Laurel Lake to Duck Lake
Because of mosquitoes, I had closed up my tent flaps tight, and now wake up paying the price in condensation. I pack up everything wet.
We finally agree on what Roper means by “Leave this body of water near the two massive granite blocks adorning its northwest shore and ascend precipitous, grassy slopes,” so we climb with some level of confidence. It is the ultimate grassy stair stepper, but we reach the top of Bighorn Pass in less than an hour. Our next pass, Shout-Of- Relief, is at a similar elevation, but way around an “S” shaped contour. Traversing to keep elevation is tricky, and a few times we get cliffed out and have to scramble hand and foot up ridiculous terrain I doubt Roper intended. Nonetheless, in about another hour we are standing at the pass, but Kevin refuses to shout, either in relief or agony.
We then scramble down, keeping to the left of several lakes. The drops involve a mix of granite slabs and steep thick forest. You quickly realize there is no perfect route, and you measure success by movement. Don’t admit your routing mistakes, just keep going quickly.
We eventually crash our way into Horse Heaven and an actual trail. We now race down to Tully Hole, where we filter water and enjoy snacks. We rejoin the John Muir Trail for about six miles. The first, of course, is straight up exposed switchbacks.
Because of the whole SPOT situation, and the fact we have neither showered nor done laundry in 10 days, we decide to zero in Mammoth. The bus from Red Meadows is no longer running, so we will have to figure out transportation when we get there late tomorrow. In the mean time, Kevin keeps listing toppings he wants on his pizza.
We push by Lake Virginia and Purple Lake, on our way to Duck Lake. Camping is not permitted within 300 yards of the lake inlet. In Roper talus field measurements, that would be something like 3 miles. There are lots of people here, and flat spots are at a premium.
Tomorrow we again leave the trail and will reach the actual Sierra Crest for the first time, at Mammoth Pass. Kevin, however, will be more interested in a Sierra crust at a Mammoth pizzeria.