We drove through the flat farmlands, with just the gentle rolling hills on the East side of us, wondering where these ‘pinnacles’ could possibly be, and how big could they be? But if it’s a National Park, there must be a reason, so we drove up into the hills in search of it. As we drove along the narrow, winding, one-way road, we started getting peeks at a rough, rocky area sticking up above the soft curves of the hills, something clearly out of place.
Finally we rolled up to the ranger station at the park entrance and the parking lot was pretty much empty.
We went in and paid our fees and the ranger said she had a short video we could watch on the history of the park, and it was only about ten minutes, so that seemed like a good deal, since we had never even heard of the place before that morning. It’s nice to have a little context while we walk around it. Pinnacles National Park. It turns out there is hiking, rock climbing, and caving to do in the park, plus there’s a chance to see California Condors!
She pointed us up to Chaparral trailhead, which it turns out is where all the cars were. Not that it was exactly busy, but there were a few folks there hiking around. We decided to head off to the Balconies Cave Trail, which was supposed to be .6 miles from the parking lot. We figured that would be pretty easy and give us a closer peek at some of this park.
On the way up the trail we kept seeing these little lizards hanging out on the fence rails. Lizards! There’s something you don’t see at home!
The view from the parking lot was jaw dropping all by itself. It’s hard to express how big this wall of rock is! It reminded me of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. It was really amazing!
Around every bend were more amazing sights!
All these rock walls were like mountains. And in fact they said they were the remains of a mountain that had been torn apart and crumbled.
This rock wall probably was a hundred feet high, at least.
Giant boulders were everywhere, having fallen off the crumbling walls.
The trail wound through scrubby treed areas, and back into clearings with more fantastic views.
Sometimes we got to walk under the boulders! You didn’t even have to watch your head in this tunnel (well, I didn’t anyway).
Wildlife spotted #2 – a cleverly camouflaged squirrel. He was hanging out in a dry creekbed munching on something. Sadly, because of the drought all the creekbeds were dry. I think this place would have been even more beautiful if they had water in them!
We finally got to the entrance to Balconies Cave, and peeked at it, but decided we were not equipped for any serious caving. A nice European couple had just come all the way through it, and said it was a fun hike. They were resting on the rocks before heading back.
The views on our walk back were just as amazing. Huge rock spires jutting up out of the green woods.
The clouds looked like they were threatening rain, but no such luck. This place was pretty dry and it stayed dry during our visit.
More wildlife – a turkey! She (I think) trotted along the road ahead of us, occasionally looking back to see if we were still following her – though we stayed quite a ways back.
She finally headed up the hill above the trail to get away from us.
We were quickly back to our rental – a red Ford Edge. When offered an upgrade at the rental counter, they offered a bunch of high end cars, but I thought we should take the Edge. Since it was basically the same as our Ford Flex, I thought it would seem familiar and comfortable, and I was worried if we drove a Volvo around for four days we’d come home with Volvo Fever!
So that was the end of our little side trip. I could definitely come back here again and explore more. It was beautiful and spectacular and really different from any place I’d been. And we only saw a tiny bit of it. This was an unexpected treat on our journey!