There is a little uphill section as you leave Lilypad Lake but then it goes down into Piute Meadow. This is the area that I saw on fire 5 years ago.(see trip description for Piute/Camp Lake). The trail opens up out here to really get a look at what Emigrant Wilderness is all about.
Enjoy the flat section of Piute Meadow as the next section is up again to Piute Lake. Our goal this day was Gem Lake (we told people we met on the trail Emigrant Lake to make us sound cooler, ok maybe we didn't). Here is Piute Meadow. You cross Piute Creek which was also dry.
You could see evidence of fire and also the forest recovering. Make sure you continue straight at the next junction unless you are headed to Groundhog Meadow/Pine Valley.
The ridge on the left gets grander the farther you travel on this trail. Can you see the man's face?
After some up and then a little down the trail evens out and you get to Piute Lake. There are a couple sites on the northeast side of the lake (a little bit in from the lake). We stopped for lunch here and to get a little more water (well not here, more around to the left under the trees).
You cross Cherry Creek (also very dry but had one spot you could filter in a pinch) before you start your ascent. Here we are starting up the steep section to Gem Lake.
The trail levels off again before you reach Gem Lake. No the dried up pond thing out there is not Gem Lake!.
Here is Gem Lake. We camped at a lovely site with many trees and a good view of the ridge behind us (no lake view though, as was pointed out to me a few times).
Here is the granite ridge behind our site. It looked like a mini El Capitan to me. The ridge continues on to the east even though it looks like a granite monolith here.
Another shot of our granite giant.
Here is my tent setup at camp. We decided to use this lake as out base camp for 2 nights since we liked the site so much. This site and one other were the only ones I saw while we were out here. We did see a lone backpacker head to the south shore and camp our second night. We did not really explore that section of the lake so maybe there is a killer site out there.
You can see the hammocks in the trees in this shot. Weather was awesome with it being cool enough to get in your sleeping bag but no dew/rain at all. Only blue skies. We had a fire on our second night out here. Fire restrictions were in place for anything above 9,000 feet but below that (and away from Emigrant Lake) you could have a campfire. We kept ours small and put it out well.
The next day we hiked to Jewelry and Deer Lake. There is a junction on the east side of Gem Lake for Buck Meadow. Continue left to Jewelry Lake. You can see on the profile that the terrain is much milder now.
Follow the ridge to Jewelry. There are a few sections where the trail crossed some granite but route finding is pretty easy out here.
Here is Jewelry Lake. It looked nice but we heard that Deer Lake was even better so we decided to carry on to Deer Lake for lunch.
We saw this big eyebrowed face on the granite.
Here is Deer Lake. It is hard to tell from this shot but this lake is pretty large. It bends around the right and then back around (this thing in the middle is actually an island).
We had lunch and I watched this little guy run around everywhere. I think they are called Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels.
Here is another shot I took before I decided to take a swim. The channel between the island and the shore was deep and we watched some good size fish swim by. We heard from some fellow backpackers that fishing at this lake is good. The lake widens out to the east. The water was cold but felt good.
Here is another shot looking west. There was enough water coming out of this lake that we filtered there. The stream that runs from Deer to Jewelry looks like you might be able to float it at certain times of the year... That would be pretty cool.
We headed back to our camp at Gem lake with enough time to chill around camp before dinner. Leo and Dan swam in this lake and said it was great. The granite on the east side of the lake (far side in the shot below) provided the best entry (and also the best water filtering spot). With water levels low you had to be careful not to stir up the sediment when you filtered. We are thinking that a collapsible bucket might work better in conditions like this. It would give the water a chance to settle and you could filter right at camp.
Gem Lake was our favorite lake on this trip. So the next day we were headed out to Lilypad Lake or further to Camp Lake? Read on to see where we end up for our last night. Continue to next page.