October 4, 2013: A trip over the Sonora Pass, in the California Sierras, gives the average person a good experience viewing the distinction between the windward and leeward sides of the Sierra range.
The windward side (western side) is well wooded up to the Pass altitude. Snow will block the Sonora Pass for winter, generally between November and May, due to snow accumulation. Most of the snow will get dropped on the windward (west side) of the Sierras, providing plenty of water to support the dense Stanislaus National Forest.
|Looking west at the forested, western, windward side of the Sonora Pass|
Then, you reach and cross the Pass and instead of looking towards the pass, you are now looking down the pass.
|Looking west (towards windward side)|
|The leeward side of the Pass is in the rain and snow shadow of the Sierras. Therefore, there is less water to support forest growth.|
|Looking east at the bare-mountain, leeward side of the Sierra Range. Very different appearance from the wooded, windward side.|