John Muir Trail Revisited (5) 12-Sep-2022

Mount Ritter and Banner Peak over Garnet Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Day 5: Clarice Lake to Lower Davis Lake

Well, we made good use of our layover day yesterday, what with lounging around in the sunshine and all. Now, to reach Tuolumne Meadows on schedule, we’d have to hike longer distances, and cross a major pass, in the next three days. I’d like to say that the weather accommodated us by being warm and sunny for all of those three days. It did not, choosing instead to grace us with rain (but not hail) on two of them. There may be a drought in California but it wasn’t here for us. 🤨

Moon set over Clarice Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Moon set over Clarice Lake
Clouds over Banner Peak at first light, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Clouds over Banner Peak at first light

Although some clouds appeared again at dawn, we started hiking under mostly sunny skies. But that didn’t last as the clouds swelled and grew throughout the day. They remained puffy, sporadic things while we hiked over a divide, down around Garnet Lake, and past pretty little Ruby Lake to Thousand Island Lake. Mount Ritter and Banner Peak would dominate the western skyline until we crossed Island Pass.

Climbing over the divide toward Garnet Lake
Garnet Lake from the divide
Descending to Garnet Lake
Garnet Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Garnet Lake
Mount Ritter (L) and Banner Peak (R) over Garnet Lake, High Sierra, California
Mount Ritter (L) and Banner Peak (R) over Garnet Lake
Clouds swirl over Ritter and Banner
Clouds swirl over Ritter and Banner
On toward Thousand Island Lake
Ruby Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Ruby Lake
Emerald Lake, High Sierra, California
Descending toward Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake, High Sierra, California
Emerald Lake
Crossing the outlet to Thousand Island Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
Crossing the outlet of Thousand Island Lake
Ritter and Banner over Thousand Island Lake, California
Ritter and Banner over Thousand Island Lake
Close-up of the west face of Banner Peak, with the remnants of its glacier
Close-up of the west face of Banner Peak, with the remnants of its glacier

Just past the outlet of Thousand Island Lake, the John Muir Trail (JMT) merges again with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and they remain entwined until Tuolumne Meadows, when the JMT breaks off toward its trailhead in Yosemite Valley and the PCT continues northward. From Thousand Island Lake, we followed the merged trails as they climbed over gentle Island Pass – past some well fed marmots – and descended to a junction with the Davis Lakes Trail.

Island Pass, High Sierra, California
Island Pass with gathering clouds
Island Pass marmot
Descending toward the Davis Lakes Trail

At the junction, we turned west, aiming for a campsite at Lower Davis Lake. As we crossed Island Pass, the clouds had gone from artistic to menacing and now a gentle rain was falling. But those sprinkles stopped just as the pack string caught up with us. The rain held-off while we followed the string into camp and quickly set-up the tarp and our tents.

Lower Davis Lake
The Loved One challenges the elements at Lower Davis Lake
Jacob quickly unloads the mules

We got about 15 minutes grace after reaching camp before the skies erupted with yet another deluge – one so mighty our tent started leaking. But no hail. 🙄 As we ate dinner standing under the tarp, we contemplated a flooded tent. But – mercifully – the deluge quit abruptly at 20.00 and there was no rain overnight. We squelched the leaks and managed to get a decent night’s sleep in relatively dry conditions.

We’d hiked 7.4 miles (11.8 km) today, with a cumulative gain of 1,300 feet (396 m), most of it without, fortunately, being swaddled in steamy rain gear. Tomorrow we’d climb over Donohue Pass (11,066 feet / 3,373 m) and make the steep rocky descent into Lyell Canyon to the essentially flat section of the JMT going into Tuolumne Meadows.

From Clarice Lake to Lower Davis Lake on the JMT, then the JMT/PCT
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