Saturday morning David and I met Paige up at Kirkwood Inn. We found a place to park near the gauging station on Caples lake and threw on our packs. The planned destination wa Emigrant Lake, a lake nestled below Melissa Coray and Covered Wagon peaks (close to the eastern boundary of Kirkwood ski resort). The first few miles were simply along the shores of Caples Lake – with the recent warm weather and rain we didn’t venture too far out on the ice, though it was quite thick in most areas. We followed the shorline to the southernmost tip of the lake where the trail description said to follow the Emigrant Creek drainage up to Emigrant Lake. Easier said than done, that’s for sure!
Due to the snow this past week there was no broken trail. Dave took the lead and broke trail through some sinky wet snow. We had to pause frequently to take our bearings (and catch our breath) – lets just say that there are many possible ‘drainages’ that can be followed! Even with three maps and two compasses we weren’t sure of our exact location (I need to get my GPS in to Magellan for repair!). The ridges and peaks around us were mostly obscured by trees, and when we did get a brief glimpse of something it wasn’t enough to determine our location. What was really frustrating was seeing so many things that fit the trail description in the Snowshoe trails of Tahoe book. We were supposed to ‘go to the left’ of a certain landmark, and we saw about 8 things that could have been that landmark!
In any case, we ended up setting up camp in a nice flat little hollow at the base of a small rock wall without making it to the lake. Paige set up her tent, I set up my Hex 2, and David dug a snowcave (yep, there was enough snow and sunlight left for that). It was pretty warm out for a winter trip, so we were able to stay up late sipping our hot and tasty drinks while watching the stars come out. Of course, the definition of ‘late’ to snowcampers is 6:00 – it was perfectly dark out by then! By 8:00 I was snug in my sleeping bag reading a book, and off to sleep soon after.
In the morning we put out our stuff to dry and strapped on the snowshoes for another attempt at Emigrant Lake. We thought it was just a little beyond our campsite, but we were wrong! After going up and up for a while we were ready to turn around, thinking we may have gone up the wrong drainage and were in the wrong bowl, or perhaps even well above the lake. However, we just wanted to check one little ridge on the way back and it ended up being the flat clearing before the lake. I think it was 20% navigation skills and 80% luck that we found it! After a few moments at the beautiful snow covered lake, we followed our tracks back to camp and packed up for the hike out.
Since we weren’t pausing to routefind and break trail on the way out, the hike went quickly. We had a yummy lunch at the Kirkwood Inn and were on the road long before sunset. This was my first snowcamping trip of the season and I had a great time – I’m looking forward to the next outing!