Does Difficult = Endorphin High?
All the lakes I planned to visit had trail ratings of difficult in the Forest Service handout. All except one were shown as black (secondary) trails on my map, which frequently means unmaintained. In the flier, the USFS defined difficult as “a trail requiring a high degree of skill and challenge to travel.”
In my resource guide, the trail junction is listed as “well marked,” but goes on to say “the route is faint in places” and “the path borders on monstrous.” Note: the book was published in 1996, gulp 20 years ago! This large boulder is the trail junction. Don’t go straight! Instead you go left in front of rock through the bushes and a creek. “Well marked” . . . probably not by most hikers standards.
Little Duck Lake
I’m always curious about the naming of areas, aren’t you? I’m guessing Eaton Lake and Eaton Peak are named after a person. There was a Judge Eaton in the Redding area, so I bet there was a big family in far Northern California and maybe they even owned this property before it became a designated wilderness area. I’ve never seen any ducks at Little nor Big Duck Lakes, maybe cairns aka ducks were in use then? Once again, inquiring minds want to know!
Big Duck Lake
This is the largest lake in the wilderness at 25.8 acres. There are plentiful campsites nearby and on this day there was a group of about 20 boyscouts and their leaders who were on hump day of a 5-day stent. I stopped by for lunch and a swim, with no intention of spending the night, thank goodness!
Camp furniture is a luxury, but came in handy as I blended new technology (solar charger) with old fashioned paper navigation systems (MAPS, oh how I love MAPS!). I had big decisions to make today. Shall I head to a tiny lake (1.25 acres) with a very questionable trail or move on to another trailhead. Tip: I use clear removable tape to make notes on my maps.
It’s easy to hate on horses when you come upon fresh piles of fly-covered poo on the trail, but much like when Hemlock and I discovered the benefits of cows on the Arizona Trail, I’ve come to appreciate the equestrian traffic. They not only help maintain the trails and build nice campsites but most importantly they USE the TRAILS. They help keep trails open to hikers!
Following some crazy hiking . . . combo of plodding through a mud bog, fighting through underbrush, and ascending a really steep hill littered with deadfall, I was somewhat surprised to find such a nice sign. This gave me much optimism for the remaining section of trail.
He tried talking his girlfriend into staying, but alas he left me to protect his woman. There are two old roads which connect to the main Duck Lake Trail and which provide a lollipop loop to Lipstick Lake. On the way in I hiked the upper road; I exited via the lower road (straight at sign). The left arrow indicates the main trail to Big Duck Lake. The mark that sort of looks like an up arrow is really not.
It was by far the worst trail I’ve hiked. I spent much time fighting my way through bushes and trees, sometimes squatting so I could swim through the undergrowth, other times I used my hiking poles to try to open a path. All I can say is “JUST SAY NO” unless you are a glutton for punishment. My upper body was sore for days. My pack was full of debris and I was happy not to have lost any gear.
I uploaded my track (from Trimble Outdoors Navigator) to CalTopo. Using the MapBuilder Topo option, I was surprised to see the old roads/trails labeled “unuseable delete?” Looks like a resource I’ll be using in the future.
Flora of the Russian Wilderness
Dates Hiked: 6/27/16-7/1/16
- Related blog postings can be found on my California Jaunts page under Russian Wilderness
- You may be able to obtain updated trail conditions reports from the Ranger Station in Ft Jones
- To access these lakes I recommend map, compass, and optionally a GPS. Also knowledge and experience with route finding and challenging terrain will be helpful.
- Best Hikes of the Marble Mountain and Russian Wilderness Areas, California
- Trinity Alps & Vicinity, including Whiskeytown, Russian Wilderness and Castle Crags Areas
- Conifer Country by Michael Edward Kauffmann
Wilderness Permits are NOT required for overnight trips
Campfire permits are needed for the operation of a backpacking or camp stove. Online Permit Link
Bear canisters are NOT required