A Serene Emigrant Lake All to Ourselves

Updated: Aug 1

For the last few months, we'd been talking about planning a hike with friends of ours. Schedules got busy, and then the air turned toxic with smoke, and then wildfires ultimately closed almost all of the areas in which we typically hike. This past Friday, however, we were finally able to make happen a hike with our friends.


Earlier this summer, I had brought up the Emigrant Lake hike, because our friends had not yet done it, and we enjoyed this hike last year. But by the time we got around to "scheduling" our hike together this year, the areas near Emigrant Lake were engulfed in wildfire and smoke. So, we kind of gave up on this idea for our hike.


This past week, we began looking for a hike that would fall outside of the designated closure due to the Caldor Fire south of us, and we came up with two ideas and pitched them to our friends. Then, the day before our hike, I received an email from the US Forest Service with an update to the fire closure boundaries. To our surprise, the revised closure area no longer included the trail to Emigrant Lake!


Thus, the decision was made and early Friday morning, we picked up our friends and headed south about an hour to the trailhead at Caples Lake. Starting out at around 7700 feet, the air was chilly and we even hiked through an inch or two of snow in some spots.



The snow-covered trail was littered with plenty of animal prints along the way, but absolutely no sign of human foot traffic outside of ours. We had the trail all to ourselves. Aside from our conversations, it was incredibly quiet. And Caples Lake was glass.




In this photo of Caples Lake, on the far left, you can see a black horizontal section of burnt trees from the recent fire.


The air was crisp and cool and even felt a bit damp. Fall, maybe even winter, was evident. We couldn't get over how quiet it was, except for the periodic snow that crunched under foot.


We don't typically see many mushrooms on our hikes around the Sierra (only when we hike in Oregon!), but this was an impressively large cluster growing on the trunk of a tree along the trail to Emigrant Lake.


The trail was also home to numerous massive trees and, of course, I had to stop and take a photo in front of at least one of them.



Seeing huge trees never gets old to me.


At about four-and-a-half miles in, we arrived at our destination at 8,535 ft. Again, we had the entire lake to ourselves. It was absolutely pristine. The skies were bright blue. The sun was warm.



We all sat on this huge boulder at the water's edge and had some snacks and enjoyed each other's company and conversation. The view in front of us was just awesome. I think we could have sat there for hours.





Eventually, we gathered up our gear and started making our way back down. This time, though, we ran into a total of three hikers making their way up. It was actually nearly startling since we hadn't seen a single person thus far.


About halfway through our return route, I could faintly smell the nearby wildfire smoke in the air. I did not detect this on our way up to the lake, so maybe the direction of the wind had changed or something.


The ground was wet in a few spots after some of the snow on the trail had melted from earlier this morning. You could still hear it crunching beneath our feet with every step we took, but I was pleased that the temperature had warmed up a little bit.


As we walked, I could hear my husband retelling some of his signature stories. Many who know him have heard them before. Stories about the people God has put in his path and he's offered to help in one way or another. Some of the stories are merely slice-of-life humor, and others, at their heart, are sad because of the dire states in which some of the people's lives were.


I don't really tire of hearing these stories and, in fact, once he gets going, I will often prompt him to tell specific ones. Needless to say, the rest of the hike went by quickly and before we knew it, we were back at the trailhead – and shortly after, deciding where we wanted to stop for a bite to eat on the drive back.


It was another beautiful day for a beautiful hike.




Emigrant Lake

Total Distance

8.83 mi

Total Time

4:12:07

Total Ascent

1,073 ft

Max Elevation

8,535 ft


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