• Summer Dawn

Just One More Mile...

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

October 2020 / Emigrant Wilderness, Stanislaus National Forest / 31 miles total

DAY 1: Crabtree Trailhead to Piute Lake / 8 miles / Elevation Gain 7,150 – 7,880 feet

Scarlett, Willa and I got on the road around 5am. They were excited as this was Daisy’s maiden voyage into the world of backpacking. We bought her a fancy dog backpack and she made it the whole drive without throwing up, what a great start!

We got on the trail around 11am, a bit later than planned because we got lost and were lucky enough to find this amazing guy who looked like a life sized leprechaun who showed us the way to the trailhead, thank our lucky stars! We met one other family doing the exact same loop as us and get this, they had 2 kids ages 7 and 10. Those are interesting odds as its rare to see kids on the trail and then see kids with similar ages as my girls who are 8 and 11.

We made it to camp around 6pm. It was a grueling long day with lots of stops which helped Willa keep up her mojo. The trail was well marked and a consistent climb as we headed up into the valley. We had to rush to set up camp and make a quick dinner as the light was disappearing fast. We also discovered my headlamp is officially garbage so had to use the good old iPhone for light. The girls set up the tent and I filtered water and rehydrated refried beans for burritos. Daisy loved the hiking but she seemed confused once we stopped hiking and day became night. Once we let her in the tent, she snuggled in between Willa and Scarlett and quickly fell asleep.

DAY 2: Piute Lake to Upper Buck Lake / 7 miles / Elevation 7,880 to 8,310 feet

We had a no cook breakfast, packed up camp and hit the trail. We were determined to make it to Buck Lakes with enough time to swim. We made good time but accidently took a wrong turn toward Long Lake which added an extra mile to our day.

We made it to upper Buck Lake around 3pm and took a cold plunge, woohoo! We noticed that Daisy was limping and after examining her paws we saw the problem. When she was a puppy we had to amputate her middle toe. She recovered fine and it was never an issue on runs or hikes in the redwoods. It seems the rough granite terrain stressed her paw and spread out the 3 toes which caused serious swelling. We had no choice but to hike the rest of the trip out, so we put Willa’s extra sock on her paw and tightly wrapped it up with surgical tape. Poor Daisy, she was not her normal spunky self…

Buck Lake was stunning and the most beautiful part of the hike. That night we fell asleep listening to an owl and then silence only to wake in the middle of the night to the brightest full moon hanging right over our heads. The only way we could sleep under the spotlight was to keep our heads in the sleeping bag.

DAY 3: Buck Lake to Grouse Lake / 10 miles / Elevation 8,310 to 7,415 feet

We got going around 10 as I planned for an 8 mile hike today. Daisy was limping but the tape was staying put allowing her to walk while protecting her injured paw. The trail had more downhill than the previous days, but that being said there was still quite a bit of uphill.

After about 6 miles the kids kept asking how much longer to which I kept replying about a mile. and the more I looked at the map and my phone I realized that I must have miscalculated the mileage. By mile 8, I saw we were still at least 2 miles out. This is when Willa completely lost it and had a full on fit, laying down, pack and all, in the middle of a dry river bed begging to stay there that night. I explained to her that we can’t as there was no water until we get to the next lake. She pulled it together and got back on the trail as Scarlett and Daisy kept trudging along in front of us like good little soldiers.

We finally made it to Grouse Lake which was not the nicest spot to camp because it had cow patties all over the place, quite a bit of trash, and plenty of mosquitos on the eastern side. We made our way to the other side of the lake and found a beautiful grassy spot right on the water. I decided to ignore the classic backpacking rule “Make camp 200 feet from a water source” I justified my decision because everywhere else was covered in mountains of poo and the kids were going to revolt if we did not set up camp NOW. We sat on the grass and watched the bats swoop over the lake, one zipping right by Scarlett’s ear leaving her smiling with awe. We had a quick dinner of homemade dehydrated turkey chili and went to bed.

We woke up in the middle of the night to the loudest bellowing of an elk that went on for a few minutes straight. The sound echoed up the valley and it sounded close. This moment was the coolest backpacking experience I have ever had and I got to share it with my girls!

DAY 4: Grouse Lake to Crabtree Trailhead / 5 miles / 7,415 to 7,150 feet

We got an early start, picked up a bunch of trash from the surrounding area and were on the trail at 8am. Daisy was definitely hurting and seemed disinterested in the hike, no longer taking the lead as she was originally doing. We zipped through these 5 miles making it to the car by 11.

Overall the trip was a success. It was very challenging but also rewarding. I’m not sure Daisy is cut out for backpacking with her special paw but I’m not ready to give up yet and will possibly buy her some dog booties. I think she was also dehydrated as once she got home she drank a ton of water, and slept for a full day, completely ignoring her ball. We gave her water between each lake but I think not nearly enough which I feel really bad about. She also had scabs on her chest from where her pack rubbed, poor baby. I will try again as I know she loves hiking but next time I will carry her food so she can just enjoy the hike.


This was a tough hike for the kids but they did great. The was a lot of elevation gain and a more technical trail. I am proud of my girls and I cant wait to plan the next adventure!






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