Devils Postpile: Remote, Stark, and Stunning

The Sierra-based national monument has its 2013 opening date.

NATURE'S FRONT DOOR: Certain assumptions can be made about accessing wilder places, even among those adventurers who are frequent visitors to such treasured spots. One assumption? If it is in nature, and here on earth, and there are roads that lead to it, it must always be available to we humans, year-round, 24/7, whenever we want it. This is not true in a number of cases, of course. Several of our natural gems do periodically "shut the front door" in so many words due to weather conditions or roads or staffing. The good news, of course, is that the front door usually opens again just in time for summer visitors. Case in point? Devils Postpile National Monument in the Sierra Nevada.

IT'S NATURAL... RIGHT? We'll got out on a limb -- or perhaps postpile -- and call it the most instantly recognizable of our state's national monuments, which is no small feat, given our cornucopia of choices in California. That's due to Devils Postpile's unique, geometric columns of basalt, and all the chunks of fallen basalt at the base of the columns. It's striking, and even a little jaw-dropping, but it was not built by some math-loving doodler with a penchant for columnar shapes. Nature did the work, over eons, with the assistance of lava and glaciers, the sibling-like Heat Miser and Snow Miser behind the construction of our planet's mountains and valleys and wonders.

OPENING DATE: The tentative day is Saturday, May 25, 2013. But stand warned: Devils Postpile is not a cinch to access. The Red Meadows Shuttle Bus trundles visitors from Mammoth to the Postpile, and back, and it is, in a word, mandatory. There are a few exceptions, like campers, but you'll need to study up on the cans/can'ts before making for the Sierra. Also? It isn't open for all that long, so if you want to have your Postpile moment, aim for summer.

SERIOUSLY: Whatever you do, it is time to stop letting it linger there on your must-see bucket list, along with Catalina Island's Flying Fish and the other funky wonders of our state that happen to be seasonal. Seasons pass fast, as the Postpile can attest. It's seen one or two or a few million of 'em.

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