As the days grow shorter, I find many of my preferred hiking locations off limits for day hiking and inhospitable for this fair-weather backpacker. My new traveling hotel (aka vehicle) has provided a solution to this dilemma. With this new-found freedom and a Thanksgiving feast in my future, I couldn’t resist a little adventure en route.
Last minute decisions can create excitement and a bit of healthy stress, which is exactly what happened and why I didn’t arrive at the Duck/Eaton Trailhead (elevation 4,800′) until about 4pm. With no snow on the ground, I was determined to hike in a few miles and set up camp. On my way up the switchbacks, I quickly reached snowline. At the top I found a snow-free campsite and awoke to this glorious sight.
With such a beautiful white canvas, it’s always hard to be the first to mar it, but oh how I love being the first to step on virgin snow.
Who or what else shares our trails?
Hiking in early winter, can mean less than ideal trail conditions.
The trail not only becomes creeks and ponds, but at time becomes invisible adding to the challenge of navigation. I found Little Duck Lake at 6,700′ without much problem. Finding Big Duck Lake proved a little more difficult and would have to await my next visit. As with many things in life, I had a much grander agenda for this day, having visited both Duck Lakes previously, I wanted to explore at least one new lake in the area, Lipstick or Horseshoe or Eaton, but alas it was a good reminder that winter travel takes more time.
Scott Valley was engulfed in fog. It was mesmerizing.
The Paynes Lake Trailhead (4,400′) is just up the road from the Duck Lake Trailhead. Prior to reaching Paynes Lake is a crossing of the PCT (mile marker 1600) and beyond are the Albert Lakes.
Another highlight of this trip was the sunrises. I’d never get any hiking done if this show lasted all day.