Rhyolite, Paloma, Chas, and Moon

During the second day at Pinnacles, we arrived around 11am, full of burritos snagged in Tres Pinos.  I packed in a nice warm wool blanket, dried meats, oranges, cheeses, apples, cucumbers, salt, and chocolate for Paloma.  We made good time through the talus caves, the boys carrying their lanterns to see.    The hike is a riparian delight–cool, mossy, and speckled light.

Our plan was simple:  Picnic and let the kids run amok in the talus and scree for hours, allowing them to find their own spaces for play, with eventual exhaustion.  After the cave exit, the reservoir presents itself–a perfect place to picnic and explore.  We spread the blanket, ate all the cucumbers, and Chas powered through yet another burrito (utilizing a fine Chas Pattern instance).

Then we split up.  I grabbed my tripod and a few rolls of 50 and 100.  The boys headed to the reservoir, and Jolene climbed about.  Eventually, I headed up the cliffs, and the boys seemed to follow, each finding their own way towards me.  I captured many great views, and I’ll share a few.  Here’s one of my favorites where Chas climbed a deceivingly tall rhyolite formation, Paloma followed, and I scrambled up below to align them with the Moon.  Glad I did.

On rhyolite:

Rhyolite can be considered as the extrusive equivalent to the plutonic granite rock, and consequently, outcrops of rhyolite may bear a resemblance to granite. Due to their high content of silica and low iron and magnesium contents, rhyolite melts are highly polymerized and form highly viscous lavas. They can also occur as breccias or in volcanic plugs and dikes. Rhyolites that cool too quickly to grow crystals form a natural glass or vitrophyre, also called obsidian. Slower cooling forms microscopic crystals in the lava and results in textures such as flow foliations, spherulitic, nodular, and lithophysal structures. Some rhyolite is highly vesicularpumice. Many eruptions of rhyolite are highly explosive and the deposits may consist of fallout tephra/tuff or of ignimbrites.


Chas, Shadow, Pinus sabiniana

On the first day, all we really encountered was the great Ghost Pine of the California Chaparral.  We’d never hiked the High Peaks trail before, and we didn’t know what to expect.  We encountered a strenuous hike with a 1600ft climb.  The reward was worth it.  At the top we entered a nice meadow with views of rolling mountains for miles and miles.  Steph dropped Jolene from her backpack and let her run.  Chas found his usual distant sitting spot to take in the view, and I orbited the family to capture the moment.

On Chas’ spot:  He found a nice location just beyond a grand grey pine which overlooked the Southern portion of the park.  He didn’t know it, but the valley he was absorbing was the uppermost peaks of the Bear Creek caves he loved to explore.  I’ve a great photo of him taking in the view that I will post later.  Still, what was striking about his position at this moment was the tree under which he parked his tired self.

On Pinus sabiniana:

Trees 12-21(25) m with diameters of 60-120 cm, straight to crooked, often forked; crown conic to raggedly lobed, sparse. Bark dark brown to near black, irregularly and deeply furrowed, ridges irregularly rectangular or blocky, scaly, often breaking away, bases of furrows and underbark orangish. Branches often ascending; cone-bearing branchlets stout, twigs comparatively slender, both pale purple-brown and glaucous, aging gray, rough. Buds ovoid, red-brown, ca. 1cm, resinous; scale margins white-fringed. Leaves mostly 3 per fascicle, drooping, persisting 3-4 years, 15-32 cm × 1.5 mm, slightly twisted, dull blue-green, all surfaces with pale, narrow stomatal lines, margins serrulate, apex short-acuminate; sheath to 2.4 cm, base persistent. Staminate cones ellipsoid, 10-15 mm, yellow. Ovulate cones maturing in 2 years, shedding seeds soon thereafter, persisting to 7 years, pendent, massive, heavy, nearly symmetric, ovoid before opening, broadly to narrowly ovoid or ovoid-cylindric when open, 15-25 cm, dull brown, resinous, stalks to 5cm. Scales long, thick, sharply keeled and 4-sided; apophyses elongate, curved, continuous with umbos to form long, upcurved claws to 2 cm. Seeds narrowly obovoid, thick-walled; body ca. 20 mm (largest in the genus), dark brown; wing broad, short, ca. 10 mm, shed easily. 2n=24 (Little 1980, Kral 1993).

And John Muir says of the Ghost Pine:

This day has been as hot and dusty as the first, leading over gently sloping brown hills, with mostly the same vegetation, excepting the strange-looking Sabine pine (Pinus Sabiniana), which here forms small groves or is scattered among the blue oaks. The trunk divides at a height of fifteen or twenty feet into two or more stems, outleaning or nearly upright, with many straggling branches and long gray needles, casting but little shade. In general appearance this tree looks more like a palm than a pine. The cones are about six or seven inches long, about five in diameter, very heavy, and last long after they fall, so that the ground beneath the trees is covered with them. They make fine resiny, light-giving camp-fires, next to ears of Indian corn the most beautiful fuel I’ve ever seen. The nuts, the Don tells me, are gathered in large quantities by the Digger Indians for food. They are about as large and hard-shelled as hazelnuts, –food and fire fit for the gods from the same fruit.

And here’s Chas, exiting the shadow influence of a great Ghost Pine, Pinus sabiniana, on the High Peaks trail in Pinnacles National Park, CA.

Shadow, Pinus sabiniana, Mountain, and Moon


Over the MLK holiday, we visited the Eastern Pinnacles of Pinnacles National Park, near Hollister, CA.  This is one of my favorite places.  This year, we packed a picnic and visited two days in a row.  On the first day, we hiked the High Peaks trail–a 1600 foot climb–but failed to make it to the caves before dark.  The photo above is a view from that trail, about half way up the mountain.  On the second day we hiked the shorter trail, climbed through the talus caves, spread a blanket on a flat spot of volcanic breccia, and spent the entire day exploring the reservoir and surrounding cliffs and talus.

Pinnacles presents dramatic volcanic rock formations and lush plant life.  One of my favorite trees in this area is the Pinus sabiniana, or Grey Pine–sometimes called the Ghost Pine.  It has an interesting color that seems to perfectly fit the palette of the area.  Everything has a warm neutral tone–perfect for old film.

On the second day the kids went separate ways and explored the area each own their own, calling out across the valley to locate each other.  Each found his own special spots.   This enabled me to roam around the valley, catching up with each of them as they climbed and jumped, and catch them with my camera.

In next several posts, I’ll be telling the story of this trip with photos and short descriptions of the scenes presented.