Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hiking to Duck Lake (Aug 21, 2011)

My plan for day 1 at Mammoth was a nice and easy warm-up hike around the Mammoth Lakes. After looking through my maps and guides, I wasn't excited by most of the hikes, but I did spot one hike that started just past Lake Mary and followed a canyon into the mountains. This was the type of hike I planned this trip around, so I decided to go for it, even though it would be 10 miles round trip and hit 11,000 ft in altitude. A bit more than a warm-up!

Other than a few line drawings in a hiking guide, I had no expectations for this hike. The trail started in a typical alpine forest and there wasn't much visibility through the trees to see what was around me. I was climbing in elevation continuously and I briefly had glimpses of large mountains on either side and those brief views excited me that there might be better payoffs to come.

Early on the trail in the pine forest.

Just over a mile in and I came to Arrowhead Lake. The lack of trees because of the lake let me see the mountain ridges and the views were awesome. I was really beginning to like this hike. Just before reaching the lake I came upon a group of 4 deer. I actually came around a corner was nearly eye to eye. Quite cool. But she took before I get the camera up. I did get a later photo from a distance.

Arrowhead Lake and some nice mountains are beginning to show up.

Another mile or so and yet again another nice lake greeted me. This one was Skelton Lake. It had a cool shape to it and I enjoyed walking a long it for a bit.

Skelton Lake and the mountains are getting more dramatic.

At this point the trees were slowly thinning and after a mile or two I came to Barney Lake. Barney Lake is situated a the end of the canyon so was surround by mountains on 3 sides. The color of the water was amazing. As I passed Barney Lake, I started the climb up the mountain to Duck Pass. As I ascended, I kept get more and more amazing views of Barney Lake, and soon Skelton Lake was visible as well. Mammoth Mountain also came into view and I was getting regular glimpses of the Minarets over near Yosemite.

Barney Lake is in view at the end of the canyon. Duck Pass is just left of center.

Looking back down the canyon at Barney Lake on the way up to Duck Pass.

The hike up to Duck Pass wasn't as hard as it looks and the angle of ascent was no different than the rest of the hike. However, the trail was much rockier and makes the feet hurt more. By the time I got to Duck Pass and was ready to cross over, I was starting to get hungry. Crossing over Duck Pass and you're greeted by the very large Duck Lake and some stunning mountains. The trail follows the lake for nearly a mile to its other end. About halfway down, I decided to kick back and eat lunch while enjoying the views.

Views of Duck Lake.

After lunch I got up to head down to the base of Duck Lake. As I started to put my backpack on I realized the backpack and shirt had become very wet. I was using the backpack as a chair to lean against and I had pushed the water out of my water bladder. I'm always forgetting to close the valve to stop the water from leaking out. Soon after I had walked to the end of the lake and it was time to return.

The hike had gone smoothly and I felt really strong, but I felt worse and worse all the way back to the trail head. I had run low on energy and all the rocks had basically bruised the bottom of my feet. I eventually made it back to my room with extremely sore feet, but after being off them for a few hours they started to come back to life. I really enjoyed this hike and the views were fantastic.

All photos from the hike are on Smugmug.

GPS track is on Everytrail.

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