zScapes Ramble On
Emigrant South 7 Days New Part of Emigrant to Explore
As we have concentrated on the higher elevations of Emigrant Wilderness all these years, it was time to explore and open up to new sections of the Emigrant Wilderness. Being a fan of Fred Leighton of his efforts in the 1920s to create a watershed by building a series of small check dams to hold back winter melt and prove water flow through the year, Yellowhammer Lakes, the base camp for his project, has always been on my list. We set this up as a pack-in basecamp trip starting at Aspen Meadows who did a fantastic job getting us there and back. Highly recommended!
Pingree Lake Base Camp
Our home for the next 7 days was just right. Far enough away from the lake, close to a good water source, all around wind protection and off the trail. Time to explore!
Pingree Lake
A pretty lake fringed with Western Labrador, Lupine and granite slopes, but George Sr was there for fishing. And boy did he try every nook and cranny, every possible bait and even some spells and incantations to no avail. Looked like the lake was barren even though guidebooks indicated a small population of trout. Fortunately, there were several other lakes in the area.
Big Lake & Gillette Dome
The next lake over is Big Lake, true to its name and another opportunity for George Sr to catch a few trout. He worked his magic to no avail, but at least there were some bites! For George and I, this was the thru point to run up Mercur Peak. However, we decided to diverted to Gillette Dome as the trail was non-existent and looked to be a slog!
Big Lake Panorama 2019
Yellowhammer Lake & Karl's Dome
We had struck out at the first two lakes to bring home dinner, so not to be skunked, George and I hiked to Yellowhammer Lake to break the bad luck. A perfect day for hiking and fishing. George's determination was rewarded and we did a quick run up Karl's Dome above Yellowhammer Lake & Camp. Views for miles and miles. Best of all, we finally set foot in Yellowhammer Camp, an important part of Emigrant Wilderness history. Here is where Fred Leighton's ran his project to build a series of check dams to hold back winter snowmelt to provide power downstream in Sonora. Some will say what Fred Leighton constructed with local materials was a disruption to this pristine country. Others are happy that these dams provide sport fishing and nice camp sites. And others want to tear them down.

My take. If you look at a wilderness as needing to be in a pure state and untouched to be whole, you are throwing away the history that has shaped this corner of the Sierra Nevada. Our wild areas do not stand still, they are sculpted by water, wind, heat, cold and the fauna and flora that inhabit the land. And impacted by humans. Sometime it is gentle and unnoticed, sometimes it is destructive and alters what was beautiful and serene and sometimes it plays to the balance of life and nature. Humans explore and push boundaries, as I would not be able to produce this site and provide this commentary with out that push. Fred took an idea that was to help people downstream have power, had a minimum footprint and respected the lands he was slightly taming, Far worse has been thrust upon our lands with total intent to profit at the expense of anything in the way. These dams are part of the Emigrant Wilderness history just as much as native Americans hunting and fishing, settlers looking for a way west, ranchers trying to take advantage of free grazing and now a spectacular place to hike, fish and be at peace. All of these activities have impacted our wilderness, but they have given it character and a rich history that makes this land special. Let's keep it that way.
Wildflower Explosion
Unbelievable. In all these years never saw the range of wildflowers we came across. I will let the images tell the tale.
Critters Along the Way
The flowers were overwhelming, but we had our share of small creatures. The most interesting encounter was a Robber Fly with an unsuspecting bubble bee in his mandibles and hanging on with a steady grip. Amazing what nature reveals when you pay attention.
Time to Go & Epilogue
Another trip and time to break camp and head home. No march needed as our packers came by on schedule and whisked us away. We actually went non-stop, besides water breaks for the four footers. Lastly, some stats for our trip.
Saturday August 3rd Kabobs with Rice
Sunday August 4thEggplant Punjab wSaffron Rice
Monday August 5thPad Thai wChicken
Tuesday August 6thPesto Tortellini wSmoked Salmon
Wednesday August 7thPaleo Chicken Curry
Thursday August 8thBangkok Veggies wLine Rice
Trip Stats
Pingree Lake8097 ftN 38.13443° W 119.79856°
Big Lake7694 ftN 38.12291° W 119.79739°
Yellowhammer Lake7756 ftN 38.11885° W 119.78444°
Gillette Dome8330 ftN 38.11385° W 119.79294°
Elevation Change+430 ft-307 ft
Total miles (OW)15.51 miles
May our paths & errands meet

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