Walker Basin, September
Back to other trips
lack of vacation time, this year's trip was a short one: only
four days. In addition, being in the school year, Eric
couldn't join us. We were joined instead by Alex's friend
Jeff. Our route went up the West Walker basin, dipped into
Emigrant Wilderness, and just clipped the northernmost corner of
Yosemite National Park. The geology is especially varied in
this region: the West Walker cuts through both the granite of
the classic Sierras and the volanic rocks of the eastern fringe. This
made for quite a variety of scenery.
The defining characteristic of the trip, though, was the temperature.
This was The
We've had hot weather in September
before, but some unseasonal cold snap came through along with a biting
wind, and we spent much less time swimming than we would've liked.
And more time wearing all of our clothes, huddled in our
As with last year, this year there is a slide
The slide show has a lot more photos than are shown
page. Click on any photo to enter the show, or start at the beginning.
You can navigate the slide show using the left and right
arrows on your keyboard, and hit the space bar to zoom the photos to
their full size.
New this year: photos of me! In
addition to bringing a Gorillapod
on the trip, I've included a bunch of
Jeff's photos, too. Thanks, Jeff!
Leavitt Meadows to Upper Long Lake
We left the Leavitt Meadows trailhead at about 9
a.m. and headed out
across the dry, dusty trail. Far in the distance we could see
crags of Tower Peak through the haze. The
traversed up the side of the canyon and emerged onto the beautiful
of Roosevelt Lake and Lane Lake.
We continued up the basin,
sometimes alongside the West Walker River,
sometimes in the tumble of
hills alongside it. The trail dropped next to the river just
the cutoff to Hidden Lake, and the river changed
to slice through granite bedrock.
lunch we climbed the 400' up to Fremont Lake.
We skirted the south end of the lake before heading up a
an unofficial trail. The trail reconnected with the main one,
we continued down a gentle valley to the Chain of Lakes.
trail then wobbled south along the enormous fissure or fault that
the lakes, and eventually dropped us off at Lower Long Lake.
was far too marshy for us, so we continued on to Upper Long
Our search for campsites on the sunny northeastern shore was fruitless,
so we scooted around to the deep shade of the forest on the southwest.
We found an excellent campsite there and had a lovely evening
around the campfire. Unfortunately, this lake was also no
for swimming; all we managed was a splash.
Day 2: Upper
Long Lake to Snow Lake
From our campsite, we immediately hopped on the Pacific Crest
Trail for a
brief half mile or so before splitting off to follow the West
Walker River (really). This is one really gorgeous
spilling over granite slabs into icy pools. We seriously
regretted not going the extra mile and camping here instead of at the
trail soon passed the cutoff to Cinko Lake and
continued up towards
Emigrant Pass. The terrain changed quite a
bit as we neared
pass, becoming barren and windswept. Yellow and red shrubs
low to the ground. Just before the pass, we stopped for a
and then set out cross-country up towards Grizzly Peak.
even weirder: giant ash canyons dotted with volcanic boulders
that'd rolled down from the peak. Unfortunately, we didn't
the canyons soon enough and ended up pressed against the base of the
peak. We were able to traverse under some
ash towers and emerge safely at the pass just east of the peak.
We dropped our packs at the pass and headed up the ridge towards the
summit. This was a crumbly, steep scramble, but it got us to
fantastic views. To the west we had all of lower Emigrant,
including a straight sight down Emigrant Lake.
To the north
had the volcanic peaks of the upper Emigrant: Big Sam
nemisis from 2001) and Relief Peak. And
to the southeast we
the peaks of northern Yosemite: Tower Peak,
Forsyth Peak, and
lunch at the summit, we scrambled back down, donned our packs and
ambled down an easy valley to join the trail again just before Summit
Meadow. We examined Aerial Snow
Depth Marker 159 and
mounted the small hill to Snow Lake. We
eventually found a
campsite at the eastern corner of the lake and braved the demon wind
for a (very short) dip in the lake. The weather had really
by this point, and rain looked likely. We set up the tent,
all our clothes, and tried to stay near the fire as the blustery winds
blew the smoke in all directions.
Day 3: Snow
Lake to Cora Lake
Thankfully, it never did rain that night, and we woke up to a
beautiful, clear day. Jeff's sleeping bag zipper had broken
the night, so we spent some time fixing that (and warming up) before
getting a very late start: 11 a.m.! We were all a
beaten down by the cold by this point.
set off cross-country towards Bond Pass,
stopping first to examine
the ruins of the Montezuma Mine.
At Bond Pass we
the trail and headed down into Jack Main Canyon.
re-joined the Pacific Crest Trail, this time
heading north, and
followed it up to Dorothy Lake and its pass.
Dorothy Lake was
great glacial blue and had an excellent sandy beach. Perhaps we'll swim there some day.
over Dorothy Lake Pass, we stopped for lunch at Stella
first of the "lady lakes": six lakes named after women and "strung
together like a sparkling necklace" around a central peak.
weather was distinctly warmer now, helped by the clear skies, and after
a lazy lunch in the delicious sunshine we struck out off-trail around
the "necklace". Lake Ruth was next,
followed by Lake Helen.
We seriously considered camping at Lake Helen, on a fabulous
of granite jutting out into the water, but decided that it was too
unprotected for the wind we'd been having. The views of
Peak from Lake Helen were fabulous, though. We'd
the peak from a base camp at the lake, but that was no longer possible
due to our late start that morning.
We continued down the valley to Cora Lake and were
very glad we did.
We found an amazing campsite protected by the woods on the
side of the lake: nice flat ground, good swimming, and a fire
pre-stocked with wood. A beautiful sunset followed, and we
content on our last night.
Day 4: Cora
Lake to Leavitt Meadows
We had a long hike out on our last day, so we woke up early and packed
up quickly. From Cora Lake there was an
unoffical trail down
Lake Harriet to join up with the Pacific
Crest Trail again.
followed that north for a mile or so and then turned down into the
canyon, passing Cascade Falls. Once in
the valley, recent
trail work -- not represented on the maps -- briefly confused us, but
managed to find our way through.
The trail wound through Lower Piute Meadow and
behind a hill before
joining back with our Day 1 trail along the West Walker.
time we knew what to expect, though, and stopped for lunch at a
particularly nice granite pool we'd seen on the way in. I had
final swim, and we all soaked up the now hot rays of the sun.
After lunch, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead, had some
final glances of Tower Peak looming over the head
of the basin, washed
ourselves in the river, and headed home.