This headline wouldn't be news in more normal times. But we've been dry here in sunny Livermore, dry and hot. While it's nice to go downtown and watch the unsuspecting tourists burst into flames as they walk in the superheated sunlight, Gina and I thought we might find a more suitable climate at 10,000 feet, just over Sonora Pass.
It had already begun to warm at home when we hit the road yesterday. We each remarked that traffic seems to have diminished during the gas price gouge we're enduring, but we motored on in my Corolla. Passing through theshimmering heat waves in Oakdale, then Sonora, we noticed a slight cooling once we made it to Pinecrest. We'd planned for a pleasant lunch and walk through the wildflowers above Sonora Pass, as this is prime wildflower season way up there.
Closing in on Sonora Pass we noted the shadows of quickly gathering clouds overhead. I turned my "lightning indicator" (the car's AM radio) on and listened to the incessant crackling and static of electricity flowing through the air. Thunder boomed above the granite walls above 8,000 feet, and we stopped to take a look at the awesome display of flowers. Everything was still green here, long after we flatlanders have had to watch our hills turn dry as bleached bones.
We pulled up beneath a Doug fir at the St. Mary's Pass trailhead, just west of Sonora Pass. I know this trail well - it gets me to 11,459' Sonora Peak, a difficult hike for an old fart in a wheelchair but one I enjoy doing at least once each year. The bonus? Wildflowers blooming into August!
The flora didn't disappoint. If you're within driving distance, get thee up there within the next couple of weeks - the color display is as broad and exciting as that of a rainbow. We hiked up about a mile toward the peak when the thunder got too close. It was still dry, but we took no chances and headed back to the safety of the car. It was good timing, too...
As soon as we started on our sandwiches, it started in - those huge summer raindrops characteristic of a Sierra T - storm. We watched the thermometer drop from 65 to 51 as the rain turned to hail. The road had become a river, water flowing as freeely as it didi down the creek paths. I'd pull over to watch, and noted the higher peaks were taking on a light but noticable layer of new snow! We were both quite excited.
We ran across 3 through hikers on the PCT and offered to drive them to resupply, but they had just gotten fresh vittles from a backpacker who'd completed his weekend at Leavitt Meadows. So we took their garbage off their hands instead. Two of them were from upstate New York, the third from Vancouver, B.C. All were pleasant and appeared to be having the times of their lives, which is as it should be. I left them with some contact info should they have difficulties while on trail anywhere up to the Oregon border.
we slowly drove back toward more civilized (BOO! HISS!) locales. I just wanted to soak in the fresh sage aroma, the fir and pine fragrance and watch for animals. What a nice day. Hmmm....maybe we'll have a few hours tomorrow......