Day 3-4: Gem Lake to Minaret Creek Junction
On our third day on trail we joined up with the JMT.
We were up and out of camp nice and early, taking advantage of the cool morning air as we climbed up through the forest to nearby Agnew Pass. We especially enjoyed crossing through the meadows beside Clark Lakes. We were starting to realize that this year’s wildflowers were extra special, thanks to the late spring melt.
As we dropped down from the pass the landscape changed from meadow to granite, with a number of pocket lakes. It didn’t take long before we came up on Thousand Island Lake, with beautiful Banner Peak dominating the view.
We were briefly travelling on the PCT just before reaching Thousand Island Lake. Our first impression of the PCT hikers was that they move fast and light! It was also the busiest section of trail since starting our adventure.
We made it to Thousand Island Lake by mid-morning. We stopped near the trail junction to pull off our boots and soak our feet in the cool lake waters. Unfortunately I was starting to suffer from a couple blisters on my heels and toes.
It was pretty cool at the lakeshore as there was a stiff breeze blowing down from the peaks. After our soak we left our packs and wandered along the lake side trail, working our way about halfway back along the North side of the lake. We rock-hopped out to one of the islands and watched a very lively and exuberant group of teenage boys jump in the lake. Of course they filmed it on their GoPro!
Leaving Thousand Island Lake we climbed up and into a couple small lake basins showcasing Emerald and Ruby Lakes. A couple miles South we reached Garnet Lake, a large and deep lake with both Mt. Ritter and Mt. Banner at it’s far end. We enjoyed a short break at the outlet and then explored along the shoreline to find a good campsite which gave us great views of the peaks.
We were setting up camp by about 2 pm, which meant lots of time for relaxing. Dan pulled out his lightweight fishing rod while I had a bit of time to knit. When the high Sierra sun got to us we both jumped in to the lake to cool off. After such a great afternoon it was a real treat to enjoy a beautiful sunset thanks to a few perfect clouds in the sky.
Our fourth day on trail brought us through lots of ups and downs along creeks and into more lake basins. We climbed a ridge South of Garnet Lake, then dropped down along Shadow Creek, with glimpses of Ediza and Cabin Lakes.
We followed Shadow Creek to Shadow Lake where we took a good mid-morning break and enjoyed the views up towards Agnew Meadows.
From Shadow Lake we had to climb once again, hiking up past beautiful Rosalie Lake, Gladys Lake and (somewhat buggy) Trinity Lakes.
Of course, what goes up, must go down! The downside of this section was the long drop down to our campground for the night past Johnston Meadow through a section of forest that had been partly decimated by a huge windstorm in 2011.
We took our time with the downhill and even had the chance to meet a few other JMT hikers who were heading our way.
Once settled in camp, we took advantage of being at such a low elevation (8,100″!) and made ourselves a campfire to relax and socialize around.
It had been a good day of being fully and properly on the John Muir Trail!