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Duck Pass Trip

Day 5 of 6

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Friday, August 11th
Ram Lake to Pika Lake
8.5 miles
1480 vertical feet (ascent)
1760 vertical feet (descent)
6:34


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GPX File

We left camp at 10am, then retraced our steps back toward Purple Lake. This meant going back to the lower Ram Lake, crossing over the snowfield, then continuing down the trail next to the outlet stream.

Upper Ram Lake

Upper Ram Lake

Middle and Lower Ram Lake

Lower Ram Lake

As we descended, we remembered where we had rejoined the main trail from our creek crossing, and veered left off the trail to avoid the narrow gorge. We made the easy rock hop across the creek, then tried our best to continue to avoid the narrow gorge, veering more to the left. At some point we picked up another trail and followed it as it descended down toward the creek.

After a steep descent, we rejoined the trail we had been on two days ago. Where it intersected, I could see that it was subtle that the trail forked there. We had continued straight and eventually ended up at the gorge, whereas a right turn would have made it a lot easier. But we had made it in the end.

Now back on familiar territory, the trail descended right next to the creek to the first creek crossing. We put on our water shoes and crossed easily, then continued toward Purple Lake. Again we had to contend with the muddy trail and the downed trees. When we reached the horse camp, the horses weren't there, but there were several people and some big tents, shades, and stoves, along with the metal cases that the packers had carried in.

Purple Creek

Easy Purple Creek stream crossing

Purple Creek Stream crossing

Purple Creek

After a brief break at Purple Lake, we turned right and started the 500 foot climb on the JMT. As the trail leveled off, we ran into a lot of hikers on the JMT, mostly heading southbound. We could still see the fire to the north, though there wasn't as much smoke in the valley as there had been two days ago. After a brief descent, we turned right toward Duck Lake and away from the JMT, though the hiker traffic continued for a while.

We took a break at the Duck Lake outlet stream at 3pm, enjoying some peace and quiet for once, as most of the backpackers had already passed for the day. Then we started the climb up along the northwestern shore of the lake. At some point, about halfway along the shore I saw a group of backpackers descend a gully from the left. I don't know where exactly they were coming from. Perhaps they'd gone cross-country from Deer Lakes. I never did see the trail to Deer Lakes that's on my map.

Duck Lake

Duck Lake

Duck Lake

Duck Lake

We arrived at the Pika Lake trail intersection at 4pm, then turned right to descend toward Pika Lake. We saw 3 tents in the area facing Duck Lake, but we would see more on the Pika Lake side. We followed the trail as it curved around and then paralleled the Pika Lake outlet stream. Soon enough we were at Pika Lake itself. Despite being much smaller than Duck Lake, it's arguably much prettier. It's more intimate, dramatically backed by steep granite peaks. The outlet stream leads downhill to Duck Lake. There's dense forest on the northern shore, and there were people fishing on that side of the lake when we arrived.

Pika Lake

Pika Lake

Pika Lake

We put down our packs and started to look for a suitable campsite. We couldn't find anything great on the forested side. There were some large sites, but set back from the lake a fair distance. We crossed the outlet stream and scrambled up a small hill overlooking the lake and found a really nice spot up there. There was tree cover, it was big enough for our tent, and we had awesome views from our kitchen on the Pika Lake side. We could also turn around and look at Duck Lake, as well. There were a few campers below us to the west facing Duck Lake, but I preferred our higher perch.

Mountains reflected in Pika Lake

Mountains reflected in Pika Lake

Rocks at Pika Lake

After setting up camp, I walked down to the use trail that follows the western shore of Pika Lake. It's a beautiful little walk, providing great views of the lake and the mountains behind it. As a photographer, it was kind of like hitting the jackpot, as the afternoon sun led to beautiful mountain reflections in the water. There's also a series of rocks in the water which lend to the scene. Near the end of the trail there's a small camp with stone chairs. It would have been nice, except for the fact that the site is slightly slanted. There's a small stream after this, easily rock-hopped, for some more views. Then I returned to camp. I couldn't resist coming back near sunset, however, for even more pictures.

Mountains reflected in Pika Lake

Pika Lake

Pika Lake from our kitchen

Pika Lake sunset

Our Pika Lake kitchen

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

Sunset reflections in Pika Lake

View from our kitchen


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