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Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around

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Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 17, 2016 09:43PM
M and I weren't able to leave the Bay Area until mid-afternoon, so we didn't arrive at Sonora Pass until well after sunset. Despite the darkness and elevation, the temperature at the pass was quite mild--warmer than our typical East Bay evening. We weren't starting our hike from the pass, but we had to transfer some extra supplies to the Advance Party's car that was parked there. Our trailhead would require almost another hour to reach--at the end of the tedious Leavitt Lake road.

After a slow, careful drive up the road, which had a few sections that justified our bringing a real 4x4, we eventually reached the trailhead, and moments later we were hiking by headlamp along the old Horse Meadow Road.

Our destination for the night was the saddle between Kennedy Creek and Kennedy Canyon. During our hike there was at most a gentle breeze, not at all cold, and at the saddle we found a nice flat area near a bunch of whitebark pines that provided additional protection from the slight wind. We set up camp quickly; by 12:30 or so we were in bed and fast asleep.

I tried to watch for meteors a few times during the night, but I kept falling asleep...



The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we were once more on the former road/trail heading towards the top of Big Sam.



As we climbed, we could look down at Kennedy Lake and its surrounding meadows.



We were surrounded by very in-Sierra-like mountains, with hardly a piece of granite to be seen anywhere.



Eventually after a few switchbacks we got our first peek into the Emigrant Basin. Middle Emigrant and Emigrant Meadow lake were below us, with High Emigrant Lake hidden just to the left.



On the way down from Big Sam we heard from the Advance Party--and their special guest Bearproof. They were at Dorothy Lake, and we arranged to meet for lunch at Bond Pass. Despite being open and south-facing, there were still small springs flowing on the south side of Big Sam, and the wildflowers were taking full advantage of this water.



Eventually we reached the bottom of the switchbacks and started the long meander across the Emigrant Basin. In the distance we could see High Emigrant Lake, Grizzly Peak, and the peaks behind Snow, Bigelow, and Black Bear lakes.



Our pleasant stroll continued as we passed Emigrant Pass and continued towards Summit Meadow and Bond Pass.



The Advance Party requested that we bring a few liters of water to Bond Pass, which we collected at Summit Meadow before climbing to the pass.



We enjoyed a nice lunch at the pass, then decided to head to Bigelow Lake via an old mining road, some prospects, and a possible boundary marker on the ridge southwest of Bond Pass. The climb was very enjoyable, with very unusual geology and even more....



...and more wildflowers.



We passed several posts along the way--perhaps marking old mining claims, or the park boundary. The road ended at the prospect indicated on the topo map, where a few tailing piles and some cable were all that remained of whatever mining had taken place here. We continued onto the top of the peak, from which we could see Bigelow, Lower Twin, and Huckleberry Lake in the distance.



According to sources, there was supposed to be a boundary marker on this peak. After a bit of searching we found nothing. I was checking out a vaguely not-quite-natural pile of rock, but there was no marker near it--at least, there wasn't any more. The Pink One spotted the remnants of a marker in a prominent rock--the tablet itself had been removed, perhaps by a prospector unhappy with the location of the boundary, or a later survey.



JKW and M had decided to head straight to Biglelow without the mine-and-marker hunt, so we dropped towards the lake to meet up with them.



As with many lakes in the Emigrant, Bigelow had been raised by small dams; and as with most of these dams, they were decaying and leaking.



We stopped at Bigelow for some rest--Bearproof took a swim, M and JWK soaked their feet, and I snuck in a short nap. Once everyone was ready, we were back on the trail, and except for a few minor but avoided navigational snafus, we arrived at our destination: Upper Twin Lake.



We set up camp on the south shore of the lake, after which the Yosemite Yacht Club left Bearproof and M behind to float Lower Twin Lake and finish a Trail Quest segment. But first, we had to search for a boundary marker, which unexpectedly the Great Pink One stumbled across first. (Bearproof would locate it independently while we were at the lower lake, but would also score the bonus of an original witness tree blaze...)

Despite having trail signs at either end, there really isn't a trail from the Upper to the Lower Twin Lake, just a random assortment of ducks and blazes that more or less go from point A to point B. Still, we got full credit for this TQ segment.



It was unfortunately late in the day, and while the lake offered many islands and other fun-to-boat-around features, we ended up "doeing"* the lake instead.



Trail and boating completed, we headed back to camp, where we enjoyed dinner while the sun set. Surprisingly there were still mosquitoes despite the time of year.



We finished dinner and clean-up in the dark, after which I retired to bed and was fast asleep. M and I had hiked about 21 miles in the past 24 hours or so--in my case, to be able to claim one lake and one mile of Yosemite trail completed.



The next morning we enjoyed a nice pancake breakfast while packing. We had a long way back to the truck at Leavitt Lake, and the Yacht Club still had one lake to boat and a segment of Yosemite trail to complete. Bearproof and M in fact left ahead of the rest of us, concerned that they might have a slow pace. (As it is, we were never closer than a few miles from them until we were back at the trailhead.) A bit after they left, we boated across the lake.



After that, we hiked the segment of trail along the Upper Twin Lake, then followed the steep, pack-trail roto-tilled trail down to Cherry Creek, where once more we stepped onto the Horse Meadow Road, which we followed to Horse Meadow.



Just before this meadow, we climbed away from it towards Maxwell Lake.



We continued towards Blackbird Lake, then on to Middle Emigrant and Emigrant Meadow lakes.



We stopped for lunch at Middle Emigrant Lake; we had heard on the radio that M and Bearproof were at Emigrant Meadow lake.



After lunch, we continued to Emigrant Meadow lake, and arrived just as they were about to attack the Big Sam switchbacks, which we could see in the distance.



After leaving this lake we were soon surrounded by more colorful wildflowers, which distracted us from the climb past the lake.





As we approached the switchbacks, we could see Bearproof and M nearing the top of Big Sam.



The wind, which had been quite mild the past few evenings, was blowing strongly as we started our first ascent. The wind kept us cool, and the wonderful scenery distracted us from the climb.



Once high enough we could look back--and down--on the lakes we had hiked past during the past two days.



At the top, we took the short detour to the actual high point and braced against the wind for a few quick summit photos.



It definitely wasn't "all downhill" from here: we had to drop about 1000' to the Kennedy Creek/Canyon saddle, then climb again to about the same elevation as Big Sam, then drop the same amount again to the trailhead.



The walk was pleasant, but it was apparent that Bearproof and M had been sandbagging a bit--we had no chance of catching up with them--not that we were in a hurry to leave these mountains.



We were soon at the saddle where M and I had camped a few nights ago.



The road/trail lead us up mostly gradually to our final "pass".



We eventually reached the top of it, too, near where the PCT continues north to Sonora Pass.



M and Bearproof were already at the trailhead as we started our final descent. We were with them soon enough, and packed for the final adventure: the drive out via the Leavitt Lake road.



The old truck has a few more scrapes than it did, but it survived just fine. We returned to Sonora Pass, where we parted with Bearproof and the Advance Party: they were heading back to Bridgeport, while M and I had to return home. This would be the last time I see the Advance Party for a few weeks... M and I had packed a lot into the weekend, and had enjoyed excellent weather and wonderful company.



* doe (doh) n. transitive To boat (on a lake) the minimal amount needed to get Boat Quest credit. Named after JKW's infamous Doe Lake float.
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 17, 2016 11:47PM
Amazing TR as usual, thank you for posting! It is incredible how much you guys do just over a weekend. Hats off!
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 18, 2016 07:49AM
Great report -- as you know, we were in this area over the 4th of July. Hope the bugs had ebbed a bit for you.

Really beautiful photos. Flowers were amazing.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
avatar Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 18, 2016 11:35AM
First, kudos to Basilbop and M...they worked all week, drove up from the Bay Area Friday afternoon/evening/night, hiked in until after midnight, and got up early Saturday to deliver potato chips and other sundries to the three of us who had been out for 5 days. Then more hiking, boating and cooking, followed by a 17 mile hike out on Sunday and a drive home, where they arrived probably around midnight. And they were no doubt up early on Monday to be back at work. Plus, Basilbop writes great trip reports! The guy is like Superman!

As mentioned in Basilbop's report above, while the three boaters went down to Lower Twin Lakes, I stayed back to rest and eventually got to looking for boundary marker 74, which was described in the survey notes from 1905 as being located "in low timbered saddle between Upper Twin Lake and Cherry Creek canyon". Using the additional survey note information, and wandering around in the woods for about half an hour, I spotted the rock cairn the marks the general location of the marker, and found the marker itself cemented to stone nearby. The fact that the marker was cleared of debris proved that the boaters had got there before I had.

As was usual in forested areas, the surveyors back then also marked some nearby trees to act as "witness" to the location of the surveyed point. In this case, they noted that they marked 2 trees, a "red fir 20 ins. diam" and a "black pine 18 ins. diam.,....marked B.P. No. 74, B.T.". I saw a giant red fir in about the location described, with an old, healed over gash near the base, but the bark had overgrown the gash that nothing was visible. Then, pacing off the distance and direction of the "black pine, and moving away the low brush, I saw this...carved into the tree 111 years ago.



You can make out the "BP" at top, followed by the "o" in "No" and then 74, followed by the BT at bottom.
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 19, 2016 10:27AM
That's very cool (tree blaze/markings).

What is the meaning of "witness" to the marker? What's the function or purpose of these? I'm not familiar with surveying methods and procedure.

Also, any idea what B.P. and B.T. designate? And the number? I'd guess if these "witness marks" were common, then for the Yosemite boundary survey there are at least 73 other (and probably more) witness marks, in consecutive order (of placement, or clockwise/counter-clockwise around the perimeter?).

Nice find.

Edit: while the answer "B.P. stands for BearProof" would be fun - I'm not buying it...
Edit 2: nor will I accept "B.T. stands for Bird with Twinkies"...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/19/2016 10:29AM by ags.
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 19, 2016 11:31AM
Quote
ags
What is the meaning of "witness" to the marker? What's the function or purpose of these? I'm not familiar with surveying methods and procedure.

Witness trees and markers are used to confirm the location of the marker itself. The survey notes will have the distance and compass heading to these trees so that the marker itself can be located by triangulation. In more recent surveys these are often indicated by metal signs.

Many benchmarks similarly have a few nearby witness markers that point to the benchmark itself. For example the benchmark on Clouds Rest is only a nub, but the two witness markers are in good shape.
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 20, 2016 01:52AM
Not to go too far down a rathole, but if the marker itself is what is important, what's the point of placing markers to point to the marker? Why not a single, more prominent "main" marker? Extending the idea of witness markers would mean there could be "secondary witness markers" pointing to each witness marker.

I'm really not trying to be a wise guy here. I'm just not following the logic. The closest guess I can come up with is that boundary markers are often designating an "imaginary" line. That is, there is no natural manifestation of the line in the real world. So, finding the marker may be difficult, and since it's an artifact placed by a human, it can be removed by a human. If the idea is that witness markers are placed on naturally occurring, stable, significant objects, then they may be expected to have a longer lifespan (or greater reliability) than the marker. Of course, if trees are the most common witness markers, then that ruins my theory, as they don't last forever. Perhaps lasting a few hundred years was seen as good enough? If witness markers also exist on man-made platforms similar to the benchmarks, then that also blows my theory.
avatar Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 20, 2016 04:46AM
"Sometimes a survey mark is made much easier to find by the presence nearby of a witness post, a stake (or a small sign) driven into the ground and used to draw attention to (and to warn against disturbing) the mark." from a google search on "witness mark".

Aaron, in simple terms for the Old Dude, why are there sometimes three markers pointing to one marker as found on Mt Condon?



Old Dude
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 18, 2016 05:01PM
Wow surprised to see theres still some wildflowers and a patch of snow out there! Getting to the trailhead that late...I don't mind night hiking but...for the first day...at attitude...you guys a crazy!
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 18, 2016 05:16PM
Quote
KevinD
you guys a crazy!

Guilty as charged...

And yes, I was surprised that there were still flowers and south-exposed snow fields (and unfortunately, mosquitoes) on a mid-August trip.
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 19, 2016 05:46AM
Wow! Quite a find on the old tree blaze. I'm impressed.
Re: Emigrant Status: Horsing Around
August 19, 2016 10:02AM
Wow, what a beautiful and inspiring trip report. I have always meant to hike Big Sam. Loved the pictures too. Thank you
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