There are few places with a view that can truly take your breath away. Incredible vistas and accessibility for every level of outdoorsman make the James Bar to Patti’s Point segment of the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail a great choice for the second installment in the Ledger Dispatch’s July Hike of the Week series.
This section of the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail is the most centrally placed of all the hikes featured this month. Located just a few miles outside of Jackson, all you have to do to find this hike is head towards Calaveras County on Highway 49, then turn onto Middle Bar Road, just one mile past Raley’s.
Once on Middle Bar Road, continue down the road leading towards the river (approximately 3 miles) and cross the Middle Bar Bridge. After the the bridge, continue for about 1¼ miles until arriving at a little gravel pull out, marking the Rich Gulch Trail Access Point.
Before I begin, the entire Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail is operated under land owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District and a permit is required for use of the trail. Permits cover you, your immediate family and three guests and can be purchased either at the EBMUD website (ebmud.com) or at the recreation area gates at Camanche North shore, Camanche South shore and Lake Pardee.
This trail is incredibly diverse in its difficulty level and therefore has something for everybody, no matter your hiking experience or accessibility difficulties.
The first quarter-mile of the trail winds down from the access point to James Bar and is a gentle grade suitable for wheelchair access. The Mokelumne Coast to Crest website says that “Those trail users with mobility challenges now have a more inviting opportunity to get off the pavement and enjoy nature on the first half.” At the bottom of the gentle grade is a bench area with a nice and peaceful view of the Mokelumne River and a portable restroom.
Those who can will want to continue onwards another half-mile up toward Gunsight Pass. This section of the trail gets more difficult and climbs at a steady pace, but is still moderate enough for most visitors. The trail summits momentarily at Gunsight Pass, revealing an incredible vista of the Mokelumne River canyon. This gorgeous viewpoint may be a good final destination for a lot of people, but adventurers can hike even further past Gunsight Pass and The Longest Mile towards Patti’s Point, another vista named after Patti Garamendi, a longtime supporter of the MCCT and wife of the honorable John Garamendi, U.S. Representative for California District 10.
The section between Gunsight Pass and Patti’s Point is revered as one of the most difficult stretches of the entire MCCT and I can personally say that it was difficult for me even as an active young man, but the reward of the vista at Patti’s Point is worth it. The entire trek is only 3 miles, but plan as if it were a much longer hike as the elevation gain and loss makes you go much slower than a flat hike. You won’t regret going on this hike, but your legs might.
The Longest Mile:
The Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail is a relatively new trek, with this portion of the trail being finished in 2004. There is a background to the name of the section “The Longest Mile” along this hike and a small document was left describing the process of modern day trailblazing.
The topography of this hike made creating a trail very difficult and much of the trail was widened out of solid rock with hand tools. The document also recalls that “The numerous rock structures, some built by the Trailbusters and others half a century old, were made from native stone that was collected on site and moved using brute strength.” Along the hike there are also numerous staircases, both rock and wood, the construction of which was no easy task. Most of the rock was transported in using ATVs and a powered-hand cart, before being positioned using rock bars and brute strength.
It took 11 years for volunteers to complete the section, with a seasoned trailblazer from Lodi being quoted saying “This mile has been the toughest segment we’ve ever worked on.” Knowing how difficult the process of creating access to these beautiful viewpoints was heightens your appreciation for the trail.
Next time you go into the wilderness, stop and think about all the hard work explorers, workers and volunteers put into creating the road or trail you came on; then enjoy the beautiful outdoors with a little bit more gratitude.