Weekend Fun: Part 2, Pinnacles National Park

View from the High Peaks

On Sunday, we woke up in our awesome hotel and packed up quickly.  We were off to Pinnacles National Park for an awesome day of being outside and hiking!  We hadn’t brought climbing gear but we thought it would still be a pretty good day.

Before we left Monterey, we stopped at Caffe Trieste for breakfast.  It was pretty good.  The portions were huge, though.  I like getting my money’s worth but I hate wasting food.  It’s hard to combine safe food handling and doggy bags when traveling so there were a lot of breakfast potatoes that went into the trash!

On Juniper Canyon Trail

Pinnacles was a little over an hour away and we drove to the West entrance.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center where I got an annual park pass for free, courtesy of the military discount.  Score!  I looked around the small center for a bit but SMS and I were getting a little antsy.  We drove into the Chaparral parking lot and decided to hike the 8.4 mile High Peaks to Balconies Cave Loop.  We set off along the Juniper Canyon loop which took us to the beginning of the High Peaks trail.  We took the “Steep and Narrow” trail since that one was reported to have better views.

About to enter the cave!

The rock formations were pretty epic.  They were so large and the rocks were starkly outlined against the bright blue sky.  It was a gorgeous day.  We spoke with a guy near the top of the Peaks who was holding an antenna that looked like it belonged on the roof of a house for an old TV.  He was tracking condors as a volunteer.  Apparently, there are just over 400 condors in existence, ~200 in the wild and ~200 in a captivity breed and release program.  This is up from a low of 22 in the early 1980s.  There are about 70 condors between Pinnacles and Big Sur.  We didn’t see any but it was cool to hear about the condors and conservation efforts from someone actively involved.  I also learned about the differences between California condors and turkey vultures in flight but that knowledge also went unused since we didn’t see any turkey vultures either.

Outside of the Cave

After traipsing through the High Peaks, we walked along the Old Pinnacles trail, which was about as wild as a gravel bike path.  This took us to the Balconies caves, which were pretty awesome.  It starts out in a slot canyon and then we actually climbed through a short cave system that had some vertical climb and a few really dark places.  Flashlights were definitely required.

I am strong like a rock climber too!

After the caves, we saw some climbers, which made SMS very happy.  It looked like the climbing was better than the reputation of the place gave credit for.  It may be too hard for me but I suspect SMS will be back!  The climbing was only 0.6 miles away from the parking lot so it would be a great place for a day trip.

After the hike, we got in the car and started driving home.  I was really hungry so we stopped in Gilroy for burgers.  I had the most delicious burger and sweet potato fries at Cafe 152.  I got the burger in a lettuce wrap and even though that’s one of the saddest ways to eat a burger, it was still amazing.  If you’re in Gilroy (outlets anyone?), a stop at Cafe 152 would be well worth it.

Then it was time to hit the road and head home.  I was so tired that night after such a great, active day!

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