Kennedy Meadows to Iceland Lake

posted Aug 20, 2012, 4:09 PM by Paul Wagner
The reason you haven't heard from us for a few days is that we were doing what we love--backpacking in the Sierra.   This time it was around Emigrant Wilderness, to a series of lakes for which there is no trail, only sloping slabs of granite and a topo map to guide us.
We started at Kennedy Meadows and followed the horses and manure for five miles up to the junction with the trail to Lower Relief Valley.  It had rained torrents the night before (we met one group who weathered five hours of thunder, lightning, and pouring rain near Emigrant Lake) and so our normally dry Sierra felt like a sauna.  Steam was rising off the rocks, and we were sweating like...well, we were sweating. 
That's the gorge below left...and you can see the steam rising. Rapids, cascades, and pools. ©
But once we got above Relief Reservoir, things got a lot better.  The trail goes through a very steep climb here, and after lunch we stopped at Summit Creek to enjoy the water, the view...and what the heck, let's camp here. That afternoon P took a recon hike up the granite just to make sure this route was possible...and came back down full of confidence.
That's the view from near our campsite, below right.
This is Summit Creek from near our campsite. A nearly perfect composition.
The next morning we were up early and hiking straight up the smooth granite.  What a wonderful way to explore the Sierra!  The views opened up, and there were so many fabulous trees struggling in the granite that we kept stopping to take photos of them. 
You can see all of our photos on our Picasa page for the trip:
In about an hour we were up at the top of the pass, and then pulled out our map and compass to make sure we were headed in the right direction.  We contoured around the granite bowl, and ended up right where we wanted to be, at the northern corner of Ridge Lake.  From there we hiked around to explore the three other lakes, fish a bit, and spend the day far from the madding crowds below.  Wonderful. The sky was full of fluffy clouds, and we just wandered from one great spot to the next.
Iceland Lake is below:
The outlet of Iceland Lake. ©
The last day was Friday, and we started early to beat the heat.  Most of the hike back down to Kennedy Meadows was in shadow...but we also ran into seven (yep, seven!) groups of horses, from three to fourteen people in each.  Add in a few groups of hikers, and it sure felt different from Iceland Lake. 
This is not a trip for those who want a nice hike along a well-marked trail. In fact, the lakes in question are well off the trail, and take quite a bit of navigation. But they are lovely lakes, and we promise you that you won't see many people up in this area.  And the scenery and fishing is pretty darn amazing.
(Note--we did not see a single fish at Iceland lake--only pollywogs.  But Ridge Lake and its companion were full of fish, as was Summit Creek.)