The Martian Way: Section I of PCT/Sonora Pass

Nicholas Kristof for the NYTimes, who is walking the PCT with his daughter, heading south, wrote recently in a Sunday column about the joy and beauty of the trail, and extolled in particular one section of the trail I happen to have just completed, towards the end of Section I. From This Land is Your Land:

My daughter and I are hiking the full Pacific Crest Trail, 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, in the narrow window in which she’s strong enough and I’m not yet decrepit. We’ve hiked half and hope to finish in another five or six years.

My favorite area this time was the area south of Sonora Pass, a stunning landscape of jagged peaks, snow patches and alpine lakes. We found it more intoxicating than any microbrew.

That’s all true, but Kristof mostly describes the classic Yosemite Wilderness, made of granite and pine and water, and not Sonora Pass, made metamorphic rock, arid, red, jagged, inhospitable, and million miles away from the lush canyons and smooth surfaces of ice-sculpted granite.

Here’s one of the few lives I found thriving in this wilderness of rock.



It’s not that these flowers were so special, really, it’s that they were there at all. Early in the day, back in the Yosemite wilderness, well, things looked different.

Here’s Lake Harriet:

Lake Harriet

The sign to the pass looked like any other sign.


The deer looked like any other deer.


The path looked like any other path. Leaving Kennedy Canyon, ran into Dan, who in response to a question about bugs, said he’d had no problems, but added that he was from Alaska.

Dan, from Alaska
Dan, from Alaska

He suggested taking a picture of me.

Kit, from CA
Kit, from CA

This has to be one of the most barren of landscapes in California.

trail along base of butte
trail along base of butte


From Kennedy Canyon, from the stream and campsite at 1004, to Sonora Pass itself, at almost 1017, is a long haul across a Martian landscape unlike any section of the PCT I’ve encountered.

It’s drier and rockier than any desert, and devoid of all but lichen, a very rare tree or two, and a few shrubs. And elevation is a factor: at its height, it’s at about 10,800 feet.

After a twenty-mile day, crashed at a barren spot by a creek near the end of section I. Campground had plenty of powdery grey dusty dirt and didn’t inspire happy thoughts, but the sunset helped.



Published by Kit Stolz

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

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