Pacific Crest #01


Date:​July 31, 1979Time:​2:00 pm

Alt.:​9630 ft.


Barom.:​24.8 steady

Place:​Sonora Pass


Auspicious beginnings. I spoke to three cowboys who had pulled over in their pick-up truck. I was struck by the dust on the truck, the dust on their tack, heaped high in the bed, and the dust on their faces, where little canyons were created each time they smiled. With beer cans in their hands, they gave advice and encouragement. I couldn’t tell them that I had not even begun my trek, they had such high regard.


Two trail weary folks were resting under some small pines, packs dusty and well used. They offered that the trail to Wolf Creek Lake was pretty good, well marked, and easy to make time on.


Sherry had dropped me off only an hour earlier, after a three hour drive across the valley. My intention is to walk this middle part of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Sonora Pass to possibly Beckworth Pass almost 300 miles north. In addition, I would like to spend some focused time at each of the major passes along the way. I hope to get a sense of the difficulties the emigrants might have had when they faced the eastern wall of the Sierras over a hundred years ago. Except that I was on top of the wall, while they had to climb it.

After Sherry left, wishing me luck, and worrying about my safety, I preceded to walk around the Pass area, making notes, trying to be observant. It was hard to stay focused, knowing that I hadn’t really started the hike, and wondering what might happen during the next few weeks.


The cowboys saw me wandering about, looking at the approach to the Pass, making notes and looking down the ridge that led to the Pacific Ocean. I’m sure it would have sounded a little odd to them, but my trail hardened emigrants struck a familiar chord with them and their own rugged lives. My only complaint is that their cold beer offer came at the very beginning of my hike, not three days from now, when I would really, really enjoy it.


Two red-tailed hawks cruise overhead, one peels off and dives on me like a Stuka from WWII. After the fly-by, he (she?) screeches good luck, almost waves his/her wings, and disappears over the ridge, in search of marmots. Too bad I don’t talk hawk- still, I take it as a good omen.




Date:​July 31, 1979

Time:​3:00 pm

Alt.:​9980 ft.


Barom.:​23.75, slight fall

Place:​Sonora Pass area, creekside



I’ve been on the trail for about an hour, I’m tired, out of breath, and already have intestinal cramps. Situation as expected.  


This is the first water I’ve come to that flows directly to the Pacific. It’s quite likely to have been the first of it’s kind to the emigrants as well. Having the name Deadman’s Creek leads me to believe something unfortunate occurred here at some point in time. The trail leads up the ridge, just to the east of Sonora Peak, where this creek has it’s birth in some snow field or another.

Wild flowers are in abundance, I’ve taken some photographs while taking a short breather. Timeless here, the creek cold and noisy, the afternoon sun laying hot upon my knee. Feeling pretty good again, remarkable what a few moments of rest does.



Date:​July 31, 1979

Time:​4:00 pm

Alt.:​10,440 ft.



Place:​Sonora Saddle


Met a hiker here on the saddle, between the S.F. Bay and the Nevada sink. Wonderful accent, doesn’t listen very well, but polite in trail etiquette. I expect to see him now and then as he is heading to Echo Lake.

Windy here, coming in from the west in sharp gusts. One cloud in the sky with the mountains of Yosemite in the south. Great slabs of granite and snow, overlooking the local peaks with their thin garments of storm pressed pines.


Small lake up ahead, should be able to find a decent place above the water.



Date:​July 31, 1979

Time:​5:20 pm

Alt.:​10,200 ft.


Barom.:​23.55 falling slightly

Place:​Wolf Creek Lake


First camp. White barked pine trees on the opposite east shore, I’m resting in the shadow of Sonora Peak, hoping to pick a spot where I can have the first light of dawn strike my camp. It’s quite cold with a twenty plus degree temperature drop in the last 30 minutes. My German friend is either hiding or perhaps climbing Sonora Peak as he had mentioned, I don’t see his camp. I’ve only come 4 miles in about 3.5 hours. Hmm, a little arithmetic and I can estimate that it will take me only about 350 hours for 400 miles, 175 hours for two hundred miles, ten hours a day hiking will take me about 17 days to reach Donner Pass. Not good. At this rate I will run out of food about six days before my next mail drop. I’m even more tired.


Obviously I need to adjust to the altitude as well as the trail. Well, tomorrow is the first long day.



Date:​July 31, 1979

Time:​8:48 pm

Alt.:​10160 ft.


Barom.:​23.6 rising slowly

Place:​Wolf Creek Lake


Finished my first dinner, curried bean with chicken chunks, spicy. Just the right thing to take a little of the chill off. I’ve bedded down beside this wonderful rock that still radiates the heat from the afternoon sun. I’m about 100 yards from the lake, reclining in my sleeping bag with a poncho ground cloth. The effect is similar to a lounge chair on the deck of a mountain resort. I cooked the meal on my little camp stove just to the right, leaning over a little to stir the pot. It seemed like room service.


Lonesome. It’s a word to describe this place. The wind comes down from the peak, replacing mountain lake silence with a vague whisper that speaks of a greater silence. Lonesome is a word to describe this place and myself. I’m feeling somewhat pathetic, considering that only hours before I had a wealth of company, and even now I know that within a mile or two there should be a German sleeping in his camp. It’s not a serious problem but I’m a little shocked by how suddenly it cropped up. I had expected it to happen a few days from now. Of course I didn’t expect that I was going to stop a write a little every hour or two either.  

I’ve concluded that each day might be dedicated to a thought or concept of import. It’s a nice idea to have a topic to ponder while these boots are pounding up some small mountain or another. Tomorrow I’ll consider relationships.

I go to sleep hearing coyotes circle the lake.