Mt Patterson and Bodie Ghost Town

Mt Patterson, at 11,663 ft is the second highest drivable point in California, located in the Sweetwater Mountains straddling California and Nevada, just north east of Tioga Pass and Yosemite in the Sierras.

At the summit is a rare 4.5/5 geocache that would fill the last spot to complete our Fizzy grid challenge.  What a way to finish this challenge that to grab this cache!

We’d been planning this drive to the top for months.  It required getting work time off, planning a route for the ascent, good weather, and most of all…getting a 4 wheel drive to get us to the top!   Around July, 2017 the pieces started to fall in to place.  We were going to be on vacation in early August in Truckee.  We decided on the best route.  And a big decision was made to purchase a new 4Runner TRD Off Road Premium!!!   This car was perfect for Patterson and all our adventures to come.

On Sunday, August 6th, 2017 we left the Truckee cabin at 6am and drove down highway 395 towards Bridgeport.

Sunrise on highway 395 heading south to Mt Patterson


About 20 miles after the town of Walker, at about 7:30am, we turned off the highway at Burcham Flat Road and hit the beginning of the off road adventure.  We got to Lobdell Lake about 9am.  After that the road becomes very rough and the true ascent begins.  One factor we had to consider was that thunder clouds would form after noon so we had to get off the mountain before any possible lightening strikes.

Our first challenge was a known creek that sometimes is impassible.  Given it had just rained a few days ago, we were a bit worried that it could be too full.  Sean had read a tip about walking in the creek to judge the height…which he happily did.

How deep is the creek?


Scott being a newbie 4 wheeler with a newbie 4 wheel drive was quite nervous to cross this creek.  Here’s a video of the crossing.  Noticed the hesitation and even the backing up to position the car’s approach…on the left side of the road where the rocks were most firm.


Once past the creek we came across a sign for Mt. Patterson, almost like a trailhead. It looked quite inviting, almost like the road improved from here on out, but no, it definitely did not improve.

As we went up, the road got progressively worse, with steep hillsides and mud. As descended into the last valley before the final climb up, the road turned into a stream with the recent rain and we got some new styling on our from all the bushes encroaching on the road. We didn’t take many pictures here as we were concentrated on the drive, but just know: don’t try this road in a full size car like we did. Park at Lobdell Lake and just hike from there; it would actually be a very nice hike to the top, albeit on a road. Maybe if you had an atv this would be better suited for you, but even then, i’m not sure.

Standing in one of the washouts that we tried to repair


Finally, after about an hour and a half of nail-biting driving, we reached the top of the mountain. This was a huge accomplishment because it had been a long time coming, and the road had been much harder than we had anticipated.

On top!


We took some photos and found the geocache. From up here, we could see over into the Sierras and way out into the Nevada backcountry. Due to the incoming storm, we had to get off the top pretty quick. The drive down was mostly uneventful as we knew what to expect. We did discover one new thing though; just after the last few switchbacks there is a road leading down the hillside that we decided to explore. It led to a super cool rock cabin! Don’t know how old the thing is, but it was probably for some kind of mine.

The rock cabin


Once back at Lobdell Lake, we could relax, knowing rest of the road out was easy.

The car with Patterson somewhere back there.


While on Burcham Flat Road, we got heavy rain and saw lightning on top. Good thing we got out of there when we did!

With some extra time before sunset, we decided to visit Bodie Ghost Town State Park about an hour or so south on 395. At the turnoff, there are signs warning people about the road quality, which is a nicely graded dirt road. Wish the people maintaining this road can do the one to Patterson… The actual ghost town was quite well preserved (although it is a State Park) and we had fun walking around for about an hour.

The closed off mine




At about 6:00, we started the long drive home, taking an alternate route that dipped through Nevada on Sweetwater Road. We got to see the backside approach to Patterson up to Belfort which we hope to take next summer. Overall, it had been a great day outing and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting Patterson and Bodie!

Crow’s Nest Hike

We didn’t start this hike until 5:30pm.  Our goal was to summit Crow’s Nest and grab a geocache that had never been found before (a FTF = First To Find).  We parked at Sugar Bowl Summit Access Road.   We followed a snow cat trail that was completely overgrown with wild flowers and bushes.

Thick with wildflowers!

Unfortunately, the field was also filled with annoying burrs/stickers.

Hiking boots after walking through the low brush and flowers.


After one hour, we reached the ridge of Sugar Bowl and found an old single track trail heading over to Crow’s Nest.  The actual peak is made up of a large rock outcropping about 40 feet high.  We made our way completely around to the south side.  We ascended a steep chute with lots of scree that was about class 2.  Upon reaching the true summit, we immediately recognized where the cache was placed.  Eureka!  The log was empty, and we were the first to find!

On the top!


From the top, we followed the old singletrack back along the ridgeline. This time, we discovered a road leading all the way down the hill. It was longer than our route up but much quicker as it was easy to follow.

Walking down the road with thunder storm in the distance.


About 30 minutes down the hill, we came across this super cool cave. It was one room cave with a large opening and a few smaller caves shooting off. These all dead ended quickly.

The cool cave we found on the way back down.


From the cave, we followed the road back to our car. We stopped a few times for cool photo ops.

Mt. Lincoln Palisades


The sun sets over the trees with the chairlift in the foreground.


We arrived back at our car happy and ready for a nice big dinner!

Here is a GPS track of our hike with the cave as the waypoint.


Buzzard’s Roost Hike

Our route to Buzzards Roost. The red line was us going out to Buzzards Roost and the Blue Line was us coming back.


The main goal of this hike was to get a geocache on Buzzard’s Roost.  We’d been eyeing this cache for over a year.  It had never been found.  It was on a remote peak that was little visited.   That morning mom dropped Sean and Scott off at the Lower Lola Montez Lake trailhead at 7:30am.   It was very cold but sunny and also happened to be our wedding anniversary!

At the trailhead, just off highway 80 on the north side, across from Sugar Bowl. We’re pointing to Buzzard’s Roost.

We started off at a quick pace and that led Scott to mistakenly estimate that we’d finish the hike by 11am.  Hmmm.  That was 6 hours off.  We didn’t get back until 5:30pm.

Happily hiking along the trail all bundled up in 35 degree weather.

The trail was a mixture of single track and fire roads.  The fire roads pass several very remote cabins.  One was very fancy with an automatic gate and grand entrance.

The most remote cabin had a funny design on the tree.


After about 5 miles from the start, we arrived at Lower Lola Montez lake.

Sean standing out on the big rock at Lower Lola Montez


We rested for a bit and then went to find a geocache.

Looking toward Sugar Bowl


Looking east to Castle Peak. Sean and I climbed this a couple years back.


Looking down at Lower Lola and north towards Buzzard’s Roost


From here you’d think we were on the summit but we still had a long way and lots of adventure to go.  As we headed from back from this small rocky outcropping next to the lake two hunters walked by.  They were the only other hikers we saw for the morning.

From the lake we headed up the “Hole in the Ground” trail expecting to soon see a junction with a small trail heading north west up the canyon.  This is where the adventure really started.  The trail we were seeking was on both the DeLorme and OSM maps – both credible sources.  We never found the junction.  So, we decided to bushwack our way up the canyon.  We were so grateful to have our Garmin GPS to guide us in the general direction.  After a while of wading through thick heather, we had to cross the creek in the small canyon to continue any further.  This required crawling on all fours through thick bushes over the rocky creek.  Somehow we made it across.  Going up the other side what do we see but a wonderful sight!  A poor excuse for a trail, but it had switchbacks and gave us great peace of mind that this was in fact the original trail on the map.  We were so happy!   The trail led us to the top of the canyon and onto big wide 4WD roads.  It was up here that we first came across some snow – left over from the first snowfall of the season.


From here on we were on and off 4WD roads until we got about .2 miles from the Buzzard’s Roost summit.  There was no trail the last .2 miles, just scrambling straight up the steep rocky slope.  In this general area was the prize we’d been seeking all along.  The Buzzard Roost Pi geocache.  It had never been found despite being placed 1 1/2 years ago.  It a puzzle geocache (you have to solve the puzzle online to determine the coordinates to the cache).

We found it!

This photo of geocache location is the exact same location and angle (minus our mugs) as the black and white cover of the Yuba Trails volume 1, published in 1985.

From here we made our way to the summit.  Frankly, the summit is not very dramatic itself, but still provides wonderful 360 views of the high Sierras.

Buzzard’s Roost peak

From highway 80 the peak looks to be covered in brown dirt but it is actually dead Mule’s Ear plant – visible in the photo.

We ate lunch on top.  Sean brought his healthy pre-made salad expecting to find a fork inside.  Oops!  No fork.  We ended up using the plier on Scott’s Leatherman knife.  Yuk!  But it worked.

Pliers and salad

From the top we then headed back down along pretty much the same route to the top of that darned canyon.  We wanted to mark this old litte used trail that we were so ecstatic to find so we placed a new geocache.  Here’s the link to it:  At the time of this writing nobody has found it yet.  OK…it is pretty remote and on a tiny trail.  But still, you should find it!!!

Came upon this Bearing Tree while going back to the top of the canyon


We bushwacked our way from the top of the canyon over to Upper Lola Montez lake.  The lake is not as accessible as Lower and more remote with no formal trail to it.  At this point some other caching friends from the Bay Area called us for a Lifeline on an urban cache in San Jose.  It was so strange to get a phone call way up here on the cliffs by the lake.

Refilling water at Upper Lola Montez

As we headed back down to the lower lake there were many many ducks (cairns) to guide the way.

If you look carefully, there are 7 ducks in this photo.

We saw on family of backpackers at the lower lake.  From there we made our way back to the trailhead.  We had a great welcoming by Alexander and Katie who walked out on the trail to greet us.

Our stats from the GPS for the day


Overall this a super fun trip filled with lots of adventure and reward for finding the Buzzard Roost cache.