Monday, February 20, 2012

habitat ~ 02/20/12 ~ Pinnacles National Monument - west

Pinnacles National Monument - west entrance
February 20, 2012

Every year we seem to head to Pinnacles a little earlier. I was impressed with the surprisingly bold winter colors. The soft green of the gray pines was offset by the deep red of the dried buckwheats and the bright orange of the willow stalks. All these colors were continued on the multicolored breccia rocks, which were also often covered with colorful lichen, mosses, and stonecrops. I joked with Andy that if I were a painter, I wouldn't need too many different tubes of paint to do plants and rocks.

Speaking of rocks, the geology of Pinnacles is incredible. Based on the unique rocks and the infamous San Andreas Fault, geologists believe Pinnacles originated 195 miles southeast of its current location. The new west entrance visitor center has an interpretive sign that stated Pinnacles continues to move northward at a rate of almost 2 inches a year, about the same rate as human fingernail growth. Wild.

This is my standard shot from the parking lot that I include in every habitat post for Pinnacles west entrance. I like being able to visually compare seasonal and yearly variations. I tried so hard to get a picture without children in it, but I would have waited a long time. We have never seen so many kids at the park. They all seemed to be about grades 2-6. There must have been some kind program for the holiday weekend, because many of them had Junior Ranger books.

Only a few flowers were starting to show themselves. There were lots of CA milkmaids, patches of padres' shootingstars, and tiny fiddlenecks. I spotted a single blue butterfly and a couple small brown butterflies, but I was unable to get close enough for positive IDs. There are seven species of lycaenids that have been recorded for February, so my seeing them was not too unusual.

Goodbye, Pinnacles. We'll probably see you again real soon for a camping excursion from the east entrance! It still amazes me that these incredible, massive rock structures are hidden behind rolling hills. I'm guessing most people who drive Highway 101 never even know of their existence.

ps - I'm including this last pic with the barn, because it was just around the bend from where I saw a barn owl. Is this its home?


Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Every time you do a post on the Pinnacles I think I need to go back as it has been way too long since I was there last. I once read that the Point Reyes peninsula was once part of the Tehachapi mountain range west of Mojave. Amazing how the earth moves. Thank you for promoting the anti CPATCHA movement. Together we will stop the madness. I removed the "anonymous" option from my comments settings and have not received any SPAM crap since. Only registered users can comment and it seems to work.

Jennifer said...

It's been over a decade since I have been to the pinnacles. This was an interesting post.

Cindy said...

wow, that second photo is freakingly beautiful. that place exists? You photographed it? Kids go there? I've been there lots . . . thanks for the reminder to schedule a spring hike to the Pin.

Susan said...

Love the desert landscapes of the west- knowing there's so much more there than initially meets the eye. Time for another trip south I think!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

I'm glad this post reminds people to make another visit.

John, Point Reyes originated from the Tehachapis? I guess that would make sense given the distance Pinnacles has moved. As for the spam, half of what I get have fake names and are not anonymous. I'm hoping google fixes things, because I preferred pop-up windows for comments.

Jennifer, we should go together sometime.

Cindy, are you making fun? It always amazes me how many tiny kids I see on the High Peaks Trail; it doesn't seem safe for them.

Ha, Susan, from where you're from, I'm sure this seems like a desert. I consider it mostly chaparral, which has a little bit more rainfall.