of Grizzly Peak giving us access to all points of the surrounding Emigrant Wilderness as well as the strip of Toiyabe Forest covering the East Flank.

The total distance from our position on the TYT in Brown Bear Pass to the PCT-TYT intersection in the top of Jack Main Canyon is 5.99 miles. The trail junction at Grizzly Peak is 2.91 miles from our position in Brown Bear Pass.

Miles and Elevations

Mountain Character

July 2016

Each High Sierra Park, Forest, and Wilderness Area has its own character.

This character is a product of both its Natural character and the character and density of its human visitors. The one affects the other, and which is predominant deeply influences the experience.

The crowded and popular trails in Yosemite are a prime example; human influences predominate. Up here in Emigrant Wilderness the human effect diminishes, but does not quite depart.

Emigrant Wilderness is also close enough to Naturally Structured Reality to allow many folks to drop their social facades, their social definitions, and their social interpretations of Nature to find the mother lode of their Natural basis, their clean relationship and engagement with the powers and forces of Nature defined on Its own terms.

Folks who, "flip the script," so to speak.

My point is that we find a different character of backpacker and backpacking experience in Emigrant Wilderness as we do on the crowded trails of Yosemite.

I attribute this difference to Emigrant Wilderness' lower level of popularity and its greater distance from industrial tourism.

Bond Pass into Yosemite Bond Pass boundary between North Yosemite and High Emigrant Wilderness.
Sweat and Sweetness behind in Emigrant Wilderness,
Sweat and Sweetness ahead in the North Yosemite Backcountry.

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Into the
North Yosemite Backcountry


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