Trip Report, Part 3: Devil’s Postpile National Monument

I took a 5-mile hike at Devil’s Postpile National Monument, most famous for it unique basalt rock formations. As the National Park Service says on the Monument’s website: “The formation is a rare sight in the geologic world and ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt. Its columns tower 60 feet high and display an unusual symmetry.” The park is also the site of an undisturbed old-growth Sierra forest and dramatic Rainbow Falls on the upper stretch of the San Joaquin River. The beauty of traveling in mid-September was that the summer crowds were gone and I had a lot of solitude on the trail.

Here is what it looks like when the tops of the columns are underfoot along the trail.

And here are several shots looking up at the columns. The first few photos were from the beginning of the hike. The colors changed in different light, shown in the last photo that I took at the end of my day.

Here is the San Joaquin River pouring over Rainbow Falls.

And because I was so blissed out here, I asked a passing hiker to take my picture at the falls. When I’m feeling off-kilter, I refer to this photo to remind myself that there is great beauty in the world and bring myself back to center.

One last story. I passed through an open area that had been burned in a fire caused by lightning in 1992. Reading an interpretive sign along the trail about how the area was naturally recovering, another hiker from Kentucky joined me and shared a funny story.

She told me about her tiny potted Christmas tree of an unknown species that she later planted in a California state park many years ago before she moved out of state. She went back to visit it and it’s now apparently an enormous evergreen that’s thriving. She explained that she didn’t know at the time how you can can tweak local ecology by moving plants around, but this one seems to have done no harm. We got a good laugh thinking about the state park staff, no doubt scratching their heads about where this oddball tree came from.

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