Friday, March 25, 2016

Wildflowers of Pinnacles

Goldfields surround California Buckwheat with Machete Ridge in the distance

On the first day of Spring, my wife and I set out in search of wildflowers and adventure. We found both at Pinnacles, the newest National Park (2013), just 100 miles from our house.

The adventure came in the form of some unexpected spelunking at Balconies Cave, located along the Balconies Cave trail. Thanks to recent rains, the entrance to the cave was a stream. Fortunately, we were both wearing somewhat waterproof shoes.

Trail leading to Balconies cave
The cave required a headlamp and some courage, as it was pitch black and filled with slick water-soaked rocks. Unfortunately, I had no headlamp and was carrying a large camera and Nalgene bottle; not an ideal setup for navigating a damp dark passage. Thanks to a borrowed flashlight, we managed to work our way through the short but harrowing "trail" through the cave, emerging on the other side with pulled muscles and soaked shoes and socks. It's Hell getting old!

The remainder of Balconies Cave trail was a pleasant stroll through vibrant wildflower-filled meadows, cool moist canyons and along ridges adjacent to majestic rock formations. We were treated to a wonderful variety of wildflowers and beautiful blue skies.

Here is a sampling of what we saw along the trail:

Goldfields forever

Buck brush (Ceanothus)

Indian paintbrush and fiddlenecks

California poppies and Gilia

California buttercup in the shadow of ancient Oaks
California buttercup (Ranunculus californicus) up close and personal

Party time! Blue and White Fiesta flowers mingling with fiddlenecks

Miner's lettuce, thriving in cool moist shade
Miner's lettuce close-up

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