CA – Pinnacles

Pinnacles National Monument

Before the previous weekend had even ended, Dan told me that we were going hiking this weekend. The plan was to leave early, hike around for 5-6 hours and then come home. It didn’t sound entirely like my idea of fun but that’s because I’m out of shape and would be huffing and puffing all day to keep up with Dan “Dr. Death March”. But it would be good to get out and that’s what we did. For reason though, my finger could not get out of the way of the camera lens, so please forgive the dark corners in some of the pictures…

April 4, 2009
Total Miles: 5.1 miles
Pinnacles National Monument, California
Map Link

Pinnacles National Monument was just a short drive south for us and we were parking the car in the upper lot by 9:30 that morning. It was a good thing that we left as early as we did though, as the upper lot was almost full and people were wandering around everywhere. Dan had planned out the route (here’s the park map for reference) and off we went. The hike started easy through a nice green valley called Condor Gulch Trail, named for the condors which can sometimes be see here. I kept my eyes peeled but only saw vultures and crows. Perhaps next time. The trail was easier than I expected although Dan would politely remind me of how many times I “stopped for pictures” on the way up.

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Dan heads up from the parking lot

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Looking back, early in the day

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Lichen-colored rocks

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Early views of the Pinnacles

The views were expansive by the time we reached the High Peaks Trail and Old Pinnacles junction. We hung a left on the High Peaks trail, a trail that looked fairly easy as it stayed high on the crest. The views continued, sweeping from the east, north and west as we swung around the backside of Hawkins Peak. A couple of rock climbing points were marked out, which Dan took notice of for future trips to the area and we saw a few hikers along the way.

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Your host

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Your hostess

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The parking lot in the distance

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Looking across the Santa Cruz Mountains

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Heading up (trail continues in the upper right of the photo)

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Possible condor nesting spot?

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Spring flowers

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Views to the northeast

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View to the north

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On the north side of the High Peaks Trail

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Peaking westward

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Dan hiking among the monoliths

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I kept expecting to see Fred Flintstone

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Another trail visible far below

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A solitary photographer sits alone

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Technological advance: the iCone!

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Easy trail along the crest

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The west side parking lot

Then there was a sign on the trail “Steep and Narrow Trail”. Um, what does that mean? Does the fact that we climbed 1,300′ along a sometimes a mere footpath not equal “Steep and Narrow”? Ah, silly us. The trail meandered gently along the northwestern flank of the mountain and then it truly became “steep” and “narrow”. Foot holds had been carved into the rock. Railings were embedded into the granite. Native rocks had been carefully and firmly planted to create steps. Overhanging ledges kept me bent in half as I wormed my way under them. So this is what they meant. Very cool!

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Notched steps

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Close-up of steps

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Dan makes his way up

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A short bridge under an overhang

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Tight fit!

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Looking back at the bridge

Fortunately we met very few people along this section. But once we cleared it and reached the turn off for the Juniper Canyon Trail, the trail became abuzz with humans. Kids yelled to each other, children asked “Are we there yet?”, old people smiled as they trudged by and parents sometimes herded their offspring out of the way. What a zoo. I was all too happy to be ending the hike if this was the kind of environment it was going to be. I thanked Dan again for getting me out of the apartment early so as to miss as much of this as possible.

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The trail we came up

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Colorful flowers along the way

The way down had a lot more switch backs than on the way up and the views weren’t as spectacular. It was enjoyable but I had reached the point of “one foot in front of the other” and was thinking about lunch. We strolled back to the parking lot, now completely full, and hopped into the VW. Just a quick ride over La Gloria Rd to Gonzales and we were eating lunch next to some cowboys discussing the branding schedule at the local ranches. What a great day.

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Man-made tunnel

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Returning to the car

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Tell me what you think! I want to know!