Monthly Archives: May 2016

7 More National Parks and California Condors (continued)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Yosemite Falls - the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, drops a total of 2,425 feet.

Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, drops a total of 2,425 feet.

Monday, April 25 – Hike through Talus Caves

We left Three Rivers, CA yesterday for the 168 mile drive west to Pinnacles National Park. All of my paper maps list Pinnacles as a National Monument however it’s since been upgraded to a National Park as of January 2013. It’s a small park by national park standards and, unbeknownst to us before we arrived, home to the California Condor.

Pinnacles National Park lies along the San Andreas fault about 130 miles southeast of San Fransisco. The fault line combined with ancient volcanic activity has produced a series of talus caves or caves formed between boulders piled up on mountain slopes. This sounds intriguing so we leave T&E in the motorhome and head for the Bear Gulch Cave Trail.

Cindy approaches the entrance to the first talus cave. Per the trail guide, a flashlight is required on this hike.

Cindy approaches the entrance to the first talus cave. Per the trail guide, a flashlight is required on this hike.

Down this path and to the left lies the entrance to another talus cave along the Bear Gulch Cave Trail.

Down this path and to the left lies the entrance to another talus cave on the Bear Gulch Cave Trail.

While passing through the talus caves, I see boulders suspended overhead and held in place by  nothing more than the sloping walls on either side of the trail. Being atop the San Andreas fault, I can’t help but think what would happen should an earthquake occur at this very moment. Cindy does not like caves, so I keep these thoughts to myself.

At many spots along the trail, sunlight makes its way through openings between the boulders.  I’ll be glad when we make it out of here.

At many spots along the trail, sunlight makes its way through openings between the boulders. I’ll be glad when we make it out of here.

Tuesday, April 26 – We see Condors!

Obviously we survived yesterday’s hike through the talus caves. For most of today, we simply hang around the campsite doing chores. According to the volunteer ranger at the visitors center, there’s a good chance we’ll be able to see California Condors flying over the surrounding mountains once the winds die down later this afternoon.

Around 6 PM, I make my customary cocktail and set up my big camera lens next to the motorhome. It doesn’t take long before we see them. Wildlife photography does not have to be difficult.

For over an hour, Cindy and I watched 4 condors soar back and forth over the mountains above our campsite. I was able to photograph 2 flying close together with my 800mm f5.6 lens.

For over an hour, Cindy and I watched 4 condors soar back and forth over the mountains above our campsite. I was able to photograph 2 flying close together with my 800mm f5.6 lens.

Interesting California Condor facts:

  • With only 230 in the wild, the California Condor is one of the rarest birds in the world.
  • They are among the largest of flying birds with a wingspan approaching 10 feet.
  • Like Turkey vultures, they eat carrion including that from dead animals left behind by hunters and poachers. Lead poisoning from spent ammunition is the number one cause of death among condors.
  • At a distance, condors can be distinguished from their cousin the turkey vulture by the white band that extends along the underside of their wings. Unlike the turkey vulture, a condor’s tail spans out info a fan shape.
  • The average lifespan of a condor is 60 years.
While Cindy and I watched the condors, T&E were entertained by the California Ground Squirrels scampering around our campsite.

While Cindy and I watched the condors, T&E were entertained by the California Ground Squirrels scampering around our campsite.

Thursday, April 28 – Yosemite National Park

Because of trademark dispute, the famous Ahwahnee Hotel (opened in 1927) was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel just a few weeks prior to our arrival.

Because of a trademark dispute, the famous Ahwahnee Hotel (opened in 1927) was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel just a few weeks prior to our arrival.

After spending 3 nights at Pinnacles National Park, we drove 200 miles northeast to Yosemite National Park. Campground reservations within the park are difficult to get so we’re staying at Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails RV park a few miles outside the park. At $66/night, it’s the most we’ve ever spent on a campsite. If we had our Airstream, we would have had other options but unfortunately there’s only a few campgrounds around here that are big-rig friendly.

Cindy and I treated ourselves to lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Cindy and I treated ourselves to lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

The scenery around Yosemite Valley is unbelievable. Melting snow in the spring creates magnificent waterfalls in the surrounding mountains.

Cindy and T&E walk the boardwalk trails across one of the meadows in Yosemite Valley.

Cindy and T&E walk the boardwalk trails across one of the meadows in Yosemite Valley.

Even though we’re here in April, the park is full of visitors. I can’t imagine what this place must be like in summer when the kids are out of school.

I take a bunch of color photographs but in the Ansel Adams’ spirit, I find them most pleasing when converted to B&W (click on a photo to enlarge and click here to see how I made these using Lightroom):

Half Dome as seen from Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome as seen from Yosemite Valley.

View of the surrounds mountains within Yosemite Valley.

View of the surrounds mountains within Yosemite Valley.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather