Posts Tagged: California

Condors, a swimming pool and wasp stings

  • Tom on the Condor Gulch Trail in Pinnacles National Park.

On our second day at Pinnacles National Park, we hiked up Condor Gulch, a one-mile hike to a viewpoint of the peaks from which this park takes its name. We started at 8 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day, and were rewarded with the sight of two condors, their huge wingspans taking them over the pinnacles like something from the dinosaur age. Condors have a wingspan of 9 1/2 feet, and can soar at 55 miles per hour at an altitude of 15,000 feet.

Along the trail, we passed berries we’d never seen, sugar and ponderosa pines, all suffering from climate warming, some carved into Swiss cheese by industrious woodpeckers, and their holes utilized by squirrels to hide acorns for the winter. We also saw colorful lichen on the sedimentary outcroppings, volcanic towers, bees and wasps. The park has 400 species of bees, the largest diversity of bees in a single place in North America. Dozens of hawks circled in the updrafts around the pinnacles.

Signs along the trail remind hikers to carry first aid, water and food, and be prepared to take care of themselves. There is no cell coverage anywhere in the park.

Tom, the mountain goat, hoofed on another three-quarters of a mile to the top of a ridge where the Blue Oaks Trail extends to higher portions of the park.

At the viewpoint, I talked to some German tourists, making a quick turnaround to head toward the Balconies trail on the other side of the park, a popular trail we have put on our “next time” list, a list that’s so long, it will, most certainly, outlast us.

Back at the campground, we took advantage of the pool (Yes. A pool in a national park.) to cool off our heat-beat bodies. As we lolled in the water, talking to a woman who’s a park ranger from Marin County, I was stung by a wasp, trapped in the water by his wet wings. Serious firepower. My hip is still throbbing.

We took advantage of the free showers, preserving our water supply (see previous post), and bought some internet from the camp store, the only place to get any connectivity in the park. We texted mom, Nancy and Nate to make sure everyone was still alive, and to assure them we were.

Happy with the status quo, we rolled back to our shady spot by the stream, where the water gurgles, California scrub-jays flit by, deers meander munching shrubs, and the most buff squirrels I’ve ever seen hopscotch from live oaks to California bays like on a racetrack.

We wondered how, in our nine years going from Arizona to the Pacific coast annually, we had failed to stop here before. It will never happen again.

Tomorrow: On to Carmel. Hard living, but someone has to do it.

Big Sur: Our semi-wild life and semi-crisis in this semi-wilderness

  • The Big Sur coastline, fog rolling in.

When I think of Big Sur, it is the wild radish I will always remember.

The crunch of it in my mouth, similar to the texture of a radish, but a milder, sweeter flavor.

A wilder flavor.