Spirit Magazine - July 2013 - (Page 65)

have the grandstanding attractions of Yellowstone or Yosemite. “It’s not beautiful enough,” my father put it flatly. There are certainly no fourstar lodges; Pinnacles has, instead, one ordinary campground where you can pitch your tent and use bathroom facilities. Which made me wonder: What qualifies a place to be a national park? In our mind’s eye, we have a picture of national parks that begins quite sharply—we see Yosemite’s Half Dome and El Capitan; the massive, snowcapped top of Denali’s Mount McKinley; and the army of hoodoos standing silently at attention in Bryce Canyon. We conjure up Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, Wizard Island punctuating the deep blue waters of Crater Lake, and the breathtaking geological sweep of the Grand Canyon. And then our quarter runs out, and the light vanishes from our spotting scopes. The National Park Service has standards detailing what it takes to become a national park. A place must be “an outstanding example of a particular type of resource” and offer “exceptional value of quality in illustrating or interpreting the natural or cultural themes of our nation’s heritage.” But these amorphous guidelines seem more helpful in culling out sites. They don’t seem to cast a 4,000-watt searchlight on the worthy yet unanointed. When I heard that California state Rep. Sam Farr was aiming to make Pinnacles a national park, I was surprised, even a little stunned. It was like finding out that the enterprising but slightly inarticulate kid who sat next to you in high school English had been named CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Was I missing something? The history is rich enough. When the Spanish began franchising missions in California, Pinnacles was home to the Chalon and Mutsun tribes, who took advantage of its teeming oaks and the acorns they produced. In 1791, Franciscan friars established Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad roughly 10 miles from what is now the western edge of the park. Notorious California bandit Tiburcio Vasquez often made the remote, rugged area his hideout in the 1860s and ’70s. By the time Schuyler Hain arrived in 1891 to homestead near Pinnacles, its canyons were serving as a weekend picnic site for local ranchers. Hain began leading park tours. Earning the nickname the Father of Pinnacles, he was an indefatigable promoter, taking his magic lantern slideshow to any organization in the area that would give him a forum. His tireless tub-thumping paid off: In 1906, Pinnacles was made part of the Monterey National Forest Preserve (which is now part of the Los Padres National Forest), even though it had hardly any forest to speak of. Two years later, President Theodore Roosevelt named Pinnacles the 12th national monument, just five days after he bestowed the Grand Canyon with the same venerable title. In 1916, Congress created the National Park Service to oversee the 37 national parks and monuments then extant. According to Timothy Babalis, a Park Service historian, a renewed interest in preserving nature and the nation’s history triggered an effort to make Pinnacles a national park. But, notes Babalis, “the Park Service wasn’t interested. ‘It just doesn’t qualify,’ they said. ‘It doesn’t merit being a national park.’” And yet now, according to Congress, it does. Clearly, I needed to go back and see for myself. H ighway 25, south of Hollister, may be my favorite drive in all of California, particularly the road that lies south of the tiny town of Paicines, where vineyards give way to rolling hills dotted with cattle and California live oaks—the absolute essence of Steinbeck country. A little more than 30 miles from Hollister, I turn onto 146, the road into the park, and almost immediately see three black-tailed deer foraging along the roadside, and then a small cluster of wild turkeys who greet me with unthrottled gobbling. When I arrive at the park proper, the first thing to check out are the rock spires—the ubiquitous pinnacles that supply the park with its name and provide nesting places for its more elusive sight. Each hiker I cross paths with (and there aren’t many) has a variation of the same question: “Have you seen anything interesting?” Some ask more bluntly: “Have you seen any condors?” Park visitors who do spot one get quite a bonus. The California condor has a wingspan of nine and a half feet and weighs between 18 and 31 pounds. Two hundred years ago, it thrived from British Columbia to Baja California, but by 1982 there july 2013 spirit 65

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Spirit Magazine - July 2013

Spirit Magazine - July 2013
Gary’s Greeting
Gary’s Greeting en Español
Star of the Month
Freedom Story
From the Editor
Your Words
Your Pictures
Media Center
Eat Drink Sleep
The Numbers
Made in America
American Idol
Your Adventure In Baltimore
Life Adventure In Baltimore
Promotional Series: Spirit of Branson
Promotional Series: Spirit of Nevada
Promotional Series: Spirit of Health
Community Outreach
Route Map
Rapid Rewards Partners
Flight Service
The “If” List

Spirit Magazine - July 2013