Deer Pass

Duck Lake to Lake George Trailhead
(8 miles, +2,000/-3,300 feet).

Last night I discovered a new use for my hiking umbrella.  The moon was so bright right there on the lake that I actually opened up the umbrella inside my tent to create a moon shade.  It worked perfectly!  I will definitely do that again.

Today was mercifully an easy hiking day.  I say that because when I was done hiking I had to catch four buses back to my car and then drive 6 hours back home to San Diego!

I started the morning with a stroll around the outlet of Duck Lake.

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First light on Duck Lake

I didn’t stay on trail for long because I wanted to explore a cross country route up to Deer Pass.  The typical High Route path is to follow the trail up to Duck Pass and then another trail from there to Deer Pass.  But I already hiked this trail a couple of years ago, so I wanted to try something a little different.  At the first drainage past the outlet I started traversing a steep slate-filled hillside onto a bench above the lake.  It was pretty neat — there were established campsites up there where it flattened out in the trees.  But then it got a lot steeper.  Never unsafe, but lots of work!

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My traverse above Duck Lake

Once I got up to about 10,800 feet it leveled off into grassy benches.

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Alpenglow above Duck Lake

Past that I hiked a little too high and needed to descend down a small boulder field to my target — a seasonal tarn at 10,900 feet

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Oops!
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The seasonal tarn
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Peak 11633
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Still a little snow on the Mammoth Crest

Past the tarn there was a little notch I climbed up to.

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The notch

And then I found the trail to Deer Pass.

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Found it!
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Easy walking towards Deer Pass
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First view of Deer Lakes from Deer Pass

I was a little worried about a steep boulder field I had seen on Google Earth, but the established trail actually winds its way through with no problem.

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Bouldering?
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No.  There’s a nice trail.
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Looking back towards Deer Pass
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Peak 11653 above upper Deer Lake
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Middle Deer Lake
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Forest reflection

I paused for breakfast at middle Deer Lake where I finished my potatoes from last night.

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Breakfast view
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Reflection shot

After breakfast I continued on the trail, climbing a few hundred feet up to the Mammoth Crest.

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Lower Deer Lake
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The Lions Fire still smoulders
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The Mammoth Crest

The trail reaches a window in the crest and then levels off before starting to descend.

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That first step is a doozy
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A gentle descent towards the far off Ritter Range

I loved the change of scenery from Sierra granite to all the volcanic rocks with their browns, reds, and grays.

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Mammoth Mountain
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Red Cones below
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Out of John Muir and into Ansel Adams

Near the turnoff for the trail down to Lake George there is a cutoff trail.  Unfortunately I took it, going down and then most of the way back up to the main trail.

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Don’t turn right here
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Down through the woods and then right back up!

After being alone off trail for so long these past four days I thought I would not appreciate the scenery around Mammoth, but it’s actually really, really nice!

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Mammoth lakes
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Lake George (foreground) and Lake Mary (background)

By 11am I was at the trailhead and after a bit more walking I was down to a bus stop for the free Lakes Trolley.  That took me to Village Center where I got the town trolley to Vons.  From there I caught the Mammoth Express to Bishop.  And then the Bishop Creek shuttle took me back to my car.  By 11pm I was home again, home again, jiggety jig.

The whole journey felt a little like a dream.  I had lots of time to wait and watch and listen to other people, and it was such a stark contrast to the solitude I’ve had the last few days.  I have to say that I really loved this dream state part of my trip, and I’m looking forward to it the next time I do some of the High Route on my own.

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