Once again, piles of downed trees slowed our progress as we passed through Purple Lake and beyond. We soon grew tired of climbing over and around the fallen trees. And we passed nervously beneath the precariously balanced giants, uprooted but still somewhat upright, leaning against the branches or trunk of living trees.
Just before lunch we reached the 900 mile marker! We stopped for lunch at Deer Creek and were amazed to find that trail crews had already cleared the downed trees from there to Red's Meadow. (Cleared means that the trail crews cut away the section blocking the trail. The downed trees still cover the backcountry, providing a potentially dangerous fuel load for future fire seasons.)
We knew we were nearing Mammoth by the volcanic rock lining the trail. Shortly after lunch, the Red Cones came into view. Then we spotted the gondola building on top of the bare white volcanic rock ridge crowning Mammoth Mountain, and we knew we were almost there.
We met Jeff on the final switchbacks into Red's Meadow Resort (7,700 ft), which had just opened its restaurant and store to hikers and trail crews yesterday or the day before. The road remained closed, however. It felt strange to set up camp in the deserted car campground.