Friday, April 27, 2012

No Condor sightings, but a fine adventure - an overnight at Pinnacles National Monument

We realize our Geneva to Le Puy walk is soon going to be upon us, but the planned training program keeps going awry. Life interferes. It may be that as usual, we defer training till on the trail. However, months ago, Susan booked a campsite at Pinnacles National Monument. This place has had a particular attraction for me, ever since I heard that the California Condor Recovery Program was releasing birds at Pinnacles.

As is usual, when the reserved date comes up, we have other pressing tasks, but we ignore them, throw sleeping bags and backpack cooking supplies in the car and take off. Three hours later, and almost due south, we arrive. Thirty miles away the temperature was moderate - 74F. As we wind up the road to the east side entrance, the temperature is creeping up, 76, 78, 80, 82, 84... We endure. Arriving, we find our site, location 68. Very nice. Private, Quail running around, a few lizards. It is still early, so we leave a few objects to show that the site is occupied, and drive up to the Bear Gulch Caves Trail trailhead. I've neglected to inform you of the ? there should be some fancy French term - Cause de Existance? for the reason the place was made a monument, way before the transplanted Condors. It seems that in Lancaster, California, near Los Angeles and some 250 miles south of Pinnacles National Monument, you can find half of a Miocene Volcano, and at Pinnacles on the other side of the San Andreas Fault, the one that shook San Franciso, you can find the other half of the volcano, or at least its core, expressed in pinnacles that climbers and raptors love.
As the fault continues to move north, an inch or so a year. Rocks fall, wedge narrow gaps, and provide caves that bats love, and visitors scramble through.

Once you've scrambled through, there are multiple options, but we headed for the High Peaks Trail, which turned out to have handrails, and steps blasted out of the rocks.
A nice trail, but I recommend doing it at an earlier hour or later hour than 2pm on a hot day.

Finally got back to our campsite, late in the afternoon, setup our tent, twice, as the first time we noticed a milling of ants as they searched for their burrow, under the tent. Had our meager backpack supper, our not so meager glass of wine and went to bed.

Next am, at the first hint of dawn, I was up heating water for coffee and tea, and coaxed Susan out shortly thereafter. After our morning gruel we headed out for the Old Pinnacles Trailhead, and another tunnel/cave. Raptors were in full force, the cliffs streaked with guano, and large soaring vulture type birds overhead. Think they were turkey vultures, though. No white on the underside of the wings. We went thru the cave going west, and on the return took the high cliffs trail. All of these trails were gorgeous. Lupines, paintbrush, other wildflowers all over. Some water in the streams. March, April is a good time to visit. Of course the San Francisco earthquake was in April of 1906, and is due for a re occurrence. As ;you look around, there is a whole history of falling rocks.

But, no condors. When we get home, our friend Tom sends us his youtube of his Pinnacles visit, including of course, condors.

Condors or not, this is a worthwhile trip in the winter or spring. In the heat of summer, maybe not.