Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, and Safety for Those on the Road (Plus new pictures from Pinnacles National Park)

Here's hoping that you all have a fine Thanksgiving holiday and that your travels are safe and fun. I offer up one of the things that I am truly thankful for: politicians that put aside their many differences and agreed to establish Pinnacles National Park in 2013.

Pinnacles National Park has provided us with our picture of a turkey for this Thanksgiving season (my own little holiday tradition). I doubt this one will be gracing anyone's table, as he was well inside the boundaries of the park. Maybe a coyote's, but this one looked like it wasn't going to take any crap from anyone.

Pinnacles has been one of my most dependable localities for seeing Wild Turkeys (which are not exactly a native species, but they have become naturalized in this region). I've seen dozens at a time there. The turkeys can be seen throughout the Coast Ranges. It's not well-known, but the Wild Turkey was almost hunted to oblivion a century ago. Aggressive efforts at conservation and introduction of captured wild birds to new regions (including California) brought them back.

A few years back, I caught a bit of a conflict, a love triangle if you will, in Morro Bay.

Pinnacles National Park is a beautiful place with fascinating geology. Look for a couple of posts soon from our recent trip there. I took a new trail, the Six Bridges Nature Trail in Lower Bear Gulch. It was a nice creekside walk with more rocky outcrops than I was expecting.

Short story of the geology at Pinnacles: it's half of a large composite rhyolitic volcano that has been deeply eroded. Where the other half is today is part of the exciting story. The rest is the idea that you can wander around in the middle of volcano in the Central California Coast Ranges. Compare this to the fact that you can walk on a volcano in the California Cascades, or you that you can walk under a volcano in Yosemite Valley.

Because of springs, the water is present in at least parts of Bear Gulch all year long. There is even a native fish in the creek, the Three-spined Stickleback (I looked but couldn't find any). Native ferns fill the valley floor in a few places, shaded by California's ubiquitous riverside tree, the Sycamore.





It's a poor picture, but an exciting sight. As I finished the hike in the Gulch, I spied a large bird in the sky. I was thrilled when I realized it was a California Condor. The bird was nearly extinct in the late 1970s (22 individuals), so in desperation, the remaining wild condors were captured and put into captive breeding program. It's been a success, as there are more than 400 birds today, with more than half living in the wild. Pinnacles was the site of an important milestone this year, as a chick fledged from a nest in the park for the first time in 120 years.

Pinnacles is a treasure. If you ever have a chance to explore central California, be sure to add it to your itinerary! In the meantime, have a safe and happy time wherever you may be. I'll be on the road, so posts may be scarce.