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