Little & Big Duck Lakes (Russian Wilderness) 19-Aug-2019

We capitalized on a rare break in The LovedOne’s busy library volunteering schedule to hike (10 miles round-trip; 2,200 feet of gain) to the Duck Lakes (Little & Big) beneath Eaton Peak in the center of California’s Russian Wilderness. Although these beautiful little lakes are in the heart of the wilderness, they don’t get nearly the attention as do Big Blue and Paynes Lakes to the north or Bingham and Russian Lakes to the south. A good description of this hike can be found at Northern California Hiking Trails.

From today’s trailhead on Forest Road 41N14, we climbed steeply on the Duck Lake Trail #5509 as it made use of some abandoned logging roads to reach the earlier (before the wilderness area was established) trailhead high on the ridge (back then, you could drive to this point). From there we did a short, nearly level, stroll on an old road to an unsigned junction with the Eaton Lakes Trail #5510 and a signed one with the Horseshoe Lake Trail #5512. From here on, the #5509 to the lakes became a single-track trail that climbed through the forest to a signed junction with the Little Duck Lake Trail #5511.

We opted to visit Little Duck first and found it to be a stunning aquatic jewel nestled in a cirque of glowing white granite. Clear, with a rocky bottom, it would be great for swimming and fishing. After a snack, we dropped down and then back up to visit Big Duck Lake. It was equally as wonderful as Little. After gazing at its sparkling clear waters for awhile, we retraced our steps to the trailhead.

Starting up the Duck Lakes Trail in the cool of the morning
Along one of the old roads higher on the trail
Duck Lake Creek at the junction with the Eaton Lakes Trail
Little Duck Lake
Little Duck Lake
Little Duck Lake
The LovedOne contemplates Little Duck
Through white granite boulders on the way down to Big Duck
Big Duck Lake
Big Duck Lake
The cool, clear waters of Big Duck
The LovedOne contemplates Big Duck

On the way down, we were passed by a pack train composed of goats! We’d read about goatpacking but had never seen it in action. We were charmed! 🙂

A pack train of goats on the way to the lakes
Along one of the old roads on the way back
Mount Shasta from the trail

We’d come up in the cool of the morning, which was perfect for hiking. Our descent in the afternoon, despite being mostly in the shade, was a heated one. So much so that we were forced – forced I say! – to stop at Caldera Brewing in Ashland for refreshments and sustenance before heading home. 😀

Our track to and from the lakes (this 1986 Eaton Peak quad shows the old roads that are now part of the trail)

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