A Short Camping Trip

Machete RidgeWe went camping at Pinnacles National Park for a few days this month. The Pinnacles were formed by multiple volcanoes erupting 23 million years ago in what is now Southern California. The part of these mountains that are found in the national park split off from the other half (near Lancaster, CA) and rode up the San Andreas Fault at a rate of 3 to 6 centimeters a year, so that now they’re about 120 miles south of Oakland. They’re still moving.

The ridge in the picture is called Machete Ridge for reasons that aren’t obvious from this angle. It’s not very wide at all back to front. We hiked a path that gave us this view not long after climbing through the Balconies Cave, which was formed by rocks falling on top of other rocks, especially during earthquakes. I have no pictures of the cave because I was too busy concentrating on crawling through them with recalcitrant knees.

Jim with a mapHere’s a picture of Jim at the start of our hike, consulting a map (as usual). He’s very fond of maps.

The campground for the Pinnacles is several miles from the park itself, so we brought our bicycles and pedaled over to a good place to start hiking. Since we often go backpacking, it felt rather luxurious to hike carrying only a day pack of snacks and water.

And because we went in May, it wasn’t too warm. The Pinnacles are just far enough inland that they don’t get the benefit of the Pacific Ocean, meaning they get real summer.

Despite all that, the first day — what with crawling through the caves — wore us out, so we took a more sedate trail near the campground for our second hike and then spent the afternoon in camp reading books.

the view from our campsiteThis is the view from our campsite, if you look up. The Pinnacles campground is set up to allow a large number of people to camp there, so there are other camping spots all around. The camping tips which we followed from campingfunzone.com made it all the more fun for us to frolic around. However, this also means it has real bathrooms with running water, another luxury for those of us used to backpacking in places where outhouses (or the great outdoors) are the only options.

creekThis creek ran behind our campground. We could hear it running from our tent, at least during the quiet hours when the other campers weren’t making noise.

The moon was almost full during our trip. I got up in the middle of the night to answer a call of nature and found the light so bright that I first thought someone had a searchlight up. rocks

The picture on the right is of some of the rocks we saw on our first day of hiking. They are just some of the amazing structures in this park.

The Pinnacles was first established as a National Monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 — before the National Park Service was even established. It only became a national park in 2013. A friend of mine thinks it’s too small to be a park, but as a park it is at least not on the hit list of national monuments.

Condors nest in the Pinnacles. I haven’t seen any of those yet, but I haven’t tried any of the really high trails. We did see a turkey, with a passel of young ‘uns. I like the way she blended into the landscape.

turkeyDue to our wet spring in California, there were a lot of flowers still blooming. I particularly liked the mariposa tulip and the thistle flowers pictured below.

mariposa tulipthistleCell phones don’t work at the Pinnacles, so we went close to three days with no news. It was only when we settled into a post-trip meal in the Country Rose Cafe in Hollister that we discovered what outrages had occurred in our absence.

While I don’t worry a lot about my news addiction — I was practically born on a copy desk and cared about the latest news long before the Internet — I must admit that hiding out in nature has a solid appeal these days.

Our next camping/hiking trip is set for Point Reyes National Seashore in the fall. You don’t get much cell service out there either. I’m looking forward to it.



A Short Camping Trip — 2 Comments

    • It’s really wonderful. If you decide to go, avoid summer — it gets hot there. And it’s about 30 miles to the nearest town, so the best way to visit it is to set up camp at the campground so that you can spend the whole day exploring the trails and such.