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Unexpected Success | Last Minute 3

Having not gotten much sleep the night before, I thought I'd conk out and sleep through the night here on my ridge in the Pine Grove Hills. No such luck, however - instead I wandered in and out of sleep, a little worried that the wind and rain would pick up during the night.

Neither of those things happened, and a few minutes before my alarm went off, I decided I'd read a bit as I waited for color to spill across the sky. With views to both the east and west, I knew that this could be a primo location for taking in the full range of color.

What a way to wake up, Mt. Patterson - a new dusting of snow - rising up to the west.

And in the far distance - beyond the Sweetwater Mountains - the morning was clear enough to see the Sierras!

I putzed around for a while, snapping photos, arranging the cab of the truck, and eating breakfast - I wasn't going to make the same mistake I'd made the day before and find myself starving at 11:00am! Soon, the sun rose high enough over the horizon to start illuminating the landscape, with the mountain and tent being some of the first objects to bask in the warm glow.

After going to bed under the clouds, this was a splendid way to wake up.

The question - given the forecast I'd heard from weather guessers the evening before - was how long this weather was going to last? I hoped for two full days, but knew that it might only be a few hours before things changed dramatically. And so, I decided I'd better take advantage while I could, and get a move on.

It was 8:01am when I pulled out of camp, and already the sky to the north was looking a little darker.

Down off the ridge and into the juniper, you'd never know there was weather in the works if you just looked at the blue sky to the east.

My route wound up and down through the hills as it generally made its way south. There, at the southern end of Pine Grove Hills was a mountain with a familiar name - Bald Mountain. Not to be confused with the summit of the same name in the Wassuk Range that I'd climbed the day before, this was the second of three mountains with the same name in this area. The drive was pleasant as climbed in and out of valleys - each crest affording a nearer and nearer view of Mt. Patterson.

Every time I saw Mt. Patterson in the distance, I wondered if I'd make it to the top, or if snow would stop me before I got there.

A perfect road for an oil change and undercarriage inspection - almost like having a pit under the truck.

Layers of color, looking out over the valley - some hillsides in sun, others in shade.

It was as I was winding my way through these foothills that a new clanking reached my ears. At first, I thought it was probably just the shovel bouncing around in the bed of the truck, or perhaps the Hi-Lift rattling against the bed rack. However, since I've had several experiences with the skid plate bolts coming loose, I decided it'd be prudent to give them a quick check - since it's always better to tighten a bolt, than to have to find a new one!

My inspection of the skids revealed them to be nice-and-tight, so I moved the shovel and zip-tied the Hi-Lift, and figured the rattle would be gone as I continued on.

A bumpy section gave me a good opportunity to see if my zip ties and repositioned shovel made for a quiet ride.

Almost immediately, it was clear that the problem was not solved. Even little bumps in the road caused outrageously loud clanking in the rear, and as much as I wanted to just ignore it, I knew that I at least needed to find out what was wrong. After-all, I'd had a good chunk of the rear end apart over the course of the last week as I patched the axle housing and rebuilt the shocks, and it would certainly suck to have a shock eye bouncing around if I'd forgotten to torque down a bolt!

After a bit of looking, I found the problem.

That certainly isn't right - the front of the leaf eye cracked off, and the entire thing is shifted to the rear a few inches.

Yep, a single leaf, broken in two places!

Having found the problem, I initially tried to remove the broken leaf, but it was held in place by an alignment bracket, so instead I zip tied it in a couple places and hoped for the best. The best, it would turn out, was about 5 minutes, until the rear suspension flexed just a little too far for the zip tie to handle. And so, the clanking returned. I continued on.

Nearing the tree line of Bald Mountain.

Out of the trees.

Reached the windy summit, with 360-degree views.

Looking west from Bald Mountain toward the snow, just over the California State line.

There wasn't much at the end of the road here - no mines or old cabins to speak of - and so before long, having devised a loop route when I was planning the trip (see route planning), I was headed back down the mountain on NF-31, enjoying entirely new scenery than when I'd come up.

Wow. Talk about a burst of color.

These aspens were giving the cottonwoods in the valley a run for their money.

Even as I neared the bottom, I still got little views here and there of Mt. Patterson - now much nearer than it'd been even just a few hours prior - and as I stopped for a photo, I just happened to glance to my right and noticed a person-sized hole in the side of a hill. Certainly worth a look!

Yellow, green, white, and blue - a desert rainbow on this beautiful morning.

This shaft extended about 100 feet into the mountain, and looks like it's reasonably heavily trafficked by folks who come this way.

A quarter mile further on, I hit pavement at NV-338, the perfect place to put an end to the incessant clanking coming from the back of the truck. Some quick work with a couple 14mm wrenches and I'd removed the clamp that keeps all the leaf springs in alignment, and with that, the broken leaf was relieved of duty.

You've served me well, but I'm still a little disappointed in you.

And then, it was time. Heading south, I had to decide if I'd make a run at Mt. Patterson, or just leave it for another time. Part of me wanted to just skip it - I'd sort of wanted to head up to the top with Mike @mk5, who'd been stymied on every attempt he's made so far - but in the end I figured that I'd probably get stopped by snow before I reached the summit anyway, so I might as well see how far I could get. Then, I could come back with Mike - next summer - for the final ascent.

Doesn't look too snowy from this vantage point.

And those colors - with the clouds behind them - splendidly vibrant!

The road up Mt. Patterson varies - some sections in reasonable shape, others covered in loose, volleyball-sized rocks - and so did my speed. One thing was for sure though, as I made my way higher and higher up the mountain, the wind speed picked up dramatically.

Up we go.

Riding along an exposed ridge, the wind must have been 35mph at this point.

Even with the significant wind chill outside, it was still quite warm in the truck - I may have even had the A/C on - the sun fighting its way through the clouds that were speeding across the sky. With each turn, I found myself holding my breath - wondering if this would be the place that a snow drift blocked the road. And then, I reached the old mining town of Belfort - or really, Boulder Flats.

Snow at Belfort/Bolder Flats, but not much!

A cool log cabin, nestled into the trees.

Belfort and Boulder Flats are a bit of a mystery when it comes to historical information. Most sources refer to the remaining structures as Belfort, which is sited on Boulder Flats; other sources say Boulder Flat is a distinct town. Whatever the case, the structures have hand hewn logs and round head nails, placing construction - or the latest remodel - in the early 1900s, well after the towns had been abandoned. Situated at an elevation of 10,200', they were originally part of the Patterson Mining District, and were originally established in the 1880s. Like many other gold towns, ore was quickly exhausted and both Belfort and Boulder Flats were abandoned by 1890.

The view from within.

Chinking still hanging on after all these years.

A dugout has seen better days.

Having already reached altitudes I'd thought impassable, I saw no reason to stop now. There were a little more than 1500' between me and the summit, and I was surely going to give it a shot. I continued on, cognizant that almost immediately after passing through Boulder Flats, small patches of snow started to creep onto the roadway.

Getting closer.

Still climbing toward the summit.

Bit of weather blowing in from the west, over the Sierras.

I couldn't believe it when, 15 minutes later, I reached the ridge that would take me to the summit of Mt. Patterson. Still, looking at the road, I knew I wasn't home-free yet. I'd already had to bash my way through several hundred feet of ~8" deep snow along some relatively flat bits of ground. Now, in front of me, the road continued its ascent, and the snow only got deeper.

While deciding if I'd continue on, I absentmindedly read this "Mars with Flowers" sign. It is a wordy sign that really just says, "Stay the Trail."

Ultimately, I decided that while I might slip and slide a bit in the snow, there were no steep drops that would mean sudden death, and so I continued on. I couldn't believe it - all the way to the top!

What a colorful finale!

As I reached the apex of my journey, the sun illuminated the rocky ridgeline in front of me, and a huge smile broke out across my face. For anyone who's been to the Alpine Loop in Colorado, the view here reminded me of one of my favorite places - Corkscrew Gulch.

Boy, was it worth it - almost. You see, I was so excited that I positioned the Tacoma facing out over the expanse, without realizing that I'd turned such that the wind was now blowing from directly behind. As soon as I opened the door, it was ripped forward by winds that I'd later find clocked in at over 65mph. I grabbed the handle and somewhat lightened the impact on the hinges - eventually pulling it closed again with both hands - but not before the damage had been done. My door no longer shuts quite right.

After repositioning the truck in a better orientation, I finally exited for some more photos, nearly being blown over in the process. In fact, so strong were the winds that I couldn't ever actually get onto the tippy-top of the mountain, my body tilted at 45° to keep from being blown backwards.

I "settled" for a panorama about 3 feet below the summit.

I didn't linger long - I'd had enough of the wind as soon as I opened the door that first time - and soon I was slipping and sliding my way back down the snowy roads, in search of lower elevations.

Mine were the only tracks, and after several inches of snow a few hours later, they'd be the last of the season.

Back over the state line to Nevada, I wandered into a field with a cool barn while I transferred fuel from my Scepter jerry cans into the tank.

At this point, it was nearing 4:30pm - 90 minutes until sunset, and maybe two hours of light. As I'd ascended - and with no planned camp site for the night - I'd sort of wondered if I'd find camp at the top of Mt. Patterson, but there was no way that was going to work with the wind. Instead - like the evening before - I decided I might as well continue along my route and find something that suit my fancy.

Back into the rolling valleys south of the Sweetwater Mountains. The wind speeds here were a much more enjoyable 3-5mph.

The valley soon gave way to hills, and soon I found myself on Masonic Road (NF-046) in the northern reaches of the Bodie Mountains. Not nearly as tall as their neighbors, I rounded a bend and was surprised to see the remains of an enormous mill. The Pittsburg-Liberty Mill of Lower Masonic, I'd later find out.

Two of the three levels of the Pittsburg-Libery Mill.

The Pittsburg-Libery in its heyday.

Although gold was discovered here in 1860, it was not until about 1900 that Joseph Green Staked the rich jump up Joe Mine. On the fourth of July, 1902, J.S. Philips of Pittsburg, with partners J.M. Bryan and Caleb Dorsey made an exciting find and called it the Pittsburg-Liberty to honor a birthplace and a date. Fraternal background determined the name to be attached to this camp, which eventually evolved into three sections known as Lower, Middle, and Upper Town. By 1908, Masonic promised to be one of the major mining camps of the west, but the yellow metal followed no pattern. Rich pockets were found and exhausted, then Phillips broken body was found at the bottom of a shaft. Was it a slip, or was treachery afoot that night? The ghosts of Masonic have many secrets.plaque on site

Nearby, a stone structure of Lower Town, Masonic.

Having explored what I could see from the road, this is certainly an area that I think I'd like to return and explore some more. The history of Masonic - which I only discovered as I write this story - is a colorful one, and there are many old buildings and mine ruins worth exploring the next time I roll through. Plus, I was nearing the next waypoint I'd marked on my map, and with only a few minutes until sunset and a few miles to go, I knew I had to push onwards if I wanted to do any looking around before it got dark.

A mine shaft I could see from the road before I reached my next waypoint; too tempting to pass by.

Claim marker (?) PP 18.

The only four-legged wildlife I'd see all trip.

At 5:52pm - just eight minutes before sunset - I pulled into the maze of roads that covered the land belonging to the Chemung Mine. This mine - along with photos of ▮▮▮▮▮▮  Hot Spring that I'd visited on the first leg of my trip - were what led me to this area. The opportunity to camp near the mine - exploring it both at dusk and at dawn - seemed perfect.

The old crushing Mill at the Chemung Mine.

The cyanide plant, where gold ore was mixed with cyanide solution in a large tank. The gold would dissolve into solution, be extracted, and then the next batch of material would be brought in.

Metal-clad shop.

Time has taken a toll on the roof of the cyanide plant.

The blue boiler, one of the few pieces of machinery still in place.

Sunset over the Chemung Mine.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I was surprised by how quickly the temperature dropped. I was lower than I'd been along the ridge the previous night, but it must have been at least 15°F cooler. I donned my puffy coat and set about deploying the tent and whipping up my lazy-man dinner of two hot dogs and an apple. Though simple, these certainly hit the spot, and I was glad for the warmth that the meat sticks offered, even if my blood vessels were sure to revolt.

It'd been another great day on the trail, with many highlights as well as a couple notable incidents. And, as I looked out to the west, I knew that I could be in for an even bigger surprise tomorrow. There were some angry clouds over the Sierras, and a wind watch had been issued for much of the region.

Well, that looks a little ominous.

Hah! I thought, I've already survived 65mph winds, how bad could it be?

How bad could it be, indeed.


The Whole Story


  1. Kenny
    Kenny November 22, 2021

    Another beautiful adventure in the books and the broken spring did not stop the adventurous soul from moving on. I love the old buildings and mines, the color of the weathered boards are a sight to see.

    The mines in Nevada still do cyanide leaching of the tailings. I designed a 200-ton lime silo for the haul trucks to drive under and dispense a set amount of lime to neutralize the PH. We supplied several mines in Nevada with this system.

    The old boiler is before the advent of welding as it is all riveted joints. Very ingenious folks to figure out the pressure range and the design of the tank to withstand those pressures.

    Thanks for sharing Dan!

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 22, 2021

      Thanks Kenny! Love reading your comments and all the experiences and knowledge you have of these places. I feel like that's getting lost more and more as time goes on!

      • Kenny
        Kenny November 22, 2021

        Thanks Dan,

        I have been really blessed in my life Dan, I have been able to travel to many countries and states. Never to tourist places but small villages and towns and have met some really wonderful local people and heard many, many stories of their lives. I have had the pleasure of learning many things about life and the different goals and aspirations of the locals. I have been blessed to have done many different jobs in life and owned a few businesses and had many great relationships with customers helping them meet their goals in a safe and economical journey. I have been blessed to of acquired a vast knowledge of life and many subjects.

        Sadly no one really wants to listen to the old folks, I hear oh you are just an old guy and out of with what? lol I love hearing people's stories and some can really inspire you to new heights. Dan, I love hearing your stories about your trips, you are an excellent writer and storyteller and your photography is top-notch.

        I pray God blesses you and your family and that you have many more journeys in life to inspire you to new heights. Let me know when you will be in Idaho.

        • Tom Graham
          Tom Graham April 7, 2022

          Right on Kenny. It is the journeys, the people met and the stories told that add richness to our lives. If a person has any wisdom in their head, they will hear the tales and learn the lessons within them. Thank you. I enjoyed your comments!! ???

  2. Greg
    Greg November 22, 2021

    Great write up and photos! My first time on top some years ago was similar. The wind was so strong and so unvarying that I had no idea how strong it was until I stepped out and couldn't stand up! Great area that has gone a little under the radar.

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 22, 2021

      Glad you enjoyed the story and photos Greg 👍. The area certainly seems less crowded than some a little further south and west, that's for sure! Here's to hoping it mostly stays that way. 👍

  3. Warren T Katchmar
    Warren T Katchmar November 23, 2021

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure, I enjoyed the pictures and your writing 🙂

    • turbodb
      turbodb November 23, 2021

      Sure thing Warren - always nice to hear when someone enjoys them!

  4. Rod Martin
    Rod Martin March 22, 2024

    Thank you for sharing your journeys. I shared your website with my group and hopefully, we'll see you out there one of these days.

    • turbodb
      turbodb March 22, 2024

      Thanks Rod, glad you’re enjoying the stories and thanks for sharing the site with your group - always nice when it finds its way to like minded folks!

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