Pinnacles National Park, California

Pinnacles National Park, California
Inside the cave...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pinnacles National Park, California

Over Easter I took off and drove up to Pinnacles--America's newest National Park. In 1908 President Teddy Roosevelt set aside 2500 acres as Pinnacles National Monument. The monument grew in bits and pieces until 2013, when President Obama redesignated the now 26,000 acres as Pinnacles National Park! Go Obama!
 The road up to the park was just as pretty as the park itself. Lots of open country, big ranches, mountains, grasslands and oak trees.
In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp in Pinnacles and for the next 9 years,  improved the old homestead trails, constructed the dam that formed the Bear Gulch reservoir, and improved access to the caves.  Thank you CCC!
The campground was almost full when I arrived at Pinnacles, but the good Lord up in heaven always finds it in His huge heart to save one site for me. The ranger at the desk said she had one site left so I grabbed it. Fortunately, it was a very private site, surrounded by trees, shrubs and wild roses that had not yet come into bloom.
My little campsite In Pinnacles National Park. For the most part, my stay at Pinnacles was warm, except during the night. Even though I slept in the back of my Subee, I was still cold.  On Easter Sunday, I woke up and found that it was only 33 degrees. I packed up to head down to Morro Bay and my hands were so darn cold they hurt. I drove out of the campground at 7:30 am, and saw many families hunched over their picnic tables in the freezing cold, not looking all that happy. 
Immediately after organizing my camp, I got out on the trails to explore and found such spectacular scenery. The pinnacles, like the ones above, are actually rocky spires that are left over from an ancient volcanic field. If you look carefully, you can see the guy at the top of the spire, looking like a tiny little tree! I waved at him, but he didn't see me.
Volcanic activity also formed the talus caves in Pinnacles, when boulders fell into deep, narrow gorges and lodged between rock walls. The caves move from dark to light, depending on how the rocks have lodged.  In the Bear Gulch cave, a stream of water flows through the cave and sounds so beautiful as you walk in the cool darkness.
I did not see any California Condors at Pinnacles National Park which is one of the nesting areas for the giant birds, but I did see one little lizard camouflaged against this rock, a huge lizard with a very long skinny tail  that walked like a giant iguana, some turkey vultures soaring in the sky, several deer browsing in the gorge behind my campsite, and many birds.
To walk through the Balconies Cave, I had to climb over  huge boulders, squeeze through skinny little spaces, walk in the pitch dark all by myself, and climb steep staircases...in other words it was great fun! I encountered this guy after coming out of the cave, and tried to talk to him, but he didn't speak a word of English. At least he looks good in the picture!
As I stepped out of the Balconies Cave, I took a walk up through the hills, into the wild places. So pretty. No one else was up there, which made it even better.
I was taking a picture of these beautiful flowers and almost reached in and touched one, when I  saw the three leaves on the stem. "Leaves of three, let them be. I was so enthralled with the flowers, that I didn't even notice they were poison oak flowers. Pretty to look at, but deadly to run amok in.
One of the most beautiful things about Pinnacles was the trees; huge stately Blue Oak, fat Scrub Oak, Coast Live Oak, Manzanita and tall Gray Pine trees.
One of my favorite things to do is walk along dry creek beds. and find treasures like these golden poppies springing up out of the rocks.
The trail up to the Balconies Cave wandered along the dry creek bed and through a forest filled with noisy birds. It was late afternoon, and I was tired. I sat down in the middle of the trees and listened to the quail call out to one another. At first I didn't know what kind of bird it was, but I kept looking and listening until I saw a quail with a dark little topknot on top of his head, squatting on a tree branch and hollering for all he was worth.  
 Pinnacles National Park has such a diverse landscape, from tall rocky cliffs with spruce and pine trees, to low, scrub oak and manzanita covered chaparral.
 
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray".... 
On the way out to the Bear Gulch Cave, I walked through a tunnel in the rock, turned around, and took this picture just as that guy and his family walked in.
 On the other side of the tunnel, I found this gorgeous collision of boulders and quickly asked a sweet young gal to take my picture, scrambled up on the rock and smiled for the camera.

Inside the Bear Gulch Cave, the trail led through a creek bed, up and around boulders, and finally it went pitch black. Of course I forgot my flashlight, and rather than turn around, I devised a way to use the flash on my camera to illuminate the area directly in front of me with a red glow. After a few seconds it turned off, so I had to start all over again. I made it through the cave, without even tripping or falling. A miracle in my case.
After the Bear Gulch Cave, I walked up to the Bear Gulch Reservoir and ate lunch overlooking the still water. Loved the reflection of the cliffs in the water.
A view of the rocky pinnacles from the reservoir.

On my way back from the reservoir, I spotted this rock climber scaling the cliff. Such amazing strength! I asked if I could take his picture and he said yes. Hope he sees this!
A view from the other direction of the rock climber and his friend, in between two steep cliffs.
I thought this was such a pretty thistle and stopped to take a picture. I kept trying different angles and different lighting to get the best possible shot.
Suddenly, a beautiful Swallowtail Butterfly landed on the thistle and I took its picture. Couldn't have planned it better.
At one point on the Moses Spring trail, I passed an area where water seeped out of the rock, just like it does in Zion National Park. In the middle of the dry, rocky cliffs, an oasis of fern had sprouted up. I found the unfurled frond to be a perfect picture of the potential each one of us has to become the person God created us to be. May God bless you with His goodness and His love, and may He give you the courage to bloom and grow, just like the wild fern.

Morro Bay, California

On my way home from Pinnacles National Park, I stopped to camp in Morro Bay at a beautiful, tree covered campground. Back in the late 70's, I used to live in Los Osos, which is only minutes from Morro Bay. From what I remember, it was nearly always cold and foggy there, so I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in Morro Bay on a clear, fairly warm day!
After I set up my gear, I drove down to the wharf and went exploring.
Elegant boats were sailing in and out of the harbor.
In the distance is Morro Rock, one of nine extinct volcano peaks  that stretch from Morro Bay to San Luis Obispo. Morro Rock State Preserve protects the Peregrine Falcons, and is also the nesting ground for Cormorants and Seagulls.
I never have known the name of these huge purple flowers, but they line the wharf and make a pretty picture of the bay, as well as a major attraction for butterflies.


 After ordering Fish and Chips, I sat on the wharf overlooking the bay and watched the birds. The pigeons were especially feisty, and spent most of their time copulating with one another. Quite shocking.
That would be me, having the time of my life, talking with everyone, eating, laughing, and watching the amazing wildlife around me.
Out in the bay, several seals were loafing on a dock, barking up a storm if any of the kayaks got to close. In the bay right next to the shore, three sea otters were swimming, cavorting, eating and playing with each other. The sea otters dive down and pick up anything from sea urchins, abalone, clams or mussels and bring them up to the surface. Then they float on their backs to eat and use their bellies as a table. I did not realize how big their feet were, or I guess I should say flippers, until they flashed those babies while they were eating. The otter in front has a real baby on her tummy, and so sweetly petted her every now and then.

All I wonder if which seagull got in the last squawk! Farewell to one and all. Another adventure ended, a new one soon to begin.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

 Last week I drove up to Big Sur, California, to join the celebration for my niece's wedding. After driving endless hours on the I-5, I headed west on Hwy 46 which took me over to Cambria. The barren mountains on 46 were topped with clouds that gave them almost a purple glow.
 On the way up Hwy 1 towards Big Sur, it is nothing but curves and rugged coastline. Just outside of San Simeon, there is a rookery for Elephant Seals. I stopped to watch them, but they weren't moving much. Just the occasional wave and that was about it.
 The only seals on shores were juveniles that were molting, and their main purpose was just to lie there and grow new skin. I thought they were huge, but the docent  said they were only about 1/3 the size of an adult. In January, the Big Daddys come in to town and have their Beach Master competitions. A sight to see, or so I am told.
 Our three group campsites overlooked Sand Dollar Beach. One evening I walked down to the bluffs and shot these pictures of the sun setting over Sand Dollar Cove. A beautiful moment alone, in the quietness of an early evening.
  The setting sun turned the hillside redorange, but only for a few moments. The beaches were nearly empty, and the smell of sage and salt were in the air.
My sister Judy and her husband Tom joined me on long walks down to the ocean. The whole trip was totally awesome. I loved every minute; well almost every minute. I didn't exactly love the gopher burrowing under my tent in the middle of the night, or the pit toilets or the drunk guys arguing politics until 3 in the morning right outside my tent! But I did love them all when they were sober and happy and teasing me about shouting at them to shut up!

 The beaches are full of rocks, one of my favorite things. Rock sculptures led the way to Jade Cove, where the rocks shine green and blue in the sun. A giant treasure chest!
 A few hardy flowers bloom along the coast. The California Morning Glory, is a fragile white flower with purple hues that grows on a hardy vine. It was popping up everywhere on the bluffs and trails down to the beach.  
That would be me, sitting at the table, happy as can be.
Nick, my niece Michele and her son Mikah, Love you guys and wish you all the best.
 The morning of the wedding was absolutely perfect. It was pleasant weather, clear ocean views and stunning vistas. We walked as a group over to the bluff, and on the way I shot this view of the ocean. Amazing color and unending beauty.
My niece, Michele, coming down the trail with her dad, Tom, looking so absolutely gorgeous!
Michele and Nick, with Michele's son Mikah, getting ready to say their vows.
 A tearful moment, exchanging the rings.
 An awesome 4 piece Bluegrass band played during the wedding and also at the reception! My sister Judy and her husband Tom, looking mighty fine for the camera!
An old friend of the family, Craig, came up for the wedding and has a big smile for me in this picture. Love you Craig!
 Me and Tom and Judy, best of friends. Love you guys!
Michele looked so lovely in her wedding dress with her brilliant rainbow of flowers.
 
After 5 days in Big Sur, I finally headed home. I stooped in Ragged Pt for a cup of coffee, a moment of contemplation overlooking the water, and a very nice conversation with a man sitting next to me.
It took me 13 hours to get home and by the time I got in bed, I swore I would never travel again. After Ragged Point, I stopped at Hearst Memorial State Beach and went treasure hunting. That was really fun.
 Then I had to stop at Sebastian's and check out the general store. Took this cool picture of this old house, maybe a church, and when I got home,  noticed that Hearst Castle is up on the mountain behind the spire of the house. You might be able to see it if you are young and have good eyes.
 Two beautiful horses were roaming the meadow outside the house. This one came up to me and it was obvious he wanted something. I ran to my car and got an apple and he ate it right out of my hand. He had such big teeth and lips. After feeding the horse, I stopped in Cambria to buy succulents and drink coffee. After that I stopped 4 or 5 more times until I finally rolled in to my house about 11:30 pm. By midnight I was clean, warm and cozy, and well on my way to dreamland. Well that's the end of my story. Hope you are all well and happy. May God bless you and keep you and grant you your hearts desire. Susan Little

Copyright©2009 Susan Little, thecampingqueen72@yahoo.com. All rights reserved. Use of photos requires written permission.