Day 1: Lake Mary over Duck Pass to Purple Lake (≈ 9.5 mi.)
July 28: Weíre up early and at Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit (MLPO) around 7 a.m. Thereís some shuttling of cars and people before everything is in place. About 8:00 a.m., the 9 of us pile into the front and back of a pickup truck, and weíre off to the Duck Lake Trailhead (elev. 8,900 ft.). We pause for our group photo and are on our way by 8:30 a.m.
Itís a typical Sierra morning with a bright blue, clear sky.
The trail passes Arrowhead Lake, Skelton Lake, and along the shore of Barney Lake as we head up to Duck Pass (10,800). From Barney Lake, one wonders where the trail goes; the way to Duck Pass is a mass of rocks. About half way up, thereís a good view back towards Mammoth of Barney Lake and the switchbacks through the rocks. We reach the top of Duck Pass in a little over 2 Ĺ hours (11:07 a.m.).
At the summit we get our first views of Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak. Duck Lake, surrounded by high cliffs, comes into view as we descend, and we stop there for lunch around 11:30 a.m. It may have only been partly cloudy when we stopped, but by the time we finish itís overcast.
We reach the intersection with the John Muir Trail (10,000) at 12:35 p.m. and soon thereafter it starts to hail and then rain. From the intersection, itís only another 2.4 mi. to Purple Lake (9,900), but itís a soggy trip. Just before reaching the lake, we take a 1+-mile side trail to a camping area regularly used by MLPO, arriving around 2 p.m. Along the way, we meet the ranger who is stationed at Virginia Lake. Thereís no easy access to the lake from the camp, but there is a lovely meadow with a stream and a spring for water.
We have a 1 Ĺ hour wait for the mules and our gear, but, at least, it stops raining not too long after we arrive. And we manage to get our tents up and a tarp over the kitchen before it starts raining again.
For dinner, we have spinach salad and a Mexican-style casserole. All nine of us, plus the cook and the kitchen are squeezed together under the tarp until the rain finally stops.
I suppose I should mention that we have chairsóthe canvas-seat fold-up kind, and we have wineóthe 5-liter box variety. Itís a wonderful luxury to be able to sit in a chair sipping wine after a day of hiking in the wilderness.
Trails and Treasures Home Page Hiking John Muir Trail