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Into Central California and Condor Sighting at Pinnacles National Park

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Brilliant Sunset on Easter at Sequoia Resort, Badger, CA

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Warthan Canyon on Hwy 198

The brilliant sunset on Easter at Sequoia Resort was a farewell gift for us. The next day, we took road 245 again in order to go to the Pinnacles National Park. The 30 miles winding road seemed less challenge the second time. It took us about 35 minutes. At Visalia, we saw Sunkist orange orchards with orange laden fruit trees. It was nice to know where our food comes from. Then we took Hwy 198 towards Coalinga. A vast barren oil field took over the landscape. Then we drove into Warthan Canyon which cuts through brown hills. We stopped at a pullout area in the canyon for lunch. After crossing the pass, green returned to the landscape. California Poppies popped here and there on the roadside.

Later, we turned to Hwy 25 north and entered Bear Valley. A peaceful country view soothed our tiresome eyes immediately. Gentle rolling hills dotted with trees cradled meadows in the valley. Wildflowers painted the fields with dazzling colors. Cattle grazed by a pond on the ranch. A bull fight between two cattle added some dynamic to the scene. There were few houses in sight. The San Andreas Rift Zone runs right by the highway. After more than 5 hours, we finally arrived at Pinnacles National Park. Golden California poppies and blue bush lupines welcomed us by the road. Our goal of the visit was to see California condors, the biggest bird in North America.

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California Condor In Flight at Pinnacles National Park

We didn’t know where to see the condors. The campground has a condor viewing area with telescopes. The interpretative signs noted that condors have light-colored triangular patch on the leading edge of their wings. These patches turn white as they become adult. That was the key to identify condors. We sat in the chairs by our trailer scouting the sky above the mountains by the campground. There were turkey vultures circling around. After quite a while, Stephen claimed that he saw a condor. I looked through the binoculars at the bird soaring high above the mountains. Yes, the bird had the light-colored leading edge, and it must be a condor! How excited! We didn’t have a high expectation seeing condors because we had one night stay at the park. Then we spotted more condors in the air. Sometimes a pair of them flew together. A condor had a fight with a smaller bird. Condors fly high and steady. When they flew above us, we could see the white bands under their flared wings shining. Their majestic wings have nine and a half foot wingspans. Once abundant on the continent, they were almost extinct because of human activities. Low production rate and lead poisoning remain threats to their survival. According to nps.gov, Pinnacles National Park joined the California Condor Recovery Program in year 2003. Now the park has 86 free flying condors.

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A Squirrel at Pinnacles NP

We took the Bench Trail towards Peaks View. Lots of lovely wildflowers bloomed by the roadside. Gambel’s quails appeared on the trail from bushes and ran nervously in front of us, then hid into the bushes again. Acorn woodpeckers flew among trees calling loudly. A small jackrabbit ate grasses by the road. Condors and turkey vultures hovered in the sky. When we got close to the view point, we found out that the view point on the map might be on the road. The sun was setting behind the Pinnacles peaks. So it was hard to see the Pinnacles at sunset. On our way back, a couple of deer were grazing by the trail, looking at us curiously. We stopped by the condor viewing area. Suddenly I spotted a coyote on the hillside across the viewing area. It disappeared behind the trees shortly.

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California Poppies at Pinnacles NP

Early in the morning, I took a hike to the Bench Trail again. Deer ran across the trail. Quails moved in and out of the bushes. The jackrabbit was at the same spot having breakfast. Finally, I was able to see the Pinnacles peaks from an open field. A flock of acorn woodpeckers took to the air from a power post, and danced wildly in the air, then flew to a tree. They performed the show one after another.

We didn’t see condors in the morning before we left at about 10 a.m. I guess the best time to see condors from the campground is late in the afternoon. Condor Sighting at Pinnacles National Park is spectacular. If you want to see wild condors, come to the Pinnacles.

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