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John Muir Trail

Day 6 of 22

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Tuesday, July 21st
Marie Lakes Junction to Rosalie Lake
13.0 miles
2350 vertical feet (ascent)
3110 vertical feet (descent)

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When we woke it was partly cloudy but no longer raining. Since we had stopped short yesterday, we were behind schedule and knew we had a long day today. Our original plan called for camping at Gladys Lake today, though we could stop earlier if necessary (at Rosalie Lake for example).

View to the north from our campsite

View to the south from our campsite

We started off by doing the half mile downhill to the Marie Lakes junction, then continuing downhill on the JMT. There were a few stream crossings in this area. After another mile of downhill, we took a break at the Waugh Lake junction next to a stream. A large group crossed here, probably coming in from the Silver Lake area (June Lake Loop).


Stream crossing

Glacier on Mount Davis

Stream at Waugh Lake junction

After our break, we started to head uphill toward Island Pass, which would require a modest 600 foot climb. Along the way we passed a mother and her son (probably early twenties) doing the JMT, starting from Silver Pass. While we were talking to them, Jared spotted a frog just off the trail.

Bridge over stream



As we climbed up toward Island Pass, we passed by a CCC crew doing work on the trail. The top of Island Pass is a large flat area sporting some small lakes. At one of them we ran into the woman starting from Lyell Canyon we'd seen yesterday. She was by one of the lakes, telling me about an endangered species of frog that lived here. She'd seen several of them, though I didn't see any while I was there.

Wildflowers near top of Island Pass

Banner Peak from Island Pass

Banner Peak reflection from Island Pass

Banner Peak reflection from Island Pass

Banner Peak reflection from Island Pass

We had a food break near one of the lakes, then started the downhill toward Thousand Island Lake. As we approached the lake we could see tons of people camped near the lake (some of them too near). Although Thousand Island Lake looks beautiful, I am glad we camped away from the masses.

Banner Peak and Island Pass pond

Thousand Island Lake
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Banner Peak above Thousand Island Lake

Banner Peak above Thousand Island Lake

We reached an intersection near the lake's outlet stream, then started climbing up toward much smaller Emerald Lake. After less than 100 feet of climbing, we stopped near the lake to rest. Also, it looked like rain was threatening so we started to put on our rain gear, though again it would get too hot and we'd end up taking most of it off. I think that's the last time we made the mistake of putting on our rain gear prematurely.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

We started to see some day hikers here, as well, perhaps coming from the Agnew Meadows campground. After our break we climbed another 60 feet to the less appealing Ruby Lake. As we walked high above the edge of the lake, we could hear distant thunder, though it still wasn't raining where we were. When we got to the southeastern end of the lake, we passed two women who apparently weren't sure whether they should camp here or climb up to Garnet Lake. Just as we started to climb, another woman came scampering downhill, saying she heard thunder two miles away and was going to wait it out.

Ruby Lake

I discussed the trade-offs with my wife and we decided to keep going. There was no telling if the lightning was getting closer or further away, or if waiting would be worse than going ahead. I figured if we were going to do it, though, we'd want to get up and over this 200 foot climb as fast as possible, before any lightning arrived. I told this to the boys, but perhaps I should have been more clear about what I meant. Jared took off, racing uphill, and that was the last we saw of him for a really long time.

We made short work of the climb, then started to descend to Garnet Lake. I had expected the kids to stop shortly thereafter, but they just kept going. There was no danger from lightning now, but instead we started to worry about where our kids were. I passed one use trail and was worried that Jared might have taken it and we'd get separated. But he is pretty good about following the trail (better than me sometimes). Jean and I frantically descended as fast as we could (which is definitely not as fast as the kids), finally re-joining the kids near Garnet Lake's outlet stream a half hour later.

Mount Ritter and Banner Peak above Garnet Lake

Trees near Garnet Lake

Mount Ritter and Banner Peak above Garnet Lake

Eastern end of Garnet Lake

We took the bridge over the outlet stream, then made the mistake of turning left instead of right (there's no sign here). I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking, but we descended this rocky gully toward the Altha Lake trail for about 10 minutes before reaching the bottom, realizing we'd gone the wrong way, then retracing our steps. This was the only wrong turn we took on the JMT.

To make it worse, by the time we returned to Garnet Lake, it started to sprinkle. And then as we started to climb away from Garnet Lake, it started to rain. Thus, we were not in the best of moods as we climbed another 400 feet up out of the Garnet Lake basin before starting a descent to Shadow Creek.

Near the top of the climb there was a small pond, but no good camping sites. There were lots of groups heading in the opposite direction, probably looking to camp at Garnet Lake or Thousand Island Lake tonight. We now started a long descent, first on rocky trail but eventually on good footing. It's about 1000 of descent to Shadow Creek. The rain let up later in the day, though it was never really a problem.

At Shadow Creek, we saw a few campers here, but we decided to keep going. Shadow Creek was running well, with some impressive cascades visible from the trail. As we continued to descend, we found a great-looking campsite along the creek, but we found a small note saying the area was being restored, and I remembered from my book that camping wasn't allowed at Shadow Lake or from there to the junction. So we kept going.

Shadow Creek cascade

Shadow Creek cascades

We continued to descend to Shadow Lake. There are some campsites here, but they were taken. Apparently camping is prohibited within 300 feet of Shadow Lake, so I'm not even sure if these were legal sites or not (they were a bit far from the water, so they might have been). Just as we were about to climb to Rosalie Lake, we met two hikers coming down from there. I asked them about camping and they said there was a use trail above the lake that led down to some great sites that were still available.

Shadow Lake reflections

Shadow Lake reflections

We now had a steep 650 foot climb up to Rosalie Lake at the end of a long day, but we just gritted our teeth and did it. When we reached the top we saw a solo hiker who seemed disappointed when I mentioned the camping restrictions, but I assured him he could find good sites near the Ediza Lake junction. We found the use trail on the right and were soon at a great, isolated site at Rosalie Lake. It was just after 7pm, giving us a little time to enjoy some great views of the lake during dinner.

Rosalie Lake

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