“JC and I finally got to Pinnacles in the star-filled deep dark of the country, the temperature quickly dropping. We squeezed both vans into a single campsite and cooked BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches + Hawaiian sweet rolls.
It’s already 34 degrees outside, and it’s only 10:30pm.”
“JC groggily woke up after I tapped on his van to let me in around 8am. I ate an apple and some oatmeal before we headed down to pay. I saw a gaggle (herd?) of wild turkeys frolicking around someone else’s campsite. Also, he was wrong, and the campsite was $30, not $15.”
“We had a series of frustrating conversations (from my point of view) throughout the day. He wasn’t going to stay to hike the second day. We were on the wrong side of the park for the approach to the climb he wanted to do, meaning a 1 mile approach turned into a 3.5 mile approach.
At some point on the hike in, he mentioned that if we got back to the vans early enough, he’ll probably just take off so he can be closer to a city when he wakes up in the morning. Great. Now I’m alone two nights instead of one.”
“The trail was gorgeous, but STEEP. By the time we got to the base of the proper climb, it was nearly 3pm, and it was beginning to get pretty cold in the shade. Definitely in the 40s. I belayed him up, and by the time he got the anchor set and it was my turn to climb, I couldn’t really feel my toes.
I slowly crawled my way up the relatively easy, 5.4 climb, but it was so covered in lichen, and my toes and fingers were so cold that I couldn’t trust a lot of my foot and hand placements. Plus, the top-down belay JC had set up was difficult to pull slack through, so I had to stop every 2-3 minutes.
By the time I reached the top of the climb, I was done. I told JC I would belay him up the next pitch if he was dying to climb more, and he said he was done too. We rappelled down and hiked out during sunset, finishing the last 2 or so miles in total darkness, winding along the creek to the frog sounds.”
“JC left, so I wanted to cook at the picnic area near the visitor center to use the tables and my cell reception. I was about 10 feet away from my van, making a quesadilla, when I decided to put my tortillas and cheese back while it heated up. A RACCOON turned and ran away from inside my van. I was horrified, and my heart skipped at least 3 beats. They kept returning again and again to my picnic area, even after I closed up all the van doors.”
“Woke up at 8am to a frost-covered wonderland. It was cold outside. Like, 28 degrees.”
“When I was finally ready to drive to the park, I faced a gorgeous morning descent of Laguna Mountain and passed several little farms and ranches that I’d missed on the way up. I reminded myself that things are never as they seem in the dark. It always feels much more sinister when you arrive under the cover of night than when you roll up during a beautiful sunset.”
“I arrived at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead around 10am, ready to hike. I laced up my shoes, forgot my sunscreen, ran back to get my sunscreen, and then hit the trail. The plan was to link up the High Peaks Trail, steep and narrows, rim trail to the reservoir, Bear Gulch Cave, Moses Spring, and little road-walk trail along Chalone Creek.
The trail was incredible, and I didn’t see anyone for basically the entire 1,500-foot ascent into the high peaks. I loved weaving in and out of the massive stone spires. It was like Joshua Tree but green! With moss and trees!
The Steep and Narrows section did not disappoint. Dozens of for holds cut into the rock by the CCC in the 1930s during the New Deal allowed for easier going up really steep rock faces. Much like in the Balconies Cave, I was pressed right up against the huge rocks, which was impressive for an official park trail and felt adventurous.”
“The last bit of trail was easy, but surprisingly intimate. I saw dozens of quail, woodpeckers, and loads of these orange mushroom heads as I hiked through oak and pine trees along Chalone Creek.”
“Got home to Brian around 8:30pm and was so relieved. I feel like I’m getting sick.”