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Emigrant Wilderness

Day 2 of 3

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Sunday, August 19th
Gem Lake to Deer Lake, Wood Lake, and back
5.0 miles
865 vertical feet (ascent)
865 vertical feet (descent)
6:49

Reflections on Gem Lake

Sunday morning the sun beat down on our tent. I got out and put the rain fly on around 8am, then set myself to the task of filtering water. I found the process much slower than usual. I opened the filter to see if anything was visibly wrong, but I couldn't find anything. It was just incredibly slow. It must have been clogged somewhere but I didn't know how to fix it. So the rest of the trip we cleaned most of our water by boiling it. Luckily, I'd brought plenty of extra fuel.

View of the mountains to the east

After breakfast and boiling water, we didn't head out until nearly 10:30am. We left our campsite to do a loop day hike, our packs much lighter now of course.

Jewelry Lake

We began by heading along the main trail toward Jewelry Lake. It wasn't even a half hour before we reached it. We stopped near the lake to eat. Some horsepackers went by. After resting, we continued along the mostly flat trail.

Creek between Jewelry and Deer Lakes

Next up was Deer Lake -- prettier and larger than Jewelry Lake. Two men were fishing on some rocks jutting out into the lake. We stopped on the shore to begin the futile task of trying to filter water. It wasn't any better. But at least we could enjoy the scenery while we were there.

Filtering water in Deer Lake

Deer Lake

After a long break, we continued along the trail, passing the intersection for Salt Lick Meadow. Shortly thereafter we reached another intersection, this one unsigned. I assume this is the spur trail to Long Lake.

Horsepackers letting their horses stop for a drink

We were going at quite a slow pace, 2 miles in 2 1/2 hours. Originally, I'd planned a 7.5 mile hike which included a trip to Buck Lake. However, we didn't want to arrive back at camp too late, so we decided to cut our trip short and make a smaller, 5 mile loop. We turned right and headed down to Wood Lake. We were glad we did.

Resting next to Wood Lake

Small tree growing out of the rocks

Wood Lake

We arrived at beautiful Wood Lake at 2pm. We wouldn't leave until almost 4pm. A peninsula juts out into the lake, shaded by tall trees and sporting ample areas in which to sit and take a nap next to the gentle waters of the lake. We immediately did just that. Amazingly enough, we only saw two other people while at the lake -- one horsepacker following the trail on the other side of the lake, and someone washing themselves on the west side of the lake. Other than that, it was just us. In fact, we wouldn't see anyone else on the rest of today's hike.

Peaceful Wood Lake

Peninsula in Wood Lake where we rested

Trees along the peninsula

The lake extends eastward, but we couldn't see most of that section of the lake as it was meadowed in. The section of lake we could see was just fine for us. We eventually pulled ourselves away to begin the hike back. We headed east along the trail, which criss-crosses Buck Meadow Creek a few times. The trail then climbs above the south shore of the creek, following it for a couple miles. Along the way we had views to the north of the granite walls and peaks we'd seen earlier in the day. We spotted a small snake swimming in the creek, and later on a family of deer, but no other wildlife. I'd taken along my 300mm lens, but never found reason to use it.

Heading back along Buck Meadow Creek

Eventually, the trail descends and then crosses the creek again. I was worried that the trail back to Gem Lake wouldn't be signed, so I kept looking to my right to make sure we didn't miss it. I needn't have worried, as we soon found the sign. We turned right and headed up bare granite marked by cairns. After 200 feet of climbing, we returned to Gem Lake and our home sweet home camp site.

Late afternoon light

Jean heading to the lake

Lake afternoon reflections in Gem Lake

We had rice, tuna, and couscous for an early dinner. Afterwards I took a short walk along the south side of the lake, enjoying the late afternoon light and taking several photographs of the granite walls reflecting in the water. The camp site here was now vacant, but it would have been too much trouble to move our site. Besides, our campsite was probably the best at night (just not during the day, when the sun beats down on it).

Waiting for sunset

Reflections in Gem Lake

As the sun set, the clouds to the east lit up a dark pink color. I took a picture, knowing full well that anyone who saw it would think I used some filter to make this "fake" picture. The fish started jumping in the lake, we brushed our teeth with boiling hot water, took the rain fly off the tent, and went to sleep.

Sunset. Yes, that's the real color. I didn't even use a polarizing filter!

Clouds reflecting in Gem Lake


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