At the Pinnacle[s]

Pinnacles National ParkLast weekend we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service by visiting Pinnacles National Park. To be honest, we didn’t realize it was the 100th anniversary until after we’d already made plans to go camping there. We just happened to pick the anniversary weekend.

Pinnacles only became a national park in 2013, but President Theodore Roosevelt designated it a national monument in 1908, so it goes back to the early days of setting aside park space in the U.S. The landscape itself is a little older than that — 23 million years old. It was born of volcano eruptions, then split down the center by the San Andreas Fault. The peaks that now form Pinnacles then traveled 195 miles along the fault to their present location. The rest of the rocks are still in Southern California.

caveCaves are a key feature of the park. The thing that fascinated me most about the caves is that that they were formed by jumbles of rocks falling into place. You can see that erosion may cause them to shift. Bats live in these caves.

stairsThis stairway leads out of the bat caves. It was built by workers for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. In fact, a lot of the facilities at Pinnacles were built by the CCC.

At the top of the stairs is a reservoir. Last Saturday lots of people took a break from hiking there. We saw people of all ages — we weren’t the oldest folks exploring the park and there were lots of small children.

Both on the trails and at the campground where we stayed we also saw people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. I heard people speaking Chinese (my sweetheart said it was Mandarin, but I’m not good enough to distinguish that from Cantonese), French, Spanish, and all kinds of English.

Some of the people were tourists, but most were Americans out enjoying our natural heritage. A camping trip is a reasonably cheap family vacation and there were also groups of people in the late teens and twenties out camping in groups.

Rock climbing is a popular activity at the Pinnacles. We were amused by the name for one climbing area: Tourist Trap.Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap signThe Tourist Trap rocks were quite attractive, though I was content to look at them and did not consider climbing them. Rock climbing, along with jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and tightrope walking, is not on my bucket list.

We hiked through the park all day on Saturday, but that just provided an introduction. We plan to go back and hike up the higher peaks so that we’ll have a shot at seeing the condors that live up there. And then there are a number of other trails through this amazing bit of geology.

As we sat over dinner on Saturday night, we felt the earth move. Literally. There was a small (3.4) earthquake about 15 miles away (we looked it up later). I’m not sure anyone else noticed it — certainly not the small children who were running around at the next campsite enjoying the pleasures of being outside.

But it was a definite reminder that we were right on top of the San Andreas Fault. The rocks at the Pinnacles may look immovable, but they were formed by all the activity that goes on just under the surface of this planet. Nothing on Earth is fixed in stone. Including stone.




At the Pinnacle[s] — 6 Comments

  1. Those are lovely photos. Small quake outside–best way to experience them, if one must.

    • Thanks for the compliment. Amazing the pictures you can get with a smartphone standing in the sun with enough glare that you have to trust the focus notice on the screen and just shoot and hope it’s good.

      And I’d be quite satisfied to avoid feeling any earthquakes at all, but the more I travel around the West Coast, the more I understand just how unstable the Earth really is. So yes, small and outside is the way to go.

  2. My wife and son were there recently. Got to see — and photograph — four condors.

    If you’re going to head up higher next time, be sure to take plenty of water. It’s not like there are drinking fountains up there.

    • Oh, yeah. We went through three liters of water between the two of us just going through the caves and part-way up the Peaks trail. And it wasn’t near as hot as it usually gets there.