Mount Patterson, Arc Dome, Mount Jefferson
By: Lou Brecheen
The 3 of us slept on a side road between Lee Vining & June Lake for about 3 hours, then drove on into Bridgeport for breakfast at the Sportsman's Inn & Restaurant. An off-duty CHP at Ken's Sporting Goods gave us directions on how to approach Patterson via Lobdell Lake, ie, continue on Hwy 395 approximately 12 miles to the "50 MPH Curve". At this point a dirt road branches from Hwy 395 to the north. It is signed: "Burcham Flats Rd." Follow this dirt road north approximately 3-1/2 miles to a post (6" square and 6' tall) lettered: "Lobdell Lake Rd." A dirt road leads Easterly to Lobdell Lake--a distance of about 5 miles. In dry weather, this road continues around Lobdell lake on the left (West) side and intersects a "Jeep Trail" after 1 mile. The Jeep Trail is rocky and very rough but can be driven on to about 9,500 feet, where a slide blocks further 4-wheel progress. If you could get across the slide, you could drive to within 100 feet of the summit. As it is, we had about 2,000 feet of gain in about 2 miles of hiking.
The buffet at El. Capitan in Hawthorne, Nv. was our destination for dinner and we reached it before dark by coming back through Bridgeport and on down to hwy 167, just north of Lee Vining. Hwy 167 becomes Nev 350 and leads right to the front door of El Capitan, which has, in addition to a sumptuous, inexpensive (p4.95) all-you-can-eat buffet; slots, craps, keno, poker and full-strength Martinis for $l.50. Stuffed, Ron Jones, Don Weiss and Lou Brecheen departed East on Hwy 95, 24 miles to Luning. At Luning, we took Hwy 361 North to Gabbs. Just 1 mile past Gabbs, a road turns East to the turn-of-the-century gold-mining town of Berlin, which, along with the fossil diggings of the prehistoric Ichtyosaur has been made a Nevada State Park. The road continues on through the mostly deserted old miring town of Ione. From Ione, measure 5 miles on the odometer. This puts you in the vicinity of the Reece River Ranger Station which is a half mile past a road which turns off to the East at the large, white Yomba Indian buildings. If you reach the Ranger Station you have gone too far. There is a sign at the turn-off which reads in part; "Stewart Creek". Follow the "Stewart Creek" signs at each of the several intersections and you will reach the campground at the end of the road after about 12 miles from the turn-off. Columbine Jeep trail continues on for less than a mile to a steel bar across the road. There is ample space at the campground for about 20 cars. A large grove of Aspen shelters the area. It is about 8,600'.
To reach the summit of TOIYABE DOME, walk up the road, steeply at first, for approximately 1/2 mile, where a sign on the right points to trail on the left side. The sign reads: "Stewart Creek Trail" "Toiyabe Crest Trail-- Xl/2". By walking this trail, one intersects the Toiyabe ridge about 3 miles North of the Dome itself. A good use trail continues, more or less, on top of the ridge, up and down, faint in spots, to the base of the main massif itself, where a steep trail switchbacks up to the narrow summit ridge, where two or three bumps all appear to be "highest". No register was found, although Ron Jones stated that he placed one there in person back in l980 (or was it l98l, when he and Norm Rohn were there?) The total hiking distance via this trail is approximately 8 miles--all Class 1. Hide your eyes while traversing the area of large Aspen trees. The Basque shepherds who roamed the area during the mid-1900's depicted the female form graphically on many of the trees.
To reach the summit of TOIYABE DOME via the Columbine Jeep Trail, continue straight ahead, along the road, past the sign mentioned above. Go around the signed bar blocking the road after another half mile, up through more Aspens, through a meadow, which is obviously very wet in the Spring, climbing steeply to a sagebrush desert plateau. The road, not now open to motorized travel, crosses some ridges, curves up to the left (North), and reaches the crest of the ridge at about 11,000 feet. There, it intersects the Toiyabe Crest Trail and follows the same route to the summit. It is wild, beautiful country. We spotted a Cougar, bounding with great leaps of 15-20 feet each, across the last saddle before the switchbacks begin. It hurried into the grove of stunted Pines as though chagrinned to have been caught in the open by mere homo sapiens.
Back at Don's Datsun at 3:15 PM, we drove back to the main road and turned North, up the Reece River Valley, about 45 miles to Austin. Carols Country Kitchen provides a hearty dinner in a pleasant atmosphere. Twelve miles East of Austin Nv. New 376 leaves US Hwy 50, going South to Tonopah. Take it. After only two hundred yards, a narrow, but good dirt road goes left (East) to the Toquima Valley, Spencer Pot Spring and the roadhead for Mt. JEFFERSON. It's about 30 miles along this road 'til it intersects the road coming down from Eureka. The combined roads continue South another 20-30 miles to a sign on the right which reads, in part: "Meadow Canyon". Turn right. Follow the very narrow, winding road, past an intersecting road on the right at about 1 mile, across a creek (dry in August, but very wet in Spring), past a Circa l870 stone cabin at 3.5 mi. up to a road going off to the left. There is a sign there which says: "Jefferson Summit". Turn left and follow the road, carefully, a mile or so to the obvious saddle, where the road continues but goes down. Do not go down! Look for the dim track off to the right and take it. These roads up to here (about 8,500 feet) are easily passable for almost all passenger cars. There is parking and camping area here. It is open, broad, sage country. Mt Jefferson rises, invitingly, a couple of miles north.
Any car can continue a short distance further, toward Mt. Jefferson. 4-wheel drive vehicles may take a right-hand fork of the road, go through a gap in the barbed wire fence, and continue upward to the point where the fence ends at a short, rock face. The pleasant, easy hike begins here. It encompasses approximately 2,600' of gain spread along 2 1/2 - 3 mi of distance. A good use trail covers most of the distance, with judiciously placed "ducks" marking the rough route in some spots. The summit supports a solar generating panel and two antennae. It also provides beautiful, clear views of some very interesting country, beckoning the adventuresome to don a backpack and spend some time exploring an area rich in early-Amen can history and dotted with the ruins of gold and silver mining efforts. While we were yet afar off, we saw some animals running the summit ridge. We took them to be Prong-horned Antelope, but they could have been deer?
We reached the vehicle at Noon (12/15). After driving back to the main road - stopping to examine the old, stone cabin at the creek-crossing (& discovering that the wooden portions of it were joined with square, handforged nails), the more recently built corrals, etc - we continued South, through the semi-abandoned mining town of Belmont to Tonopah. We unanimously recommend the Mizpah Hotel for both it's food and the service. Some quick figuring showed that its about the same distance from Tonopah to L. A. whether you go back over to Bishop and then down Hwy 305 OR you drop directly South on Hwy 95 and cross on one of the several laterals to Baker, thence back to L A on Hwy IH 15. We went to Bishop and arrived in Irvine at about 11 PM, tired, sleepy but thoroughly pleased with the 4-day weekend (3 climbing days and 1 sight-seeing day).--.
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