Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pinnacles National Monument ~ A Dynamic Western Landscape

We thought we were a little crazy, a little overly optimistic, looking for an outdoor adventure. The weather wasn't rained off and on as we approached the western entrance to Pinnancles National Monument.  I hadn't visited this park since the 1960's and Mark had never been.

I forgot my camera, but Mark had his and we passed it back and forth frequently.
The Pinnacles rise up east of California's central Salinas Valley.  Leaving the valley, the road climbs through rolling hills of chaparral at the feet of the Gabilan Mountains.  The Pinnacles are believed to be the remains of the ancient Neenach Volcano some 195 miles to the south.  Imagine this, the giant San Andreas Fault split the volcano and the Pacific Plate crept north, carrying the Pinnacles.

The rains have made lovely greens along the creek waters.  We started up with extra jackets, the ratty kind we keep in the back of the car for emergencies and shifts in the weather.

The artistry of water and wind continue to shape these structures.

It rained a bit on us  as we made our way up to Hawkes Peak.  The colors in the subdued light were stunning and then the sun came out and danced new colors before our eyes. 

The monoliths, towerlike spires, sheer-wall canyons and caves of talus rise into the day...a seemingly stand still moment of the once and future dynamics of erosion, earthquake faults and shifting tectonic plates.

Oh, California!

A wall flower in front of its own stone wall.
The wild flowers are only beginning to bloom.  We saw shooting stars and tiny white milk maids on their slender stalks.  Some blue and purple lupines are blooming and the yellow bush poppies and white ceanothus grace the higher trails. 
We enjoyed the soaring birds throughout the day. Co-incidently this morning's local paper has an article on the Pinnacles: "CONDOR COUPLE LAY EGG" the Monterey Herald headlines read.  A male condor residing in Big Sur where he was released in 2004, without the aid  of any internet or televised dating service, flew east 30 miles to court a  female condor who was released at the Pinnacles in 2004. Her egg is believed to be the first laid within the park boundaries in more than a century.  There is a condor cam you can check out on the park website.
We saw a good deal of large cat scat on the trail but made no sightings of bob cats or mountain lions.  I wonder if they sighted us.  I did bring home some baby bob cat postcards.   Purchases of postcards, books and cloth bags  from the Western National Parks Association located in a tiny hut where the ranger takes the entrance fee, support educational and scientific research programs at the park.
The sun had plenty of clouds to pop behind and we hurried a bit on our way down from the peak as the sun was dropping in the sky.  It was a dark ride home and as we neared the coast a heavy rain  fell.  The two and a half dry and light hours on the trail were a lovely way to spend my XXst birthday!


Neal said...

Amazing spot.. thanks for sharing..

Nature ID said...

Great post! Thanks for the geology info and condor cam alert. Pinnacles is an amazing place, hidden behind rolling hills.

GretchenJoanna said...

I loved the Pinnacles before, and now I love them more, seeing the park through your eyes a month earlier than I've seen it before. Those green designs are really something! And the wildflowers...a wonderful birthday for sure.

I Love Baby Quilts! said...

Gorgeous! You are an amazing photographer!

Ryan Brady said...

Man...that makes me miss Norcal. I used to backpack in the Pinnacles for Boy Scouts. Such good memories there and such a beautiful place. Love the pictures. :)