Location: Sonora, California/USA
Prominence: 2200 ft
Note: It takes a single day driving east from the nightmare that is San Francisco to reach the dreamscape that is the Californian countryside. Sonora California sits about 130 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, amidst a set of small golden mountains, on the epic edge of a rising continental landscape. This classically Western country town, where Mormons still mingle wearing their 18th Century attire, among hikers, shopkeepers, bikers, and laid-back locals, is an ultimate jumping-off-point for the definitive hiking experience of the American West. Like a Californian version of Tolkien’s Shire, Sonora rests on the peaceful but ominous precipice of several mysterious mountain ranges and wastelands that rise thousands upon thousands of feet, both above and beyond into the east. The comforting colors, the cinematic warmth of the hills, is truly one of the most inviting regions one could ever imagine. (Image/Below)
Looming just beyond Sonora is a vast Sierra Nevada Range, encompassing Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest, Kings Canyon, booming with peaks reaching all the way down to Sequoia National Forest, some 300 miles to the south. When crossing the continent from the east in the 18oo’s, many settlers found crossing the Rocky Mountains to be much less of a challenge than the extremity of the Sierras, which should give you some idea about the intense ruggedness of this final American Range, before reaching the Pacific. (Image/Below) The town of Sonora sits atop an elevation 2000 feet above New Melones Lake. The incredibly scenic E18 highway runs down from town to a bridge- crossing. On the west side of the water, looming above the bridge, is a small but beautiful solitary Mountain known as Mount Zucca. (Image/Below)
Rumors of the “goldscape” of California were enough to bring minors, prospectors, and contractors all the way from Europe, and as far away as China. Mount Zucca is the perfect image of what was described to family and friends back east; a glowing, flowing, and beautiful scene of golden hills. It was as if the landscape itself, the very colors of the hills, were scintillatingly hinting at its valuable core. Two billion dollars worth of pure gold was literally pulled from the rivers of California from 1849 t0 1855, which is the equivalent of about sixty-seven billion dollars worth today. It was enough to bring the myth of American Manifest-Destiny into an undeniable reality in the newspapers of the Nation, even as the Native population was being brutally eviscerated. The Hupa, Wintu, and Yana tribes would’ve been found among the gorgeous hills near Zucca Mountain.
Some mountains are more like elongated ridges at their tops, running long, like Mount Katahdin in the State of Maine/USA. (Image/Below/Left) Other mountains cluster, like the Three Sisters at Glen Coe Scotland. (Image/Below/Right) Aesthetically, solitary mountains have a unique and special effect on the mind, like the Cross in a Church, or a Buddha in the Temple. Mountains that stand alone, like Errigal in Ireland, have a central peak. It doesn’t matter what size a particular mountain is, to have this quality, as long as it stands alone. That’s why, even though Mount Zucca is three times smaller than Mount Errigal, it still has the same epically solitary and stoic quality.
So when I looked at Mount Zucca for the first time I actually had a momentary vision of Mount Errigal, some three thousand miles away. Flashes like this are valuable; so I took notice and decided to Climb Zucca’ that very moment.
Trail: Californian small mountains have the cool Celtic quality of treeless sides. It is much easier to gauge the hike from below with mountains like this. It’s a good feeling. The trail here is absolutely clear from below; a slightly winding incline, with a fine path throughout. It looks to be about 2000 feet to the top, a perfect practice-hike for greater challenge of The Sierras, about an hour-and-a-half to the east. Starting out, about seventy-five yards from the bridge-crossing below, on the western side, you will see the trail head stones just above the road, for Mount Zucca. (Image/Left)
The lower path is lovely. Glowing rushes surround you as you float up the hillside. I chose to take this path a few hours before Sunset, so as to catch that Sunset, and still have enough light left to make the way down. You can take advantage of the long shade in the late day, cooling you down if you so choose to utilize it. The angle of the sunlight is cinematic, making for some really solid images.
Every mountain has a unique story to tell. If you heighten your senses, and move mindfully, you may start to see signs that someone may have lived here once. As someone who has climbed in dozens of peaks, I can say, with a strong amount evidence-supported confidence, that those ancient cultural signs tend to have specific similarities, and are usually carved into the stones. Heading up this trail, those signs are abundant. Get ready for a sacred scene.
Mount Zucca would’ve been an ideal place of habitation, tucked into the overall Valley, and just above the River, where fish would be readily available. Several signs of ancient habitation appear in the qualities of the stones here in this beautiful place. It looks like someone else has noticed the somewhat distinct features of these fixtures of stone as well. (Image/Left)
Someone cut these stones to be noticed. Look at the fitted, subtle angles, quaint notches, fitting this setting together like a puzzle. This is not the product of any random natural process. Fixtures like this can be found in forests in New England by the thousands, on the other coast. (Image/Right) It’s a great sign. It would make sense that a valley as beautiful as this would sponsor Neolithic Culture.
Continuing steadily upward, the terrain is dry, and the air is breezy in the late light. The path slowly rises above some gorgeous forest on the northwest side of the Valley. In contrast to this wide open skyline a distinct Neolith appears. It is not uncommon to see large boulders in the heights, but it’s the cut angles in stones that are meant to pull us closer. Often times the cuts on these stones specify a vantage on the Sun, or the Moon. Interestingly enough, this massive protruding rock is cut distinctly on it’s face, and looks upward into the path of where the Sun would rise.
It isn’t just the stones that gives a mountain like this a special feeling. Many years ago now, I was hiking on a small Mountain in Kinnitty Ireland, similar to the size of Zucca’, and at the top of that small Mountain I found seashells along the footpath. It’s a cool feeling finding seashells in the heights. It seems that once upon a time, just like in the Celtic heights, this Valley was flooded. Why is it that National Geographic articles don’t cover the fact that there are seashells in the heights of so many mountains across the globe? Why haven’t we read about this phenomenon in our Highschool Biology books? Why wouldn’t they want yo to know about this obvious phenomenon? Halfway up the trail, Mount Zucca already shows many of the signs that the mythical Celtic Mountains do, signs of the earliest Culture on Earth, the Neolithic. The boulders in the heights are specific and angular. For many portions of this you don’t see any boulders at all; just a beautiful ultimately calming vantage of swaying dry brush and soft light. The specificity of where the stones are found is important.
As you make your way into the heights there are additional stones that have the strangest look, carven, cut, molded, all in one. And what a view. These redundant earthy mounds climb softly up and ahead, while the Sun looms behind. The temperature is pleasant, and the air is wonderfully clear up here. In the delightful heights of New England and Ireland we find similar strange stones guarding the upper heights, like small towers protecting the edges of a miniature empire. The special thing about stones like these is that they often contain a 3 dimensional surprise; looking from the front you find a unique expression of specially stacked stones, layered and fitted. But from above, looking down, you see an almost impossible X-cut straight through each level of stones! This precision cut, passing all the way through each layer of rock is meant to impress us. The delicate detail, combined with the brute force necessary to make a cut like this is mind boggling. And furthermore, this X is an international Neolithic symbol, used the world over. What a creative way to express it here! Take a look:
From the side it would be almost inconceivable to think that such a unique and impossible expression exists in these rocks. The straightness of these lines is absolutely modern looking, and yet we know it is not. Here are more X…
…sections near the sacred peaks of mountains across America (Images/Above); Clark Mountain C.O (Right), Hulapai Mountain A.Z (Middle) and Monument Mountain (Right). Are geologists or anthropologists blind? Do they even climb these mountains? I’ve never seen a single one up there. I’ve found enough X sections to write a study on them alone. But for the moment, in seeing this, the full realization that Mount Zucca is a sacred peak should sink in. What a gorgeous scene.Continuing towards the peak, you will work your way up around several small boulders to emerge to the peak. The full spectrum effect of the California vibe hits you in this place. To the north is a scene that looks more like Mexico, with brittle earthy toned shrubs and chocolaty-gold soil. Other peaks are not tree-less like Zucca, and perhaps that in itself holds some kind of meaning yet to be determined. It’s altogether heart warming.
To the south is a near perfect vision of the lake stretching along the Valley. This is a doubly advantageous height, with a clear line of sight on anyone approaching, along with access to the water.
If you look along the right-side line of the picture just above, you will see each stone fixture, each with unique characteristic, lining the trail to the top. It is not at all disheveled, but rather, super organized, as if someone put their particular mark all along this Mountain, a long, long time ago. From the highest point of Zucca, there are cut boulders settled into the peak that look like parallel cut stones overlooking the entire Valley. It’s a nearly perfect parallel vista. The Californian experience is encapsulated in this small Mountain. Just like in New England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and most likely the world over, there are signs in the stones of magical things. The reason they are magical is because many of them are nearly impossible. These signs are almost always in the most beautiful heights. Achieving a peak is rewarding on every level. This a spiritual zone, a place literally lit up with impossible things, mingled with panoramic natural beauty. Further up the valley, in the forests of the town of Sonora, there are stones with cut triangles embedded in the rock. It is hard to believe. Clearly this was a Neolithic haven. The equilateral triangle is impossible to miss, even at a distance, at the center of this massive fixture within this pristine grove. Of course, equilateral triangles are specifically carved into the rocks in New England on the East coast. This image on the left is just one of hundreds to be found in the forests.
It appears that Californian small mountains are as enchanted as the rolling heights of New England and southern Ireland. As opposed to the infinity of green in the Celtic parts of the world, everything here is sun-kissed, including any person who stays in this region for more than a week. This is a nearly flawless area for everything that hiking can be, sacred stones, gorgeous heights, clear paths, and Sun through the day. Come to California and discover the sacred aspects of this scene for yourself. Sonora is the perfect spot for small-mountain mystic experiences, and only an hour and a half away from one of the most massive mountain ranges on Earth. Seek it out! Stonestrider.com