I am fortunate to live only 58 miles from a beautiful National Park- the Pinnacles. It is famous for being one of the main spots Condors live, but it is also an area of spectacular beauty. From the National Park Service (NPS) description:
“Some 23 million years ago multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form what would become Pinnacles National Park. What remains is a unique landscape. Travelers journey through chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms. Hikers enter rare talus caves and emerge to towering rock spires teeming with life: prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the inspiring California condor.”
We had the perfect late spring day, not too hot, clear, and nice and breezy. I carpooled with 3 fellow hikers so we had a nice chat on the way there and back. It was a beautiful ride. Once you get south of Hollister it is very rural, and though our Bay Area hills are turning brown (California tourism board would want me to say “golden” 🙂 ), there was still plenty of green down here.
We did probably the most classic loop in the park from the East entrance- up to the high peaks where we stopped for lunch, then back around on a trail that passes a lake and goes through the talus caves (more later on those).
It is a quite steep hike up, gaining about 2000 feet in 3 miles. But it is a gorgeous trail as well as a good workout. This was a pretty brisk group, and I was pleased to be up near the front, so training is paying off. Typical view on the way up:
The pointy peaks way up there are where we were headed, where the condors roost.
Lots of green along the way:
Getting closer to the high peaks:
A condor sighting! There are also a lot of the more common turkey vultures around. You can tell them apart by the distinctive white under the condors wings. The condors also fly more steadily, the vultures seem to wag there wings a lot more. Interesting tidbit: There are plenty of vultures to observe in Kitty Hawk, NC. The Wright brothers intuitively learned about 3 axis control by studying them for hours.
Tidbit number 2: condors came close to going extinct in the late ’80s. A dramatic rescue was made- all the remaining known birds were captured and bred in captivity to get the numbers back up (special thanks to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo). They were reintroduced into the wild in 1991 and now there are 463 known condors in the wild. A lot of effort has been put in to reduce the threats to them- poaching, lead poisoning, and habitat destruction. There are a lot of sad stories of humans driving species extinct, so a happier story like this is nice to hear.
Next we entered the scrambly part. I actually had a benign fall- I had to do a high step where the were no handrails, and didn’t lean forwards enough. To use one of my favorite British expressions, I went “arse over teakettle” backwards. I landed on my backpack but might have whacked my head if our fearless hike leader Neal had not been right behind me. A gentle nudge from Mother Nature telling me I need to work on my balance and rough terrain scrambling abilities some more.
After the caves you enter a different world for a nice mile walk through the woods back to the trailhead. A little over 6 mile adventure completed. A nice way to spend the day with friends. 🙂