Photo: Erica Crawford
by Ed Gilbert
On Saturday, April 1, five other hikers and I did a 11-1/2
mile Sierra Club trek led by Ventana Chapter hike leader Esperanza
Hernandez through the High Peaks section of the Pinnacles
This National Monument is the western half of a massive,
prehistoric volcano formed by the up flow of magna 23-million
years ago along the San Andreas fault system. The system traverses
a fault line from N-NW to S-SE through California. The eastern
half of the remains of the volcano now lies 195 miles S-SE
of the Pinnacles Monument, also along the fault line. The
separation of the two halves has occurred as a result of the
longitudinal slippage between the two adjoining earth plates
at an average rate of just over 1/2 inch per year.
The noteworthy happening of this hike was something that
even the Park Rangers on duty and the other hikers there that
day had not experienced. High in those peaks we had the privilege
to view, up-close in one viewing session, all 13 of the great
California Condors located there. Yes, all of them. Some of
them from as close as 15 to 20 feet. Unafraid, they just sat
there and looked at us.
Photo: Ed Gilbert
From later discussion with the head Park Ranger at the Visitors
Center, we were told that these magnificent, fearless and
very large birds were nearing extinction just over a decade
ago. At that time, just 22 remained. Since that time, great
strides have been taken to correct that situation. Through
improved bird handling and breeding controls, the population
has now been increased to 279 in California and Arizona. The
current goal is to increase the population to 450 birds; 150
in California; 150 in Arizona; and 150 in the controlled release
The female condor lays only one egg every two years. This
rate is not sufficient to maintain or increase the population.
By removing eggs after laying and/or removing chicks after
hatching, the female birds are encouraged to each produce
at a rate of two eggs per year- a fourfold increase.
New birds are released into their natural environment only
after an extensive period of nature orientation and training
by mentor birds in the controlled release program.
What an experience we had that day! For me, it's one I'll