Duck Pass (Eastern Sierra, CA) 07-Sep-2022

Since our first acclimatization hike in the Mammoth Lakes area went well, we decided to step things up a notch for our second such hike. So we picked the Duck Pass Trail, which runs from a trailhead near Lake Mary up to a pass overlooking Duck and Pika Lakes.

This is another popular trail in the Mammoth area, but with an early start, we again managed to stay ahead of the several dozen other folks having a go at reaching the pass (most of whom we passed on our way down).

This hike past Arrowhead, Skelton, Red, and Barney Lakes to Duck Pass was basically a steady climb of some 1,600 feet (488 m) over about 4 miles (6.4 km). The trail steepened a bit near the end as it switchbacked up the boulder encrusted headwall at the end of the valley – but it was never super steep.

And again, we had near perfect weather for hiking – clear, sunny, cool, artistic clouds, no bugs. 😊 Unfortunately, the weather would not remain this accommodating for all of the days we spent in the Sierras. πŸ™„

Leaving the trailhead at early morning
John Muir Wilderness, CA
Into the wilderness…
Lake Mary and Mammoth Mountain, California
Lake Mary and Mammoth Mountain
A big three-trunk tree
Skelton Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA
On the shore of Skelton Lake

Skelton Lake has an excellent sandy beach at its north end – a good wade-out to a steep drop off. It was judged a bit cold for au naturel swimming on the way up. So such behavior was postponed for when we returned later in the day. However, by then, there were too many other hikers around for us to feel comfortable romping wantonly in Skelton’s shallow (but cold πŸ₯Ά) waters. Maybe somewhere in the high country, but not here. πŸ˜•

Skelton Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA
Skelton Lake from farther up the Duck Pass Trail
Mammoth Crest from the trail
Barney Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA
Barney Lake
Clouds on the trail between Barney and Red Lakes

Our original plan had been to go only a comfortable distance up-canyon and then maybe splash around a bit before heading back. But we were all feeling pretty good when we reached Barney Lake and so decided to see how far toward the pass we could get. Turns out we got all the way up to the pass with its view of Duck and Pika Lakes. πŸ˜„

Barney Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA
Barney Lake from where the trail starts up to the pass
Trail to Duck Pass, John Muir Wilderness, CA
A lot of work went into carving a trail through these boulder fields
Duck Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA
Duck Lake

Only about a half dozen other hikers and backpackers were around when we reached the pass, so we stopped there for a snack and a sit. It was an incredibly beautiful day to be out hiking and we just sat and enjoyed the moment. But all too soon – too soon – we had to regather our wits and head back down to the trailhead.

Lunch on Duck Pass
Starting back
Looking toward Mammoth Mountain from Duck Pass, CA
Looking toward Mammoth Mountain from Duck Pass
Barney Lake, with Mammoth Mountain in the distance
Barney Lake, with Mammoth Mountain in the distance
Barney Lake, John Muir Wilderness, CA
Almost back to Barney Lake
Continuing on down the trail
Rocks and roots

Getting up to Duck Pass without too much difficulty – there may have been some heavy breathing – made us feel we were ready for our multi-day hike from Red’s Meadow to Tuolumne Meadows.

The 35 miles (56 km) from Red’s to Tuolumne might only be a day or two journey for today’s ultralight thru hikers. But then most (but not all) of them are 45 or so years younger than we are, and time does, sadly, exact a price (no matter how much kale you eat 😝). So we aren’t going to try for any speed records – just go the distance and enjoy the views along the way. In short: Just keep moving! 😁

Our path to Duck Pass

2 thoughts on “Duck Pass (Eastern Sierra, CA) 07-Sep-2022

Add yours

  1. Had we done 35 miles in a day, we would have been floored too. Or more likely buried. πŸ˜‰ My longest day on the trail was 22 miles and that was several years ago. We’re all trying to set a more leisurely pace now. And, yes, the JMT traverses some truly beautiful country.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read that last part as you guys did the 35 miles in a day and I was floored. I had to re-read it and realized my mistake. What a gorgeous area!


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