Thursday, July 30, 2009

Black-backed Woodpecker Surveys 2009. Part 05

I left you at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pinnacles National Monument

My plan for the day was to continue south to Pinnacles National Monument. I got there around 1:00 p.m. and it, too, was crowded because of Father’s Day weekend. I wanted to get away from the hoi polloi, so picked a hike I thought might be less populated. It was incredibly hot (the opposite of Point Reyes’ windy cool), so I planned a short one. There were plenty of people at the start, but they thinned out as I kept going and going and going. I had meant to keep it short, but I was enthralled. Pinnacles was an amazing place. The reddish rocks were beautiful and jutted out in incredible volcanic formations.

The Pinnacles.

This volcanic breccia matches rocks from near Lancaster, CA, 195 miles to the south, and geologists were stumped until the theory of plate tectonics was developed. Pinnacles is sliding north on the Pacific Plate along the San Andreas Fault. My one-hour hike turned into four, but was worth it. I saw some beautiful landscapes, as well as a Prairie Falcon. And, the last few hours I barely saw anyone. Probably because it was infernally hot and no one was stupid enough to be out! I managed to stay comfortable by drinking a lot of water; it was easy to refill at the rangers stations and I had an extra bottle for safety. Another great thing about Pinnacles was its manageable size; it was a place a human could wrap her head around. I bet you could hike the entire park in a day. Also, there were “caves” to hike through, which were refreshingly cool.

Entrance to Balconies Cave.

People in front of me at Balconies Cave.

They aren't really caves. They are enclosures made by talus.

View up a canyon.

Can you say Poison Oak? It was everywhere.
The steep section of my climb. I was glad for the steps and rails.

Sometimes it was a narrow squeeze.
When I left at 6 p.m. my mission was to find a place to stay for the night. I wanted to get to a motel near the Fresno airport, where I had to meet Bob at 8 a.m. Monday. I had budgeted for a room because I wanted to have a decent night of rest before I went out in the field again.

Heading East
I took a quiet county road towards Fresno. There was a place called Mercey Hot Springs on my map, and, if I wasn’t too tired, I was going to stop and see what it was like. I was getting tired, though, so doubted I’d stay. I made the left turn to the springs; it was in the middle of a desolate nowhere, and I almost missed it. The guy at registration barely looked me in the eye as I peppered him with questions. This was kind of creepy. He spoke with an Eastern European accent. It didn’t seem like there were a lot of people around either, all of which led me to play out every horror movie scenario I had ever seen. There was some noise from a house on the property – obviously where the family who owned the place lived. The clerk showed me around as the day sweltered to an end; I wanted to have a look before I committed myself to my fate. It was quaintly shabby, yet all the bathing areas looked spotless. I could get a cute, stand-alone cabin (bed!) for a price I was willing to pay. And, there was a pool and individual tubs and a sauna. My aching body was up for that. Plus, it was getting late and sunset was coming. I was tired, and the dark county road drive and airport hotel waiting at the end of it became increasingly unappealing. Perhaps the house was full of a slew of blood-sucking Transylvanian relatives that would soon be out (the sun was setting!), but I tamped down my overactive imagination and handed over my credit card.

It was all great, though. I repacked. I had sprawled all over the car, so this took a while. I ate. The sun set, the heat dissipated and it became gentle and still, the encroaching dark enticing many animals to stir. I filled up one of the tubs – I had the whole area to myself –and laid back to enjoy the dusk and the brightening stars. A Great Horned Owl flew over and I saw lots of hopping rabbits. (Their death by owl talons perhaps the only blood-letting that happened that evening.) At first the water seemed too cool, but then I realized it was the perfect temperature; I did not feel hot or cold, but was in a lovely equilibrium, floating in a haze of liquid warmth.

Registration and warnings.

The cabin.

The tubs.

Mineral water makes my wedding band turn gold. It's almost like the real thing.

The next morning I drove the 1 ½ hours to Fresno to meet Bob. He was early, so was I. Ten more days to go!

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