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We had canceled our plans for travel over the Fourth of July holiday. After some busy days, on Sunday we wanted to take a day hike, get away, just the two of us. “Let’s just run up to Emigrant Lake, get into the high country,” was my suggestion. Emigrant Lake sits in a high basin just west of Carson Pass, just off of the historic Carson Route of the California Trail. I’ve always been interested in western history, but when I discovered my great-great grandfather, Sam, succumbed to California fever and headed west on the overland trail from Iowa in 1864, my interest doubled. And living close, its fun to get away and actually see the route taken by so many.
Many have heard of Carson Pass but few realize the actual high point of the route was to the west over West Pass. We started our hike at Caples Reservoir. During pioneer times, prior to its impoundment by Pacific Gas & Electric, this basin held two smaller lakes – Twin Lakes – and the emigrant route ran west between them. The route is marked where it comes out of Caples.
The trail along the reservoir is popular and beautiful.
We continued on the trail to Emigrant Lake.
After relaxing, snacking, and snoozing for a while, we decided to climb out of the basin toward the east.
This is one of our favorite slopes to ski in the winter when we ski from Carson Pass to Emigrant Lake and then out along the west shore of Caples Reservoir.
We continued cross country reaching the top of an intermediate granite ridge. The views are expansive as you climb.
Caples Reservoir was now far below.
We topped out on the main ridge between the South Fork of the American River drainage and the Mokelumne River. This view is to the southeast into Mokelumne Wilderness. Round Top Peak is on the left.
We needed to climb this rocky summit so we could make the turn to the west.
Fourth of July Lake was below with Summit City Canyon beyond.
We traversed to the west and hit the summit of Melissa Coray Peak.
West Pass and the emigrant trail lay below, to the west, between Melissa Coray and Covered Wagon Peak.
Here’s a view to the north and east. The smoke column is from the Bison Fire in the Pine Nut Mountains to the east of Gardnerville, Nevada.
We headed down the trail back toward the northeast and down into Emigrant Valley.
Here a panorama shot to the east. We had climbed out of Emigrant Lake basin up the slope in the far left bottom third and climbed the long granite ridge line. We then traversed over to the top of Melissa Coray Peak (with the small weather station, the aerometer keeps getting blown off in the winter).
It is steep terrain down to Emigrant Valley.
In the past, the trail in this open area was marked with three sided signs on pipes. Most have been crushed illustrating the power of the annual snow load.
Emigrant Valley is lush and green with snow melt. Chair 4 at the Kirkwood Ski Resort is in this valley, a busy and noisy place in the winter.
This trail is not used much and is easy to lose through this area. In places the vegetation is waist deep. The wildflowers were nice including the Arrow-leafed Balsam-root.
After leaving the valley at the bottom of chair 4………………………………………………
………………………………………….we dropped cross country down to the Emigrant Lake trail and intersected our route back along Caples Reservoir. This view is to the east and Carson Pass. This is where the emigrant trail ran between the two Twin Lakes.
We returned to our vehicle late in the afternoon. The holiday road traffic had thinned considerably making for an easy and quick return home. We do like our backyard.