Sierra Clouds

This July, my cousin and I took six good day hikes below the Sierra crest east of Tioga Pass and Yosemite. We looked far up to 12,000 foot summits and hidden basins while walking beside lakes and meadows. We experienced the size and grandeur of this high country.

A week later, from a base at Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows, I hiked to a viewpoint at 9,000 feet a mile north of the Tioga Road and Olmsted Point. The wide view stretched away over glacier-smoothed ridges and domes to the same crest.

Several days before, warm, moist air had pushed up from the Gulf of California–the Great Basin’s monsoon, similar to but weaker than the heavy monsoons of India. Though the largest and most widespread thunderstorms had passed, there was still enough moisture to form late morning and afternoon thunderstorms near the crest.

I arrived at my viewpoint around 2:20 in the afternoon. Cumulus clouds roiled  above the 12,000-foot peaks of the crest to the north and south of Tioga Pass. Most of those high ridges were hidden in shadow, but rays of sunlight dramatically spotlighted some peaks.

As I ate lunch and watched, a mass of cloud slowly grew behind and above the thunderheads. It was different–a single, smooth and translucent cloud, a uniform gray underneath, with a less sharply defined forward edge. As it grew, it began to tower far over those already towering cumulus like a huge spreading mushroom. I tried to guess how high it extended, then gave up–and my wonder grew.

As the afternoon wore on, this over-arching cloud grew until its edge was directly overhead.

Experiences like this remind me of the immensity and wonder of the world we live in. The greatest thing is that each of us have been made part of it at the deepest possible level. Not only can we experience it–we belong to it, wherver we live.


About David McCoard

After earning my MS in geology I've done various things including managing the ski touring program at a small lodge in the Sierra. In 2010 I retired from Contra Costa College in California. I've always been fascinated by the mountains and nature and have spent countless days hiking, backpacking, climbing and skiing in the Sierra. The spiritual insights I've learned there have set the course for my life. Now I have time to share them and strike up a conversation.
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One Response to Sierra Clouds

  1. Pingback: Hailstorm in Tuolumne Meadows | Mountain and Spirit

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