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Exploring Monterey County’s Pinnacles—California’s newest National Park

Pinnacles National Park 1.jpeg
Tom Wilmer
The Pinnacles in Monterey County formed 23 million years ago.

Join correspondent, Tom Wilmer at Pinnacles National Park where he visits and hikes with National Park Ranger, Lupe Zaragoza.

The Pinnacles National Park ranger station is just ten miles inland from the sleepy agricultural town of Soledad, hunkered along US Highway 101 (One hundred and forty miles south of San Francisco).

The realm of the Pinnacles is mostly wild California chaparral—Blue oaks, leaning gray pines and Manzanita. But discordantly frozen in mid thrust, rising out of the rolling hills are the sharp and craggy, fingerlike volcanic-spires and domes—the Pinnacles’ namesake.

Dramatic dome at the Pinnacles National Park.jpeg
Tom Wilmer
In addition to sharp spires, dramatic domed peaks are alluring at Pinnacles National Park.

23 millions years ago, 190 miles south of Soledad in Monterey County, an eight thousand foot-tall volcano formed in the midst of the San Andreas Fault, with the Pacific Plate on one side and the continental plate on the other.

The Pacific Plate sheared northward and brought with it the western half of the volcano—the remnants of that volcano comprise present day Pinnacles.

park ranger lupe Zaragoza is dwarfed by gigantice bouders at the Pinnacles National Park.jpeg
Tom Wilmer
Park Ranger, Lupe Zaragoza is dwarfed by gigantic boulders at Pinnacles National Park in Monterey County, California.

Congress created Pinnacles National Monument in 1908. In January 2013, the 26,000-acre site officially gained National Park status.

This show first aired a few months after Pinnacles became California’s newest National Park and is rebroadcast as a Best-of-the-Best travel podcast.

There are two entrances to Pinnacles National Park (140 miles south of San Francisco)—as no roads transit the breadth of the Park. West Pinnacles entrance is 10 miles (8 minutes) east of Soledad, Ca.

East Pinnacles entrance is 29 Miles (45 minutes) northeast of King City. East Pinnacles maintains the only tent and RV campsite, general store, and showers. Transit time from West to East Pinnacles is approximately two hours.

National Park Ranger Lupe Zaragoza at Pinnacles National Park.jpeg
Tom Wilmer
Lupe Zaragoza, Park Ranger at Pinnacles National Park in Monterey County (February 2014)

Financial support for Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer is provided by Nashville's Big Back Yard economic initiative focused on rural communities in the southwest quarter of Tennessee and the Shoals Region of Northern Alabama.

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Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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