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Wild Flowers

Pinnacles National Monument, California

Wildflowers

Pinnacles National Monument is the spectacular remains of an ancient volcano. It rises out of the Gabilan Mountains, east of central California's Salinas Valley, south of the Bay Area. From Oakland to the west entrance of the Pinnacles is 131 miles or 2 hours and 15 minutes drive. And it sure is worth the drive. Millions of years of erosion, faulting, and tectonic plate movement has carved massive rock monoliths, spires, sheer-walled canyons, and dark cavernous passages. The place is magnificent with hiking trails to suit every kind of hiker from the serious to just a stroller.

Massive rock monoliths

This time of year is the time to visit as the wildflowers are out in their full glory. And of course there are the condors. The area has been a part of the California Condor Recovery Program since 2003. There are some 26 condors in the park today. These magnificent birds almost went extinct and their recovery shows we are not only destroyers, but restorers as well. The condors are still not home-safe yet so biologists ensure that they choose safe roosting sites, find feeding areas, and stay away from hazards such as lead-contaminated food and power poles. I spotted two condors on my visit.

Wildflowers

I flew my airplane from Oakland Airport to Salinas Airport, which is a 40 minute flight. Then I picked up a rental car and drove the half hour to the west entrance of the Pinnacles National Monument via the sleepy little town of Soledad. From here I took SR-146 to the park. I hiked the Juniper Canyon loop trail. This is an 8.5 mile loop that climbs 1,500 feet into the stunning beauty of the granite monoliths. It is like walking through a humongous sculpture garden trimmed with the yellows, whites, blues, and purples of wildflowers. If you have not visited this wonderful place you are really missing a life opportunity.

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