Pilgrimage to the Hermitage
Hermit Valley and the north fork of the Mokelumne River
Outdoor concerts are among the highlights of the summer season here in the hills, and now that August has nearly passed, the concert season is winding down. Yet there’s one more special show that you may not want to miss, and it’s a perfect way to round out a high country summer on the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway.
Back in 2006, shortly after the stretch of State Highway 4 between Arnold and Markleeville was granted its status as a National Scenic Byway, the locals had a party. Six parties, actually. Celebrations were held at six key spots along the 61 mile route in early September – quite possibly the finest time of year to travel Ebbetts Pass. One of those celebrations featured live music in Hermit Valley, a beautiful alpine valley at about 7000 feet, and the headwaters of the north fork of the Mokelumne River. Organizers noticed it was there that the most energy seemed to gather and it felt like the perfect spot to consolidate the whole celebration with a day-long music festival. Thus was born Hermitfest, now in its eight year.
Cantamos performing at Hermitfest in 2010
Ron Schaner was there that first year, playing music under a 10 x 10 pop up tent to about 35 people. A vocalist and bassist for popular local groups Cantamos and The Tour Guides, Schaner is also producer for Hermitfest. This year he’s bringing in seven bands and expects north of 400 people, based on last year’s attendance. The music will kick off around 11am and includes the Tour Guides, The Hot Dark, Grover Anderson, Ten Dollar Pony, Cindy-Sammy Leverone, Billie Shields and Friends and Clan Dyken. Also on site will be food vendors, coffee and treats, as well as local artisans selling their work.
What to Expect at Hermitfest
While Hermit Valley is only about 38 miles east of Arnold and 23 west of Markleeville, camping out on Saturday night – or the whole weekend – is the way to go. The US Forest Service campground is free but space is on a first come first served basis. Hint: Stake out your sweet campsite Friday evening and enjoy the whole weekend at Hermit Valley!
From here you are well placed to explore hiking trails along the Mokelumne’s north fork, Highland Lakes and the top of Ebbetts Pass, which offers a nice day hike along a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Daytime temperatures will likely be plenty warm enough for a cool dip in the river, but expect to put on a sweatshirt for cooler mornings and evenings. As always in the mountains, be ready for potential changes in weather – have both a sunhat and a rain jacket handy, because you never know!
You’ll also want to bring in a good supply of drinking water – or filter it from the river. No alcohol will be on sale, but you’re welcome to bring your own. There will be food and drink vendors at the concert, but do plan on stocking up on all the food you’ll need for your weekend.
Calaveras artists Dave and JoEllen Gano at Hermitfest 2013
WHEN: September 10, 11am-7pm
WHERE: Hermit Valley, on Highway 4, 38 miles east of Arnold and 23 west of Markleeville
FREE ADMISSION, FREE CAMPING ON A FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED BASIS
More information: www.scenic4.org
Hermitfest Facebook Page
Artist vendors looking to come set up a booth should contact firstname.lastname@example.org