Despite plenty of warnings from redditors on /r/CampingandHiking about the plethora of mosquitoes in the area, we decided to forgo better judgment and head out for a weekend of Backpacking in Emigrant Wilderness. A call to the Summit Ranger Station on Tuesday secured a permit starting from Kennedy Meadows and heading to Horse Meadow.
We turned off of CA-108 onto Forest Route 5N01 (signs for Niagara Creek Campground and Eagle Meadows). The road is paved at first but after Eagle Meadows turns to dirt and deteriorates over the next 7 miles until it ends less than a quarter of a mile from the reservoir. Though the last segment doesn’t show up on many maps, I assure you it’s there, though you’ll need a 4 wheel-drive vehicle to get up the sandy slope.
Getting a bit of a late start in the morning, we headed down a now-dry creek bed to the reservoir, walked along the shore for a bit, the climbed back over a rock outcropping to get to the dam. The next day we would find out that the easier way was to stay higher and make a B-line for the dam from our parking spot. The water in the reservoir was clear and tempting but we had distance to cover so without too much effort we found our way up to the main trail. Though they’re not marked on maps, Google Earth reveals plenty of use-trails in the area and they’re not too hard to follow. Besides, you want to head up and to the East; can’t really miss it.
The weather was perfect. The sun was shining. The day was warm but not too much so. Every once in a while a blissful breeze would dry the sweat off our brows and cool us down a bit more. Though not very prevalent, wild-flowers were still blooming in the meadows and along the trail. This trip was gearing up to be perfect.
We met a couple who were doing some training hikes for an upcoming backpacking trip, followed by a backpacker who assured us there were barely any mosquitoes out there. We were thrilled until we ran into the next set of backpackers who after spending one night at Emigrant Lake decided to pack up their remaining seven days’ worth of food and bail. “We were covered” they said. Now we were getting a bit worried, but everyone embellishes their stories a bit. It couldn’t have been that bad.
As we ascended towards Mosquito Pass we realized just how fitting the name is. We decided that the mosquito situation could only get worse and so we picked the windiest spot we could find, just a half a mile short of the pass, and dropped our bags. Sitting for any period of time was an exercise in masochism. Instantly, the mosquitoes would swarm and only the breeze brought relief.
I wasn’t going to leave Emigrant without having taken a swim so we hiked up to the pass headed for Emigrant, but found another suitable lake right around the pass. The pests didn’t bother me in the water, but Sharon waiting for me to finish with her jacket covering her face, was covered.
We returned to our campsite, pitched the tent as quickly as possible, and without even bothering to stake it down, we jumped in and spent the next 3 hours waiting for the sun to set and the temperature to drop enough so the mosquitoes would leave. We had to enjoy our view of Lunch Meadow and the beautiful valley of Summit Creek from behind the mesh netting of our Hubba Hubba.
Breaking down camp and eating breakfast, the mosquitoes were a constant nuisance. Luckily, we were headed back down into the mosquito-lite zone and made quick time at that.
Skillful stream crossing.
We arrived at the dam just in time. The wind was picking up and the size of the waves on the reservoir was increasing. The rain came soon after.
Emigrant Wilderness is a place of great beauty. Had it not been for the countless bites we received, this trip would have been perfect. Hopefully, in a few weeks the last of the snow will melt off, the ground will become a bit drier, and there won’t be as many mosquitoes out. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.
Other hikes in Emigrant Wilderness
For more national forest adventures, visit our U.S. Forest Service Agency Guide.