High Country Aspens. Sierra Nevada, California. September 26, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A row of autumn aspens in front of receding conifer forest and rising slopes near Sonora Pass on a Sierra Nevada fall evening
Although I’ve driven across Sonora Pass for years, I feel that I have perhaps neglected its photographic potential, perhaps because it is somewhat out of the way for me on many of my Sierra trips — the major Tahoe area routes are farther north, and my favorite trans-Sierra route further south is Tioga Pass through Yosemite. I have photographs from the base of the pass on the east side, but my collection of photographs from the highest reaches of the pass is very small. With this in mind, I decided to return from this trip to the eastern Sierra by way of this pass, and I timed the traverse for the late afternoon when I thought the light might be idea.
Although this pass is not quite as high as Tioga Pass, it has a much more alpine feeling. The road is very steep in places and frequently quite narrow as it twists and turns up and down and around trees and boulders. I recall once thinking many years ago that driving this pass is about as close to the feeling of hiking the high country as one can get on a road. There are a lot of aspens along this route, but in many places they are mixed in with the conifer forest, making them a bit more difficult of a photographic subject. Finally, perhaps a couple miles east of the pass, the terrain opened up to high forests and meadows and I found a few beautiful aspen groves standing apart.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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