Sonora Pass II

Pass Panorama

(click to enlarge)

I’ve been driving my Mazda 3 for eight years now and I always have less than 39, miles on it, yet I thought about replacing it with a vehicle with higher ground clearance and 4WD. I figured the places I wanted to go would otherwise be off limits to me, places like the St. Mary’s Pass trailhead parking lot. But with a little reconnaissance, I was able to plot a route from the paved highway to the rutted, rocky entrance. I was proud to park my little Mazda next to higher-clearance pickup trucks and SUVs, and even a brand new Jeep Wrangler that still had its temporary license plate. I even saw a guy in a Lexus SUV with plenty of clearance start pulling into the parking lot, only to turn around and park across the street.

It reminded me of how sure I was that I couldn’t drive the Mazda until ‘at the Patriarch’s Grove in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest because I remembered how rocky the last section was. But by choosing my routes and driving slowly, I was able to get there.

After all the trucks and SUVs left, my car was alone in the parking lot for the night. The next morning we heard the car doors closing and we went to investigate. A guy driving a Honda Fit got away with it. I know that there are places I’ve been with my Jeep Cherokee and Ford Ranger that I wouldn’t try with the Mazda, but they’re not necessarily places I have to revisit, especially considering all the great places I can reach in a regular car.

The only fairly recent purchase I’ve made to make camping more appealing to my old folks os was a very large tent, a North Face Wawona 6. I don’t use it when camping alone, but it’s amazing to have when my wife is with me. It’s actually bigger than some campsites we’ve stayed at, so we have to keep that in mind. The vestibule alone is as big as many 2-person tents. But inside the main tent we have a queen size inflatable mattress, with plenty of room left over on the sides and in the front, and at six feet tall I can stand up in it.

Far too soon, our stay at Sonora Pass was over; we packed up the tent, crawled the Mazda through the rocks and ruts, and were soon enjoying a beautiful drive back through the mountains, the only sight of concern being all the dead trees. They dotted the forest here and there, and we could only wonder if there would possibly be large swathes of them. We were a bit delayed due to road works on CA-96, but it was well worth a little inconvenience to be able to take advantage of all the excellent road works this had already been done.

The enjoyable part of the ride usually takes a break just around Sonora when traffic still becomes an issue, and once we’ve fueled up in Oakdale, we generally hunker down to get through the valley as quickly as possible. But this time, since we were recently in Wisconsin and had gotten some great farm fresh corn on the cob, we stopped at a farm stand to get some of our own California golden nuggets. We passed a few stalls along CA-159 before seeing one that advertised corn, called Baba Bazaar, where we stocked up. In addition to the fresh fruits, nuts and veggies we got, they also had lots of corn nut flavors which I loved, as well as the weird “garlic chips” which are whole cloves of garlic with a mild crunch and surprisingly sweet flavor. As we were packing our loot into the cooler, my wife asked me if I had seen the pies. Luckily, I didn’t. But next time….

The other side of the collar

Loco Fruit
Cool Mint Landscape

Lupines catching the light

Open-air painting
Faded Rocket Bouquet
Willowherb at the edge of the onion meadow

Rein Orchid in the Onion Meadow

The Beast Orange


Road Attractions

1 thought on “Sonora Pass II”

  1. I don’t even knjow how I ened uup here, bbut I thouught this
    post was great. I don’t know who youu aree butt certainly yoou
    arre goingg tto a famous bloogger iif yyou are nott already 😉


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