TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14 | High Sierra Topix  

TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14

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TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14

Postby Herm » Wed Sep 10, 2014 11:39 am

On Wednesday 9/3/14, I made the long hot drive north on Highway 395, and late in the afternoon picked up a walk-in permit at the ranger station in Bishop. It was nice to get into Mammoth, where the temperature was much cooler. After dinner of smoked baby back ribs at Angel's, I settled for the night at Old Shady Rest Campground.

Thursday 9/4/14 I awoke and headed into town to Breakfast Club for coffee and a muffin, and a quick stop at The Troutfitter for some fishing supplies. Then up the road through Coldwater Campground to trailhead parking. Good thing for the restrooms at the trailhead, as I was suffering from intestinal distress. Finally, at 10:30AM Image, I hit the trail leading up to Duck Pass.

It was a beautiful day, and the lower part of the trail provided cool shade as I hiked under the strain of my always too heavy pack. As usual, I paused for the obligatory photo at the wilderness boundary Image. But I quickly hit my stride, and enjoyed the climb past Arrowhead and Skelton Lakes, pausing to take photos and chat with the many dayhikers, and a few other backpackers with whom I shared the trail. Across the outlet of Barney Lake, I climbed to a point just below the start of the switchbacks, and relieved myself of my pack for a little lunch break. It was good to allow my sweat soaked shirt a chance to dry in the breezy sunshine. While snacking on home roasted almonds, medjool dates and buffalo jerky, I could hear other hikers descending from Duck Pass. It was interesting to hear their voices, and try to locate them as they descended. At my lunch spot, there was an abundance of obsidian flakes, indicating that others long before had also stopped here.

At 1:15PM, I hoisted my pack and began my ascent of Duck Pass, on well graded switchbacks. On the climb, I paused for a few photos, and was atop Duck Pass at 2:00PM. With a look back down the canyon, I said goodbye to Mammoth, then strode forward to get my first glimpse of Duck Lake and Pika Lake Image, where I intended to set up my first night's camp. I descended the use trail around the head of Duck Lake, and contoured along the eastern shore, then began exploring the ridge west of Pika Lake in search of a suitable camp spot. Continuing across the outlet of Pika Lake, I found a nice secluded spot west of the larger of two ponds. At 3:00PM, I was settling into a spot.

After setting up my tent, I went to the larger pond to gather water. After filtering what I needed for the evening, I stripped down and took a quick swim to wash off the sweat and trail dust, and to rinse my clothes of the same. Back in camp, I prepared dinner, enjoyed a sip of single malt Scotch, then rigged my fly rod and went to see what I could entice from Pika Lake. As the sun set, trout were slurping tiny midges from the surface, but none were interested in the flies I presented. Back to camp I went, quickly rigged my spinning rod with a Kastmaster, and down to Duck Lake I went to make a few casts - nothing.

A good day, and early to bed I went.

Friday morning (9/5/14) I awoke early, and prepared coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. Here is the view to the east from my camp spot Image.
I leisurely broke camp, and fiddled with my gear in preparation for a big move. At 11:00AM, I was on the move, with intent to get to Ram Lake. After climbing back to Duck Pass, I began the descent to the lake outlet, where I enjoyed hiking and talking with a gentleman who was going back down the trail to assist his older friend (74 years young), in hauling his pack up to the pass. At the outlet of Duck Lake, I paused to eat a snack, filter water, and take some photos Image, before resuming the descent to the junction with the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail. Around 1:30PM, I made the trail junction, where 2 couples were taking a brief break on their southward march.

Funny how some people use a trail. The two men of the couples would surge ahead, while the two women were much slower and in need of frequent rest stops. Each time the women would catch up to the men, the men would surge ahead. I tried to give them a wide berth, but I kept catching up to the women. It seemed the men did not want me to pass. Finally, after about 30 minutes of this game, I was able to get past them, and for the next 2 miles, I sailed.

At 2:40PM, I was at the point where the use trail to Ram Lake breaks off from the trail at Purple Lake Image. I crossed a little gurgling creek, climbed past some overused horse packer camps, climbed over a little ridge, down to another camp area overlooking a pretty little meadow, then walked out to the shore of Purple Lake, where another creek emptied into the lake. I quickly resumed my climb on the northeast side of a meadow, over another ridge, then saw a large pond in another meadow on my right hand side. Continuing up the canyon through a forested section, I began to tire. After cresting another ridge, I emerged from the forest to a crossing of the creek draining the Glen and Ram Lakes high above. The use trail was generally easy to follow beside the clear running stream. Around 4:00PM, I crested another ridge and took a break under the shade of a whitebark pine to consult my map. Dropping from this ridge down to the creek, I came upon a narrow gorge on my right that cut through metamorphic rock - this was the stream draining from Glen Lake, and I climbed this gorge, missing the better trail that I would have found had I continued ahead instead of turning right. At the head of the gorge, I found the trail that I should have been on, and followed it a short distance, before veering off to my right again to be near water. I wandered a bit in this area Image, looking for the obvious signs of a nearby lake, but it seemed there were only ponds. By 5:00PM I was exhausted, had not found Ram or Glen Lakes, and decided the spot where I was would have to suffice for camp.

I set up my tent on a nice level patch of granite sand, then went to a nearby creek to gather water. After filtering what I needed for the night, I gathered more and bathed again (a sort of shower) to remove the sweat and trail grime. I made dinner, enjoyed some tea and Scotch, then watched in the fading light as trout dimpled the surface of the nearby pond. I was too tired to fish, and was quickly in my sleeping bag. Sleep came quickly.

On the morning of Saturday (9/6/14), I awoke and prepared coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and broke camp with the intention of hiking higher to find my goal - Glen and/or Ram Lakes. My map showed that I was close. With my pack on my back, I began climbing, and from a granite knob, I could glimpse the shimmer of water from a lake - Glen Lake was right there, so I knew that Ram Lake was just a bit further up the canyon. After just 15 minutes of climbing on the sometimes faint use trail, I arrived at Ram Lake Image. Since I brought my fishing gear, I wanted to use it, so set up my spinning rod with a silver Kastmaster. Several bites ensued, several retrieves with multiple followers, and one brief hookup, but no fish caught - maybe next time. With a long hike ahead of me, I limited myself to less than an hour of fishing.

Just before 11:00AM, I was descending on the use trail from Ram Lake. Going downhill, the trail seemed much easier to follow than it had been on the ascent the previous day. I was quickly at the head of the gorge, and found the trail down that I had missed on the way up. Within minutes, I was back at the point where I turned to climb up the gorge, and made mental note to stay left at this point, should I return in the future. Descending along the creek, I took a break for a snack and to filter water. I drank copiously, and with plenty of water in my reservoir, at noon I hoisted my pack, and continued on my return to Duck Lake. Just as I approached the JMT/PCT junction, a group of four men were coming up the trail, excitedly asking about the route to Ram Lake. As I hiked north on the JMT/PCT, I encountered several friendly folks. Around 2:00PM, I was back at the trail junction to head up to Duck Lake.

The ascent from JMT/PCT junction to Duck Lake seemed much easier than I had anticipated. After arriving at the outlet of Duck Lake, I took a break to eat a snack, remove my boots and tend to a blistered left foot, then search about for a legal camp spot. There was a spot above the south shore of the outlet, but it was very exposed. I decided to climb back up to Duck Pass, and return to find a good legal camp spot on the ridge between Duck and Pika Lakes. Around 5:00PM, I was walking around the head of Duck Lake, and spotted a couple with whom I had shared the trail when I hiked in on Thursday. We chatted for a bit, and they assured me that no other hikers had passed through, so it looked like I would have the solitude that I cherish. I proceeded to find a neat, if not slightly overused camp spot adjacent to the outlet of Pika Lake, overlooking Duck Lake.

After setting up my camp, I went down to Duck Lake to gather water and to bathe away the sweat and trail dust. By this time, the wind had really picked up. I returned to my camp, filtered water and made some tea before making dinner - here is the sunset view from my camp Image. I also enjoyed sipping the fine single malt Scotch. After dinner, I ate some dark chocolate, finished the Scotch, and prepared for bed. The wind really blew during the night, making sleep a little difficult - along with the fact that I had chosen to set up on a slight sidehill.

Sunday morning I awoke to howling wind. I made coffee, and a breakfast smoothie, then broke camp. I was on the trail by 10:00AM, with the intent to make it back to my car by 12:15PM. As I crested Duck Pass at 10:30AM, the howling wind and increasing cloud buildup suggested a weather change Image. Descending from the pass toward Barney Lake was a breeze. Along the way, I passed the couple that was camped at Duck Lake the previous night, and we chatted for several minutes. A lone hiker was trucking up the trail, moving like he had wings. At the outlet of Barney Lake, I came across several groups of dayhikers, and more were encountered on the way down. I briefly spoke with a few groups of backpackers, who asked questions about trail conditions. As I passed the wilderness boundary marker, I paused for the obligatory photo. I arrived at my vehicle at 12:15PM.

A fine trip into the high country after a 2 year hiatus.

Thanks for reading. The full photo album is here:
http://cdandherm.smugmug.com/Sierra-Nev ... 718_xmh29K

Herm
Last edited by Herm on Thu Sep 11, 2014 6:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
I am not in a hurry, so don't be hasty.



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Re: TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14

Postby tahoefoothills » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:10 pm

I just wanted to compliment you on your writing, which must have taken some effort. As I read your post, while looking at your photos, it was almost like I was there. This was a great trip report.
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Re: TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14

Postby Herm » Thu Sep 11, 2014 6:10 am

tahoefoothills;

Thanks for the compliment, it was a pleasure to share my journey in words and pictures.

Herm
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Re: TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14

Postby rlown » Thu Sep 11, 2014 10:37 am

nice TR, Herm! a bummer about the fishing.

I particularly liked the traffic jam on the use trail part only because it's pretty much true!

Russ
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Re: TR = Duck Pass and beyond 9/4/14 - 9/7/14

Postby Herm » Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:06 pm

Thanks Russ. I liked the look of Ram Lake, and it is a place I would love to return to spend more focused time. And I only saw the lowest lake in that group. Nearby Glen and Glenette, and the higher Franklin Lakes would be promising as well.

It is funny how that group ahead of me on the JMT/PCT seemed intent to block the path or impede my progress ](*,) . They probably didn't want me to get to their preferred camp area, wherever that may have been. But I managed, with patience, to get by them anyway.

Cheers,
Herm
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