JMT Day 2 – Alger Lakes to Garnet Lake

⇽ day 1  •  JMT home  •  day 3 ⇾

I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

-John Muir

Alger Lakes to Garnet Lake
july 28

Miles: 15.9                    Elevation Gain: 2469′
Trip Miles: 26.5            Elevation Loss: 3544′

Gem, 10,486′
Island, 10,200′

Total distance: 16.01 mi
Max elevation: 10879 ft
Min elevation: 9213 ft
Total climbing: 3123 ft



We were up at 6:00 and quickly broke down our campsite and dug into breakfast. Since we hadn’t finished all of our dinner last night, we ate leftover mac’n’cheese with veggie taco meat. Breakfast of champions.

By 7:00 we were on the trail and hiking through the beautiful basin where Alger Lakes sit. After passing the lakes, we went up and over Gem Pass (an easy one). Skirting the corner of Gem Lake, we turned west and onto Rush Creek trail. We followed the creek (which was rushing!) upstream to what was feeding it, Waugh Lake.

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waugh lake dam

Surprisingly, Waugh Lake is made larger by a dam. I’m not sure how they managed to pour it, but it appears to have been built between 1916 and 1925 to generate electricity. We walked through the lakeside boulders to the far side of the lake before stopping for lunch.

After lunch we continued on the Rush Creek trail and it wasn’t long before the trail ended at the junction with the PCT/JMT! Finally we reached the trail! We turned left at the junction and made the easy trek up Island Pass, where we stopped for a break and a drink of water after the climb. We were well on our way to Thousand Island Lake, our intended stopping point for the day.

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taking a break at island pass

We crested the hill and descended toward Thousand Island Lake. It was a beautiful sight to behold, a long lake sprinkled with (not quite a thousand) tiny lakes and backed by towering, glacier speckled Banner Peak.

When we reached the turnoff to cut west along the shore of the lake to the permitted camping zone, we changed our mind. There were lots of people there already, and it was still early in the afternoon. We decided to continue on to one of the next few lakes on the map before stopping for the day.

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thousand island lake

We passed Emerald and Ruby lakes, both beautiful, but small. Finally we came to Garnet Lake. It is similar to Thousand Island; it’s large, has lots of small, granite islands poking above its waters, and a different face of Banner Peak backs it. The map indicated campsites could be found along its long southern shore. This turned out to be slightly less true than we’d hoped. Some folks had already set up their sites well within the 100′ buffer from the water and we were determined to find a better site. I dropped my pack and went off trail along the cliff that butts up to the lake. Finally, I found a flat spot that was perhaps 75′ away from the lake. We were tired and there didn’t seem to be anything better, so we took it.

After pitching the tent, I dove in and promptly fell asleep. I was exhausted from the first 2 days of hiking, a lack of calories from skimping on dinner the night before, and probably the altitude. A little while later, well before the sun was close to the horizon, Carlos woke me up and we prepared dinner.

Just as we were finishing, a couple of other hikers stumbled into our area. They considered climbing around the cliff further down the shore from us, but we invited them to take the spot next to us. It was getting late and they looked tired. They gratefully accepted and started to make their camp. Joel and Jen were from Booth Bay Harbor, Maine and they had brought a small stuffed lobster (Arthur the arthropod) that they clipped on the outside of their tent. “To keep the bears away,” Joel said. After leaving them the next morning, we never saw them again.

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garnet lake, near our campsite

Carlos and I indulged in the one hot cocoa packet we had in our bear cans and some chocolate chip cookies. By 8:00 we were in the tent and drifting off to sleep.

⇽ day 1  •  JMT home  •  day 3 ⇾