March 29, 2016 by Deborah W. Trotter
Earlier this month we made our second visit to Pinnacles National Park. California was being drenched by much-needed rainstorms, but according to the weather forecast, there would be a precipitation-free window for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, the perfect time for a getaway.
As we approached the Park, the rain and clouds did indeed give way to some sunshine and blue sky. By the time we were heading up the trail to the High Peaks, we had a gorgeous afternoon stretching before us despite the dark clouds hanging around in the distance. We willed them to stay there. Unlike two years ago this same weekend when we first hiked up Condor Gulch to the High Peaks (you can read that blog here), this time the creeks were flowing, the waterfall was tumbling, and the temperature was in the 50’s. A proper March afternoon in this part of California.
It became clear as we hiked that the Indian paintbrush was trying to take over the Park. It was everywhere in beautiful orangey bunches. Other types of wildflowers brightened our way, as well,
and when we got high enough up to see more of the Park, the lush greenness of the hills created a stunning contrast with the colorful rock formations in view. We were loving every moment of our hike. If we could just see some California condors, that would be the cherry on top of this glorious day!
It turns out that condors don’t like day after day of rain any more than most humans do. By the time we had hiked up to the back side of the High Peaks, the sun had been shining long enough to establish its dominance of the afternoon’s weather, and the condors had taken to the skies, perhaps in celebration, certainly to dry out their feathers. We saw well over a dozen of them, soaring and diving, landing and sunning on nearby high rocks, perfectly oblivious of the few pesky humans on the trail below. It was an amazing spectacle, making an already memorable day into an unforgettable one.
We watched the birds for as long as we could before we had to continue back down the loop trail, mindful of the time and the weather. On the drive home later that evening, the rain returned. Timing really is everything!