Trip Report: Emigrant Wilderness, 50-miler, 2021

18 went in; 18 came back with a wealth of memories: another superb Troop 260 50-miler.

This year’s 50-miler was a planning challenge: as the pandemic progressed we had abandoned our 2020 plans for backpacking in Lassen NP and we sought to pick them up again for this summer. Sadly, the increasingly frequent and more extensive wildfires we are facing triggered the Dixie fire (now the largest by area in CA history) which ended up coming right up to where we had planned to hike.

With only 1 week to go, Lassen NP was closed and after some heroic re-planning we headed for Emigrant Wilderness (north of Yosemite NP and only 15 mins drive past Camp Hi-Sierra). We maintained the planned two groups and after a lovely day acclimating at Pinecrest Lake we said goodbye at the trailhead and went our separate ways for 5 days.

The skills we honed, the experiences we gained, and memories we built, will be cherished by us all. Some highlights of the adventure are noted below.

Granite landscaping

Seriously, if you need some heavy landscaping done, call the USFS and ask for their trail volunteer department. 8,000 feet up, and 15 miles from anywhere, you will suddenly come across a section of granite steps that looks like something the dwarves build in Moria. Astounding.

Alpine lakes

The extreme drought CA is in is less visible at altitude. Whilst some creeks are dry or almost dry, we were able to hop from lake to lake, splashing and wading each day. We could pump water readily and enjoy lush green stretches of vegetation in between exposed granite and twisted pines.


Cowbells? Is this Switzerland? Nope, just USDA land. Near Camp Lake there was the background ding of cow bells and the splats on the trail to keep us company. Further in, we saw several horse trains bring supplies in to remote locations, or returning after a run (and always accompanied by 1 or 2 healthy happy working dogs). A possible option for an extended adventure (or for any retired scoutmasters!).

Unexpected meetings

On day 3, as Group Z was heading down from Deer Lake there was much delight when from the direction of Piute Lake most of Group Y appeared around a corner! The scouts were thrilled to see each other and we headed to Gem Lake (where Group Z dropped packs and Scott had a quick dip). Everyone went them back to Piute (1.5 miles and 800 feet descent further on) to have a few hours of being all together, before Group Z headed back to Gem.

[and then Ram and Donald had to do the entire Gem-Piute commute once again to retrieve a left behind water pump! (33 minutes back for the record…)]


Several inspired Lionel Ritchie poses (including a full-reverse Lionel, and a semi-aquatic Lionel) [keep you eyes peeled when looking at the photos]

Majestic views

It’s hard to be disappointed in the Sierra, and once again we were treated to majestic views. There is nothing like walking with all you need on your back, to connect with the fundamentals of what we really need and with the natural world.

As ever, huge thanks to our cast of volunteers for making this year happen: our trip lead planner and lead ASMs (Glen, Phil, Donald); our other adult leadership (Scoutmaster Scott, ASMs Kathy and Marion, Denver, Ram); and our scouts for showing superb commitment, good cheer and allowing the adults to nap in the afternoon 🙂

Click above or here for photo album (Deer Lake, Emigrant Wilderness)

One Reply to “Trip Report: Emigrant Wilderness, 50-miler, 2021”

  1. Pictionary

    Rousing sessions of Pictionary were held each afternoon by the Group Y scouts. Alia brought her notebook (along with her Scout Handbook and a large hardbound novel!) and scouts used their creativity to come up with various categories and drawn clues while other scouts guessed the answer. Hours were spent in camp in these sessions, likely heard through much of the wilderness. At least one scoutmaster (me!) was left scratching their head over unheard of comic characters, mythical beasts, video game miscellania and a host of other esoteric subjects.

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