Sierra Nevada

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Sierra Nevada

***** Location: North America
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Earth


The Sierra Nevada mountain range runs 400 miles (650 km) north to south through the middle/east of the state of California and parts of Nevada, U.S.A. The Pacific Crest Trail is a popular hiking trail at altitudes up to 13,000 ft (21,500m), normally accessible only during the summer. (although there are a few "Xtreme" backpackers who will trek in winter, a perilous
venture) .

see photos at:

Normally trecking and backpacking is a summer sport, though, of course, there are exceptions. Activities include: day hiking, backpacking (several days on the trails, carrying your own gear, animal packing , usually in groups with a guide (mules, horses, donkeys), rock climbing, trout fishing (I was able to stay up there alone for a week once, just by eating stream trout caught with ultra-light tackle – I couldn’t have carried 7 days of food by myself!), ecological surveying and conservation, forest ranger work, etc. Conditions on the high trails are primitive with no conveniences at all – you carry in what you need and leave nothing behind but footprints.

There are some remarkable ski resorts in northern California, Squaw Valley and Mammoth for example, that are certainly winter topics, but they are not usually referred to as “high Sierra”, even though they are at altitudes over 5000 ft. These resorts are accessible via well-maintained roads during winter months, but trail heads and Sierra-based national parks and wilderness preserves are not.

Lake Tahoe is quite large for the region, and settled. There are gambling casinos on the Nevada state side. The roads are usually kept clear in the winter, although only the locals stick around then.

Alpine lakes are small, fed by summer streams from snow melt. They tend to be closed ecosystems at high altitude (as in the one referred to in my haiku). They form in glacial depressions left by the ice age, and silt in over time to become meadows. In time, they will all disappear as they fill in, until the next big glacier. They are still waters and reflective as mirrors.

There is always some snow at high altitudes, even in August, with patches in the shadows and northern sides of boulders. So snow in this region is not strictly a winter kigo, just as with any high mountain area. (Sadly, that may soon change with global warming.) In fact, there can be snow storms in late summer – I was once caught in one. To pack into the area safely, you must take protection.

Although hiking is typically done in late June-mid August, it is really spring at those altitudes. There are really only 3 seasons there: spring with profusions of meadow wildflowers, growth, mating, etc., a few weeks of a heavy-rain autumn, heavy winter.

Sierra nevada does mean “snowy mountain range” in Spanish. Spanish explorers were the first European pioneers here, and California was part of Mexico until 1846. I live in San Diego where about 1/3 of the population is Spanish-speaking, but most are bi-lingual.

--Billie Dee, September 2006

Click HERE to see photos from the area.


'Sierra Nevada' means ''white mountain range" or "snow covered heights". The mountains are rich in subject matter and could almost have their own saijiki.

There is also a Sierra Nevada in Spain, near Salamanca!
Click HERE to see photos from the Spanish area.

Let us try and collect more haiku on the subject !


Teachings from the Sierra Nevada
Chiura Obata

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


high Sierras
mud supports the lake
lake swallows the sky

high Sierras
shooting stars in the meadow
in the shadows – snow
shooting stars”, a mountain wild flower

Sierra Nevada
every giant sequoia

Sequoiadendron giganteum can only be viewed in the summer!

Sierra Nevada
beside the trail a marmot
eating a horse turd

high Sierras
mirrored in the virgin lake
stealth bomber contrail

I saw this in the late 1970s, an image in a recurrent nightmare

high Sierras
you sleep on the ground
the bears eat your food
every scrap packed in
must be packed out

Sierra Nevada
redwoods thrust against the sky
spice scented noon

Sierra Nevada
the world’s largest tree
such tiny seeds

I have a snapshot of my infant son being held by his 103 year-old great grandmother at the foot of this tree

Billie Dee, September 2006


Lingering Snow
© Graphic haibun series by Linda Papanicolaou


drifting white
on a sunny mist
- Sierra Nevada

du blanc qui flotte
sur la brume ensoleillée
- Sierra Nevada

blanco que flota
en la bruma soleada
- Sierra Nevada

PASCAL QUERO - Paris, France

Related words

***** Himalaya Mountains, India

***** Trekking (Trecking) Trek (India, worldwide)

***** Mountain, peak, hill (yama, gake, oka) Japan worldwide

***** North American Saijiki List

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