Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sonora Pass - September 2015 - Part Three

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Saturday night was peaceful up until the shooting started. It was dark. We were already up in bed. There was one other camp in the area, about a half mile away. We had spotted the glow of their campfire Friday night as we walked. Campfires have been banned since the Forest's fire restrictions went into effect the first of June. The winds were upslope, away from our camp, so we figured we'd have time if the fire got away from these ignorant people. Our exit was also away from the initial probable direction of travel. This was a reason to move from our previous camp spot, to be further away. The shooting stopped, we dropped back into sleep, dreaming that their camp had been taken in a night assault by the Marines.

If you speak with USFS folks, you'll find that most forest visitors ignore campfire restrictions. Not only that, many leave without putting out the fire. Most FPO's (Forest Protection Officers) spend all weekend just going from campfire to campfire, putting them out, and writing citations. It is a dangerous and stupid waste of time and resources. The $375 fine (that can be levied against every individual in the group) is obviously not high enough. I think we should start confiscating cars and trucks and firearms and camping equipment and spay and neuter them all. Or let the Marines use them for training exercises.

We woke early on Sunday. The temperature was 34°. The Lady kicked me out of the camper and began her fussing as the light began in the east.

Morning alpenglow graced the peaks to the west.

And a new day began.

Morning coffee and breakfast was out on our point.

We returned to Sonora Pass. Today we would mosey south on the Pacific Crest Trail.

As we started up from the trailhead and gained only a little elevation, we were startled by the sudden  roar of a fighter jet. It came up from the east and just cleared the summit. It was below us. It dove down the west side and was gone.

As on the north side, the PCT does a nice job gaining elevation and reaching the crest.

We reached the ridge and our first view to the west. An inversion layer capped a heavy layer of smoke from the Rough Fire to the south.

The trail heads south along the west side of the crest.

It climbs to a gap and moves over onto the west side.

It tops another saddle that offers a view into the Leavitt Creek drainage. Popular Leavitt Lake to the far left.

We continued on, skirting above Latopie Lake.

We found a nice spot above Latopie Lake. Sheltered, out of the wind, a wonderful rock for a backrest, we took in the view.

This was our turn around point. After an hour or so, we started back. There was a large rock fall across the trail.

The basin at the head of McKay Creek was nice and we enjoyed the way the trail worked the terrain.

We were soon back to the northern most highpoint where the trail begins its drop back to Sonora Pass.

It winds its way down with a large looping switchback.

We had noticed the inversion rising in the west. The smell of wildland fire smoke  was heavy in the air when we returned to the trailhead. The views were quickly obscured as the smoke streamed over the crest. We decided to seek out a quieter campsite for Sunday evening. The Lady suggested the spot we like up by the Emma Lake trailhead off the Little Walker River Road.

We stopped at Pickel Meadows to document how quickly and completely the smoke had taken over.

We climbed the rough road and turned off on the short spur that took us to our high spot.

Smoke was settling in the valleys all around us.

We noticed that the Red Firs were heavy with cones. Is this a sign of a coming big winter? We can hope


Smoke continued to stream over the Sierra crest.

We walked in the evening after our showers and dinner. We were alone. The trailhead was empty. There was no one else around.

We settled in for a peaceful but smoky night.

The next morning the sun rose out of the smoke.

The West Walker Canyon to the north was choked by smoke.

The filtered red sunlight gave an eerie feel to the morning.

I made the Lady pancakes for breakfast along with fresh peaches from our trees at home. 

We had chores to do at home, so we headed out. All in all it had been another fine getaway and a nice adventure discovering and exploring close to home.


  1. Thanks Ski.
    A comment about the "campfire people",Yes they are idiots and your solution for punishing them is a good one.
    This is one reason the forest service had changed camping in places like Union/Utica Lks.
    People with little regard for not just nature but for anything have brought these new controls.IMO.

    Sorry to get off track.
    I really enjoyed your Sonora Pass trip.Once again it brought back memories for both mysely and Sharon.As a teenager she would go to the "Y" camp at Clarks Fork,and backpack up into the back country around the Levett
    area. After we married she introduced me to that area.We made the hike to Relief Res as my first trip there.
    We have been back through many times.
    That part of the Sierra's up to Carson pass are some of our favorite.
    Thanks,keep traveling and posting.

    1. Thanks Frank for your nice comments. Yes, that is a wonderful area to explore!

  2. Yet another great adventure! Let's hope for less smoke next year!

  3. Dan, thank you for your nice comment!