Backseat Photographer: The Sierra Nevada East and West

If I had to choose between the mountains or the coast, the coast would win hands down.  Monterey, San Francisco, Mendocino all beckon me, and I attended a college smack-dab on the Humboldt coast.  Even though I live halfway between the coast and the mountains, I rarely get beyond the foothills of Grass Valley or the Amador and El Dorado counties for wine tasting (way more fun and less crowded than Napa).  Every great now and then, I make it to Tahoe, but never beyond.  Recently I had the opportunity to go to Reno with my parents, and it was family road-trips all over again: Mom and Dad in the front, me in the backseat.

I began this trip with the assumption that the Sierra Nevada looked the same on both sides: heavily forested with pines, firs, and a variety of deciduous trees.  I expected sharp outcroppings of granite interspersed with lakes.  So I was surprised when 20 miles or so west of Reno the landscape changed into high desert.  Trees were sparse, the ground– a reddish hue instead of gray– was covered with brush.  This was Wallace Stegner’s West: rugged, isolated, wild.

I imagined the surprise the pioneers experienced when after traveling over the Great Basin and seeing nothing but desert, reaching the tops of the Sierra Nevada and encountering a wall of trees and lakes that lead to a valley of plenty and hills of gold.  They also lead to extreme weather and brutal cold as famously experienced by the Donner Party in 1846 and not-so-famously by me today. Equipped with my little pink camera and my backseat window (nothing better than pictures taken from a moving car!), I did my best to capture both sides of the Sierras.

Going East on Highway 80

On 80 East. The mountains are so big, and the sky so clear that I felt like I was part of a model train set. Look at how small and toy-like the semi is.
Notice the snow on the top of the mountains.
Donner Lake.
Perfect day.
Even small, delicate flowers beckon the visitor.
The landscape transforms as we enter Nevada.
Can you hear horses galloping across the plains?
Desolate beauty.

Returning West on Highway 80

Today we were visited by a freak summer storm.  There is nothing prettier than the green of leaves against a gray sky.  It seems somehow that the dreary day challenges the trees to shine brighter, to counteract the gloom.

The road home.
Clouds rolling in.
Is this a scene from a spaghetti western?
Like a rock.
When we pulled in here it was 44 degrees, pouring, and windy. I was miserable after jogging over to the sign for the picture. This weather must have felt like summer to the Donner Party.
Unintentionally cool picture of raindrops on my side window.

8 thoughts on “Backseat Photographer: The Sierra Nevada East and West

      1. ya!! generally they are shaky but yours don’t look like taken from a moving vehicle… nice work…

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