Friday Ida and I recovered from the annual thanksgiving food binge by doing a nice loop at Pinnacles National Monument, my wife having bowed out declaring our ambitions too strenuous. We left early and were the very first car in the parking lot on the Soledad side at 8:15 in the morning. It had rained most of the drive, but interestingly it was completely dry inside the park. Our route took us up the top of the Pinnacles via the High Peaks trail, then down the other side into the west end of the park, then looping around back to the entrance via the North Wilderness trail. The route is about 13 miles, requiring two steep climbs, and usually take us about five hours.
The steep climb up the pinnacles is rewarded by amazing views. We were just admiring the view when I asked Ida what those white wisps were, and inside of two minutes the view vanished as we were encased in fog. So we got moving again, and as we hiked downwards we got underneath the fog.
The fog gradually lifted and we got an alternation of clouds, threats of rain and bits of sunshine. As we crossed onto the wilderness trail we were soon reminded of why it’s called that. The trail is poorly marked and you have to find your way by looking for these odd little rock piles.
More than once we needed to look for them to figure out where the trail was. Oh yes, and then we heard a tell tale crunch in the bush, a crunch I’ve heard before, and I looked closely into the bushes and saw hiding in the distance the fur of a large tan colored animal, presumably looking back at me. I’m fairly sure it was a mountain lion, because I’ve had such encounters before, but fortunately we all went our seperate ways. The rough trail makes it hard work to hike. You’re either wallowing in sand, clambering across rocks, pushing through brush wondering where the trail is, or jumping across fallen logs. But since the trail follows a river valley you can’t really get lost because it’s fairly obvious which way the trail has to go. Finally there’s a really steep climb to cross a ridge to get back to the parking lot.
The scenery is amazing – it has a wildness to it that our local redwood forest just doesn’t match. You really feel you’re far away from everything.
As we got close to the parking lot it finally started to rain. So we put our jackets, which stopped the rain. Oddly, when a few minutes later we got to the picnic area there were now people there, and having a picnic too! Puzzled, we asked them, did it rain? And they said it hadn’t. So we got a real microburst. All in all it was a fine way to spend a day in one of America’s really great landscapes.