Plants, Stone, California Landscapes



Machete Ridge, Pinnacles National Monument

Machete Ridge, Pinnacles National Monument

Strange winter, eh? We thought for sure we’d be skiing this month, but it has been hiking and climbing weather instead. Last weekend we went to Pinnacles National Monument. We had been there once before about ten years ago but only made it as far as the parking lot before it started raining and we had to go somewhere else to climb. (Pinnacles is famous for being crumbly, especially when wet, and you don’t want to break off the a key hold and transform a classic climb into something harder.) The rock is volcanic breccia, lava mixed with chunks of other rock picked up during the eruption. It’s originally from a volcano 180 miles south, and slowly moved north along the San Andreas fault to its present location. Even with the rock dry, I found it hard to feel confident that the chunks of conglomerate sticking out of the cliff were going to hold my weight. Though, of course, everything held. We did several short climbs, but mostly we checked out the scenery, the crags, the manzanitas (A. glauca) in bloom, the talus caves (tunnels beneath massive boulders piled in the narrow gorges, very cool), and for one moment several condors drifting over head (a good page on ID’ing them here, a couple of nice photos here). I’ve now seen both Andean and California condors. Not sure if that has caché in the birding world but it makes me happy.

Ridge above Bear Gulch

Tiburcios X


Some of the rock and manzanita pairings reminded me of things we’ve tried to do in some of our naturalistic plantings, except of course on a much bigger scale. Rocks and manzanita go so perfectly together, as classic as any traditional companion planting.


The Ignorables, Bear Gulch

And a patch of shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. patulum per Katie at NatureID) was my first wildflower sighting of the year.

Shooting Stars, Dodecatheon sp.

Tags: ,

12 Responses to “Pinnacles”

  1. January 30th, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Katie says:

    Pinnacles is amazing, isn’t it? Totally unexpected and hidden behind rolling, grassy hills. Did you use the East entrance and see the “Tourist Trap” climber access sign? We’ve never seen a condor there, but we like to pretend the turkey vultures are condors. I appreciate how you’re okay presenting a plant without a positive species ID. Shootingstars were my first spring wildflowers this year, too. If it helps any, the Pinnacles plant lists only Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. patulum (which I think your pic is) and D. hendersonii (has an all, deep purple bill).

  2. January 30th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Town Mouse says:

    Pinnacles is amazing, I totally agree. And you even so the condors? Even better. I so hope I’ll make it down there some day this spring…

  3. January 30th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    ryan says:

    @Katie We came in from the east, though we hiked to the other side. We were right there at the ranger station at Bear Gulch when we saw the condors. They were up there a bit but still pretty awesome. Thanks for the shooting star ID. I’ve always been too lazy to distinguish between them.

    @Townmouse It’s a great park. We were hugely impressed, and then seeing condors was icing.

  4. January 30th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    lostlandscape (James) says:

    I’m ambivalent about zoos, but our local zoo has been instrumental in reintroducing the condors to the wilds after raising them in their “condorminum” (as they call it). So they’re doing some good. Even though the zoo is nearby I haven’t seen any wild birds around here or anywhere. I’d definitely call it a major bonus to a cool outing.

  5. January 30th, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    ryan says:

    Yeah, I agree about zoos. Apparently, a raised in captivity condor doesn’t count for a birding life list, but I was sure happy to see them. It would have been a tragedy if there had been no California condors in California.

  6. February 7th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Adelaide says:

    Nice post on Pinnacles. We are thinking of going there soon because Spring has sped up so much here in San Mateo county in the past 10 days.

    Do you happen to know of anyone else who blogs about Pinnacles and its current wildflowers in bloom list? It is hard to get through to the rangers, as we know. Bless their hearts, it’s amazing they ever have time to answer the phone.

    We can share this: Last year, it was on March 22nd that we were there and found swaths of shooting stars and most everything else in bloom, especially on the trail down from the heights to the Old Pinnacles Trail parking area.


  7. February 7th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    ryan says:

    I bet the park was amazing last March. I don’t know of a website showing what is in bloom at Pinnacles. There is one for Henry Coe state park, which would probably give you a reasonable idea for Pinnacles. TownmouseandCountryMouse did a post about wildflowers at Pinnacles last fall and NatureID has posted photos from there too, but they’re the only other bloggers I’ve seen posting about that park.

  8. February 8th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Brad says:

    Wow the park looks amazing. I haven’t been yet. I’ll have to go this spring. And shooting stars are one of my favorite wildflowers. Condors? Incredible. As for zoos, it depends on the zoo. The San Diego Zoo always impressed me, even as a kid on how comfortable they tried to make the animals and all of their breeding programs to reintroduce endangered animals. The LA Zoo always made me kinda sad.

  9. February 9th, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Alice Joyce says:

    Thank you for the tour. Indeed, this has been the most unusual winter since I moved West some 12 years ago. I’ve yet to visit the Pinnacles, and must add it to the sublime natural settings on my bucket list.
    And another note of thanks for listing Bay Area Tendrils. I’ve added Dry Stone Garden to my ‘Bevy of Blogs’ page.
    Looks like another glorious day today!
    aka Bay Area Tendrils & Alice’s Garden Travel Buzz

  10. February 12th, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Byddi Lee says:

    Fantastic park. I was there in November 2009 and we saw a lot of tarantulas and a swarm of lady bugs – very cool place.

  11. February 13th, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    ryan says:

    @Alice, glad to be in the bevy. Glorious is the right word for the weather we’ve been having, though I’m glad to see some rain finally on the way.

    @Byddi, I saw a swarm too, though a small one. Didn’t know they had tarantulas

  12. March 7th, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Katie says:

    Thanks for the blog mention, Ryan. For Adelaide if she hasn’t been yet, I can provide a fairly decent bloom list from March 4. I’d suggest waiting another couple weeks to go visit if anyone is wanting to explore the best of the unique wildflowers and caves of Pinnacles.

Leave a Reply