- Sep 30, 2014
We wanted a short escape before school starts, and stopped in at the Summit Ranger Station in Pinecrest to see what they might suggest in the Emigrant Wilderness. (A lot of Carson-Iceberg burned last year in the Donnell Fire and is still not open to hikers.) But since this trip was for P's birthday, we wanted something where we wouldn't run into much of a crowd. That excluded Kennedy Lake (there are lot of people up there right now) as well as the usual suspects out of Gianelli and Crabtree Trailheads. Gem Lake, in particular, was mentioned in a recent magazine story (just possibly because P suggested it to the editors) and now Gem Lake is the icon destination of Emigrant Wilderness.
So where else could we go? P asked about Chain Lakes. Nobody there. The trailhead, Box Springs, is a long drive on a difficult road. Not ideal for most hikers. It sounded perfect for us. And it was.
The road into the trailhead was really quite rough--absolutely not recommended for passenger cars, although our 2wd 2008 Ford Escape managed it with careful driving. It took us almost two hours from the Ranger Station to the trailhead, and that was a total of ten miles on Highway 108, 20 miles on paved County Road 31, and then 7 miles on rough dirt to the trailhead. That last 7 miles took us more than 45 minutes to feel our way along...
And then we got to the trail itself. While it is in fairly poor condition, with lots of downed trees, quite a few trail re-routes around the biggest ones, and some swampy areas, it was also chock full of the most amazing displays of wildflowers. Like walking through a botanical garden. And it is only two and half miles in total. It took us longer to drive to the trailhead than to hike the hike!
Chain Lakes themselves are really just one large lake (fishless, with no inlet or outlet stream) and three smaller and swampier ones. But boy was it peaceful. And we had only one other group for company, and they camped far away---there are tons of good campsites in this area. The weather was perfect, and mosquitoes were only about a 3 on a ten point scale. Perfectly manageable.
The next morning, we hiked up to the top of the nearby granite dome, for views of most of the Emigrant Wilderness, and even a distant view of Mt Hoffman to the South in Yosemite. And the road out seemed just a little better, since it was downhill, and we knew that it was passable the whole way. A really nice way to spend a birthday...
The rest of the photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wxRZNEKHrGCeShEm8