Backpacking Mammoth Day 2: The Hike Begins

With my overnight permit in hand, bag fully packed, and my last real meal consumed, I set off on the trail on Saturday. The goal of the day was to hike approximately 4.25 miles with 1800 feet of elevation gain to Duck Lake via the Duck Pass Trail and achieve this before dinner time. Since I wasnt able to pick up my permit until the office opened at 0830, I managed to get on the trail around 1000. This still gave me plenty of time though since even at an estimated slowest possible 0.5 miles per hour average, I should reach my destination by 1800 the latest. But a more realistic 1mph average plus an hour of stoppage time (lunch and rest breaks) would get me there by 1500. Along the way I would just see what I see and eat when I get hungry and hope that I am able to keep on schedule and that the 38 pounds of gear wouldnt get too heavy. Last minute additions of more warm clothes added on some weight versus when I weighed it at home.

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Eventually, I reached the top of Duck Pass! It was a triumphant victory to make it there after the grueling climb up from Barney Lake. It would have been a moderately difficult day hike at sea level but the weight of my pack and the altitude all being above 10,000 feet at this point made for a tough venture. Making it to the top of the pass meant it was just a downhill stroll over a half mile and 300 feet down to my final destination for the night where I could set up camp, refill water, make dinner, and get some rest. I made it to my camp site at just after 1500 so I was right on time with my original time estimate.

After setting up camp and planning out my next day with the map, I set out to make my dinner. Unfortunately I then ran into a MAJOR problem, my camp stove simply would not light. I recalled at this point that the last time I had used the stove, I had issues lighting it in the morning due to cold. Of course I had forgotten about this issue and it was ONLY going to be cold this whole trip. So I had to swallow my pride and go ask some nearby campers for matches or a lighter. Thankfully the group just down the hill close to the lake graciously gave me a lighter and let me keep it since they were heading home in the morning. I had enough food to survive off uncooked rations and just be hungry the last day but the lighter meant I would be far more comfortable. I contemplated constructing my own fire by rubbing sticks together (I had rope which would have made it a bit easier) but that would have been against fire regulations anyways. I also thought about shorting a battery in my headlamp to make a spark but thankfully I didnt have to do something dumb like that either.

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After the sun had fully set, it started getting VERY cold so I just hopped in my sleeping bag for the rest of the night. It was only about 1930 though so I still had a couple hours to kill. So I watched an episode of Animal Kingdom that I downloaded from Amazon to my phone and also spent a lot of time figuring out my damn sleeping bag. With the liner and all of my clothing layers, it was difficult to get everything situated. And then every time I had to get up to pee, it was time to repeat the arduous process. I went to sleep around 2130 but still got up 3 times during the night, it being colder each time. Overall I slept decently enough though and felt well rested the following morning. It got down to about 20F as a low so I felt confident enough in my sleeping setup to make it another night.

In the next installment I will begin the next day of the adventure so stay tuned...

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