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ANTI-CLIMBING AT PINNACLES
 


 Shake and Bake

In the long, low shafts of late afternoon light, a ridge of gnarled rock stumps appears below me. This is the Pinnacles, a place where lava squirted up and punished the ground, where the mangling motion of earth plates scraped along a fault.

Our single-engine airplane hums deeply as we circle, like explorers looking for prehistoric creatures in a strange land. During our slow circling, I understand why the complex jumble of canyons and protuberances were once a sanctuary for bandits. I imagine them crashing their whiskey bottles down over hot sagebrush fires, while lizards dart back. Perched on the shattered rock knobs, a turkey vulture flaps once, caws until the walls caw, then glides off on its homeward mile.

"Captain George Vancouver, do you read me? This is Tom Higgins. We are flying in a minuscule contrivance over territory now known as Pinnacles National Monument, California. You were the first to explore the area, as you were mapping the west coast of North America in 1792. What did you think of the volcanic rock? The surrounding peaks rising to nearly 3000 feet? The views of arid hills and long valleys? Imagine these valleys teeming with vineyards, roads, towns, and industry. Captain? Come in, sir ... your Grace?"



 
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