It has been some time since we had the chance to write about our travels. We have had two sets of visitors from the UK and though we have been out and about, I didn’t take my notebook. One of the visitors was our granddaughter, Lissie, who is just four years old. We had a lot of fun taking her to places which we never been to before – San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum, Mystery Spot, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo. Of course we took a couple of trips to the beaches of Santa Cruz and Capitola as well.
Now we are back to the old routine and on the road again in the early hours of a Saturday morning on our way to Pinnacles National Monument. Our last visit to Pinnacles was in March 2008 when we saw the condors for the first time. That time we entered on the west side. This time we went to the east side, which is south of Hollister.
Over the last few weeks the weather has been very hot. This last week it has cooled down to a pleasant temperature. It was a bit foggy over towards the coast as we traveled south on 101 but it promises to be a nice day at Pinnacles.
South of Gilroy we turned onto Highway 25 and drove between newly plowed fields of dark brown soil. Some crops were still being grown. There was one field of a dark leaved crop which looked like lettuce. Highway 25 is a two lane highway which is heavily used during commute hours and has a solid concrete barrier down the center for most of the way into Hollister. There had been some nasty head on crashes before the barrier went up.
After breakfast at the Cozy Cup Cafe in Hollister we continued on our merry way, driving first through the center of Hollister. It is a very pleasant town. Groups of children were busy with brooms and cleaning equipment. We deduced it was some sort of sponsored clean up. Once we made our way back to Highway 25 we were again on the road to Pinnacles. We drove through Tres Pinos and the 19th Hole where we had lunch back in August. No bikers around yet.
We drove past the San Benito Fairgrounds outside Tres Pinos and the scenery changed from farms and golf courses to low hills with cattle and horses grazing. The hills became higher until we reached Paicines. Here the land became flatter for a while and once more we drove between fields and a couple of vineyards. Tom stopped to take a photo of some trailers lined up in a field. I spoke too soon about the bikers – a whole convoy passed us driving south while we were stopped.
At first the road ahead was long and straight but soon we started to climb and the road became more twisty. Just after 9.oo o’clock we turned onto Highway 146 which dead ends at Pinnacles National Monument.
At the East Entrance Station we paid the $5 day use fee and drove to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. We looked at the map to work out which trail
we would take. The first time we came to the east side we hiked on the High Peaks Trail. Last time we walked to the Bear Gulch Reservoir on Bear Gulch Cave Trail. This time we decided to do the Condor Gulch Trail. A group of scouts were assembling to take the very same trail so we waited for them to get going before we set off.
At the start of the trail we crossed a little wooden bridge and then we started to climb. It was not a difficult climb to begin with but before too long it became steeper.
When Tom was busy taking photos I found a convenient rock to sit on until he caught up. It was a beautiful day though still a bit hazy on the hill hills. We still had not seen the distinctive Pinnacles skyline but hoped that would change before too long. The sun felt very pleasant where I was sitting and I listened to birdsong all around and the sound of a woodpecker at work in the distance. As the sun gradually became hotter the haze disappeared and at last we saw the towering spires of Pinnacles.
The trail did indeed become steeper and it was some time before I found another perching rock. Tom had spotted some big birds gliding the thermals and we surmised they were condors. Then he spotted something else. High upon the side of a craggy peak he saw white splashes on the rocks. I checked them out through the binoculars. We are almost certain there were condor nests up there and the streaks were caused by bird excretion, or to be exact, guano.
We did not go as far as we had hoped. Unfortunately I did not feel too good and besides the flies were becoming a pest. So we turned around and walked back down.
The ride home was interesting. On Highway 25 a convoy of sporty corvettes, passed us beading south. Not long after that, going in the same direction, a dozen or so beautiful customized cars streamed by. Tom spotted a Camero, a ’57 Chevy station wagon, a Rolls Royce, old Fords from the 1930’s and 1940’s and a couple of hot rods. I wonder where they were going? They could not have been going to Pinnacles as the car parks were already full. Then, as we approached Tres Pinos, I spotted what I thought was a hanglider, then another and another, until there were five altogether. They turned out to be parachutists, each with tw0 people attached. We found a convenient parking spot and watched them all land in the field in front of us. It was an amazing sight.
After an eventful day we arrived home at 1:00. We will have to return to Pinnacles to complete that hike another day.