Coordinates: 36.481456, -121.181377
Length: 6 miles
The High Peaks of Pinnacles National Park can be seen from Hwy 101 when passing the town of Soledad. The stand out, strange, beautiful, and alluring. Last April, on the second day of my solo post Spring Break vacation time, I hiked a wonderful loop trail going up Condor Gulch, ascending the High Peaks trail from north, and descending through Bear Gulch Reservoir and Cave.
Old Pinnacles to the Balconies, making it back with very little daylight to spare. Not wanting to have to race my trail again I was out by the trailhead really early. I took the time to have my breakfast there and then hoisted my day pack and started up the trail. It is a nice ascend: a good, clean and easy trail, that's not very steep, yet constantly ascending. I walked slow, appreciating the views.
|Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus)|
|Star Thistle (Centaurea sp.) Not native.|
Whenever I see a hole in a rock I wonder what's living in there. Usually it's too dark for me to see, and not always I have the time or patience to wait until I see something goes in or out.
|Venus Thistle (Cirsium occidentale var. venustum)|
The remains of an old, eroded volcano, the colorful rock formations stand against the sky in stubborn defiance of all the erosion forces, a geological testament of the forces in action in the Earth's mantle.
Standing out in soil composition, height and climate, the Pinnacles make a unique and fascinating ecosystem combining riparian, chaparral, and rock face and scree.
And rock face and scree is not usually a place where one expects to see ferns. The Pallaea, however, had evolved to fit these conditions, which are too extreme for other fern genera.
Chaparral comprises of several dominant bush species that vary between geographical areas. In the Pinnacles, chamise and manzanita are most dominant chaparral species, but other bushes make a strong appearance as well. Like the beautiful bush poppy that was in full bloom at the time of my hike.
Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida)
|Indian Warrior (Pedicularis densifolia)|
|Bitter Root (Lewisia rediviva)|
I made my way between these Nature's statues, quietly naming them, allowing my imagination to spin plots with their characters.
|Purple Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla)|
|Larkspur (Delphinium sp.)|
the Balconies when entering from the west side of the park. The one time I had hiked to the High Peaks was from that side, 17 years ago.
|Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida) at the High Peaks|
And so I had more altitude to gain.
|High Peaks: A view to the southwest|
I progressed slowly through a series of rock-curved stairs and terrifyingly narrow trails hanging over sheer cliffs with only a single-bar rail to hold on too at some parts. The trail took me up the highest pinnacles and in between the most striking pillars of rock. I touched each and every one of them, and wondered if there's any social status for the 'Rock Hugger' I had become.
And all at a good time too, because the sun was already going west.
And on the critters that pollinate them.
|Holly-leaved Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia), with a bee|
|March Zigadene (Toxicoscordion fontanum)|
|Grass Blazingstar (Mentzelia gracilenta)|
Down and down I hiked, heading southeast towards Bear gulch. I left the High Peaks Loop and its south end and then the slope steepened considerably.
|Yellow Whispering Bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora)|
|Chaparral Snapdragon (Antirrhinum multiflorum)|
Down, down, down. The trail meandering around the mountain curves, between rock formations, and in one case: right through the rock.
A few bushes with purple branch tips grabbed my attention. On close inspection I saw that the purple tips were covered with dense, woolly threads. On first impression it looked to me just like some kind of fancy fungus infestation. But it was way too regular to be that. This is how the budding inflorescence of the woolly bluecurls bush look like. And a fitting name it has!
|Woolly Bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum)|
But the shadows are growing longer. I knew I wouldn't be able to rest there for long. I pushed on forward.
A busy chipmunk crossed the trail a few time, keeping a cautious distance from me.
The vegetation on south-facing slope, if not exposed rock, was mostly chaparral. The bushes were blooming furiously. And so were the herbaceous plants.
|Chaparral Clarkia (Clarkia affinis)|
|Bear Gulch Reservoir|
I am posting one photo from my passage through the cave, and that is of a rock pigeon couple, checking out a potential nesting site.
I returned to the campsite with enough daylight to walk around a look at birds :-)
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants society for their help in identifying plants and enhancing my knowledge of them!