Just hours into our start at Duck Pass,
my pack felt heavier than I ever could have
imagined. With just 20 lbs. on my back I
carried half as much as my husband, yet
with each step I felt like I was being crushed.
I resolved to repack my load as we huffed our
way up the switchbacks to the top of the pass,
still covered in snow in late July, but yielding
a view of Duck Lake that seemed endless,
shimmering with pristine blue water.
It was fitting, I thought, that this section
of wilderness is named after Muir, who had
an insatiable appetite for natural beauty.
Though he grew up loving the outdoors, his
passion for nature grew even stronger after
he was nearly blinded in his right eye in a
factory accident at age 29. He worried his
eye would never again look upon “ a single
flower, nor more lovely beauty.” Muir had a
full recovery of his sight, and soon after, he
abandoned all worldly pursuits and went on
a walking tour through the American South,
vowing to see as much natural beauty as he
could while on this earth.
Later that day, my husband and I were
walking on the crest of Mammoth Mountain
with lodge-pole trees on our right hiding
deer and a few chipmunks under their cover.
Now 14 miles in, we succumbed to our shaky
legs and set up camp by a small creek. My
first night’s sleep in the wild proved to be
challenging as I still had an irrational fear of
bears, something that each day’s exhaustion
would soon overcome.
Today we agreed to try to make it to Gladys Lake by evening, which
meant we would have to do 10 miles on our second day with a stop at Red
Meadows for lunch, where a café would be our only luxury on the trail.
Along with a hot meal, I bought a proper pair of hiking socks at the general
store—the best $12 I ever spent. My blisters were thanking me.
Before rejoining the trail, we opted to take a minor detour to see the
Devil’s Post Pile National Monument. A geological wonder, these rows
of what appear to be perfectly crafted linear pillars were created about
100,000 years ago when a cooling lava flow cracked into multi-sided
columns. The unusual rock creation would have captivated Muir, who
was fascinated by the earth’s natural formations. Though not a trained
geologist, Muir was the first to theorize that glaciers had sculpted many
of the features of the Yosemite Valley— a striking break to the accepted
theory of the time that the formation of the valley was caused by a
We made our way back to the trail, huffing again up another mountain,
this one swarming with mosquitos due to the increased snow melt of an
El Niño winter. With fatigue setting in, we examined the map again to find
a good camp before the sun set and the mosquitos came out in full force.
After a series of “lakes” proved to be just mucky wetlands, we made it to
Gladys Lake around dusk, still plagued by those relentless bloodsuckers.
“I’m too tired to eat,” Michael declared once we were in the tent. “Me too,”
I said, managing to eat one dark chocolate peanut butter cup before
drifting into sleep.
DAY 1: 14 MILES
DUCK PASS ( 10,797 F T.) TO DEER CREEK ( 9,115 F T.)
DAY 2: 11 MILES
REDS MEADOWS ( 7,480 FT.) TO TRINIT Y LAKES ( 9,340 F T.)
A WHOLE NE W WORLD
"Just moments after
stepping foot on the trail,
we were surrounded by
streams of crystal blue
water, meadows of wildflowers of every gorgeous
color, and Alpine lakes
with hues of deep blue."