Friday, February 1, 2019


I stopped to take a photo of this highway sign, because after almost a decade of having the Devils Postpile National Monument on my bucket list, I learned there is a VERY SMALL window of when a visitor can actually take the hike to see this natural landmark.  In the annual trips I make out West, this day was the first time that my itinerary coincided with when the monument was actually open and accessible to me!  Hallelujah!

As the sign indicates, the landmark is located near Mammoth Lakes, California, which is on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 
The photo above shows Mammoth Mountain Ski Area ( ), with small ribbons of white snow still visible, even though I visited the location in late June.

In order to access the Devils Postpile, visitors must first buy a ticket at the center headquarters, then board the shuttle bus.  There are exceptions to this, if the visitor goes before 7 am or after sunset, but all visitors have to buy a ticket, regardless of whether or not they ride the bus.  (After making the  bus trip on the narrow, steep, and crooked  road to the monument, I was thankful I was not driving a car!)

Some of the bus passengers disembarked at Agnew Meadows, which is the starting point of High Trail, a hike that is part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Agnew Meadows is located in Reds Meadow Valley, just west of Mammoth Lakes, California, and is only open in the summer.
The Ranger Station at Devils Postpile National Monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is a small, efficient , utilitarian building, and there was not a ranger present when we visited.
However, there was evidence that a human had been there, because the current temperature and weather conditions were written on the white board.   Perhaps the perspective visitor can find out all they need to know by visiting the National Park Service website at
More importantly to me, the all-important National Park Passport stamp and ink pad were accessible on the porch, so I could make a dated record of my visit!   Since the Ranger Station was locked, I do not know if they had typical tourist souvenirs for sale inside.
There was a small outdoor classroom area available, adjacent to the Ranger Station.
This was my first time to photograph a sign that showed the John Muir Trail, and my first time to (knowingly) get to hike a section of it.  Since the 212 mile trail begins in Happy Isles of Yosemite Valley, I may have been on a section of it when hiking in Yosemite National Park.  The John Muir trail and Pacific Crest Trail share the same path for about 160 miles, as they traverse the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  For those who may not know, John Muir was a famous naturalist, who believed nature was a great teacher, "revealing the mind of God".  He talked of experiencing the presence of the Divine in nature, and described the Sierra as "God's Mountain Mansions".  He once used an analogy of John the Baptist (mentioned in the New Testament) to his being a different kind of "John the Baptist", whose duty was to immerse in "mountain baptism", everyone he could. 
The middle fork of the San Joaquin River runs through this area.
This photo not only shows the river, but also a closeup of some of the trees of this area, including lodge pole pine and bristle cone pine. 
Some of the visitors to this location are there only for the fly fishing, as indicated by the photo above of a fisherman wading in the river.
The trail leading up to the monument is wide and well traveled.

This is the first view a visitor will see, as they approach the base of the "post pile".   It is not a waterfall, rather a "post rock fall", of broken pieces of the columnar basalt, from the hill behind the pile.  Although it is hard to see in this photo, there are people up on top of the postpile, and I was determined to climb up there to join them!

Fortunately, there is a trail to the top, and I did not have to scramble up these broken and sharp-edged rocks to get to the top!
might be expected, the trail can be steep at times, but there are switchbacks and natural-looking "stairs" that have been made to make the top accessible.  According to the NPS website, the columns are about sixty feet tall, and are some of the best examples of columnar basalt in the world!

The trail will also take you near the base of the formation, so you can see the amazing symmetry of the columns.  Columnar basalt, similar to that seen in this photo, can be seen at various locations around the world.  The first time I heard of it was in a postcard drawing my son mailed me, depicting the "Giants Causeway" in Northern Ireland, which is also made of columnar basalt.  Later I observed it in Yellowstone National Park, Hell's Canyon between Washington and Idaho, and Lost Creek Lake in Southern Oregon.  However, I was not able to actually climb on top of the columns at any of these locations.  Back in the last century, my husband and I hiked around the base of Devil's Tower in Wyoming, which is also a type of volcanic basalt, but not exactly what you see at Devils Postpile in Caifornia. 
This photo was taken from the top of the columns, after I reached the summit.  Although some teenage boys were walking over to the very edge, and waving to the people below, I did not want to fall to my death at a place with the word "devil" in it!  I kept remembering my First Place 4 Health ( ) Bible verse from I Peter 5:8 that says, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour."

I was content to simply take a photo of those hikers who were hanging their legs over the edge---defying gravity to pull them downward!
I pity the person who actually had to gather the data to make the following statement, but according to sources on wikipedia,  a survey of 400 of the polygonal columns at Devils Postpile are made of 46% hexagonal, and 38% pentagonal, 10% 4-sided, and 8 % seven-sided, and 0.5% three sided .   Compared to other examples of columnar jointing, the Postpile has a higher percentage of hexagonal columns.  I will have to take their word for it, because doing that much counting, is more than I have fingers and toes to accommodate!

When you are at the higher elevation within the park, you can look toward the area that is the goal of many climbers on the trail, and that is the trek to Rainbow Falls.

However, I did not walk the additional distance to the falls, as my cousin Debbie was waiting for me at the base of the columns.  This photo shows she had a log bench to sit on, and she said she was amused to hear the visitor's comments about the columns, as they walked past her during the time I was hiking to the top. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, we were required to take a shuttle bus to the Devils Postpile Ranger Station, and this photo illustrates that it is a very basic vehicle, and sometimes it is so full that people have to stand and hold on to the overhead loops and railing, for stability.  I took this photo on the trip back to the bus shuttle starting location, and noticed there were considerably fewer people coming down, than when we went up!

Once back down to the base of the ski park area, we could see why the resort is a year round destination, and not just a place for snow skiing .  This youngster was practicing her climbing skills on the artificial climbing wall, perhaps with the goal of someday summiting El Cap, located on the west side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Yosemite Valley. 
This photo shows why Mammoth Mountain is considered a "lava dome complex", rather than a single summit. 

If you like hiking, and seeing unusual geological formations, this is a place you will enjoy!  The familiar design and shape of this roadside sign is a reminder to mention that Devils Postpile National Park is located within Inyo National Forest.  Inyo National Forest was established in 1907, by President Theodore Roosevelt, as a way of sectioning off land to accommodate the Los Angeles Aquaduct, making the Inyo National Forest one of the least wooded forests in the USA.
There are hundreds of miles of trails to explore on the less-visited eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range, and if you would like to learn more, visit the website
 Once you are on the website, you will learn that Inyo NF is also home to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain peak in the contiguous USA.  I am VERY THANKFUL I was finally able to make the visit to explore the Devils Postpile National Monument, because it gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!

Author's Note:  Since an addition to a blog is called a "post", I am hoping that the words that I write to form these posts, will go into a pile labeled "The LORD'S Post Pile", and not "The Devil's Post Pile"!!

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