A weekend on the PCT with pinyons and snow: 2015

Having just fallen in love, so to speak, with the pinyon pine, I'm distressed to learn that the species may fall prey to "forest mortality" in the Southwest (as discussed a few weeks back here).

What can be done — if anything? Are these forests doomed, or — ?

With my young nephew Eli Huscher went back to the Walker Pass area of the PCT this past week to explore this question. I'm not a scientist and have no answers as of yet, but I think it's an important question. 

I'll begin with a picture of the tree that inspired this new-found devotion. (The pinyon's not the most spectacular of trees — but in the harsh desert landscape of the Mojave, it's a hero.)


Okay, the rest of the pics I'll put below the fold — please enjoy!

Here's Eli, myself, and my old truck as we headed out.


Here's a photo of some of these trees near Walker Pass, in the mountains at about 5000, fifty or so miles northwest of the town of Mojave. A lot of them near the pass do not look well.


Heading south from Walker Pass, at about mile 645, the trail comes up to a mesa at 7000 feet, and tracks with a road used by motorcycles and ATVs. It's pretty bleak.


Eli found a couple of flags lying in the road — don't try to take these Americans' guns!


Sharing the road with the motorized — who were actually pretty considerate.


After five miles, at 641, the trail turns off the track and into a pinyon forest. At a higher elevation, and with a northern exposure, this forest looks a lot better than the pinyons near Walker Pass.


Really a lovely forest, lovely trail. Not as spectacular as a forest of redwoods, but no less loveable in the high desert environment. 


And then a little higher — snow!


We camped at about 7000 feet — cold but clear.


In the morning — not so clear, a lot colder. Poles literally frozen in the ground.


Then it began to snow, which was great. Interestingly, all the pines on this substantial slope, at a higher elevation, with lots of snow, looked just fine. Could this be a refuge for the pinyon?


Snow and pinyon health: a connection?


Let me leave you with a haiku or two on walking in the snow in the high desert:

inhaling whiteness
the creak and crunch of cold new snow
winter Walker Pass

a cloud comes to earth
in spinning nests of crystal ice
flakeing the PCT

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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