Friday, September 5, 2014

Pinnacles National Park

Destination Camp: Pinnacles National Park

Activities: Hiking Trails, Camping, Ranger Program, Rock Climbing, Talus Caves, Bird Watching
Animal Sightings: Bobcats, Coyotes, Black-Tailed Deer, Lizards, Snakes, Tarantulas, Mountain Lion

The main attraction for this campground is the formation of caves from volcanic rocks.There are two main caves, one is the Bear Gulch Caves and the other is the Balconies Caves. All campsites are located toward the East District, which is closer to the Bear Gulch Caves.

Campsites had to be reserved within 12 months of advance. Yikes! My group with a total of nine people reserved a group site. The group site costs about $75/night. There is also a required entrance fee of $3/person for national parks. The first vehicle was free but any addition cost another $5/vehicle.

Our campsite was #131 and a very nice one. We pretty much had the whole area to ourselves with the exception of the one family that were located pretty far out from ours.There were two picnic tables, bear box, and a fire ring. The current conditions at Pinnacles is announced as "extreme fire hazards" and the use of any charcoal or firewood was prohibited. We ended up bringing our own propane gas stove top to grill our meat and fried our eggs.

Bathrooms were mainly used by my group. It was pretty clean and the only dislike I had about it was there were no lights at night. You will have to bring your own flashlight to the bathroom, which spooked me a few times going there. Drinking water area were labeled on the map next to the restrooms but every time we tried running the water, there is a discoloration of a light yellow coming out of the faucet. To be safe, we didn't use the water to cook our food. The last thing we need is food poisoning.

Day 1 
Headed out around 9am and arrived around 1pm with one pit-stop break. Setting up our tents became one of the hardest thing to do with the scorching heat at the peak of the afternoon. It was probably near 90F degree weather with humidity. My body was dehydrated after that. We decided to drive out to the visitors center where the empty swimming pool awaits us. Note that it was a Friday so many families did not visit yet.

First glimpse of the Campground
Visitor Center
Bear Box...but I think it's meant for racoons
Stairway to our home for the next few days
Ta-da --- Group site #131
Setting up our tents
Day 2
Had our breakfast---ate egg, bacon, and croissant, maybe even a hot link. After that, we headed out for the hike.
No firewood or charcoal so
resorted to propane gas stove
My group ended up driving to the edge of the location (see map) to start the hike for the Bear Gulch caves and ended up at our stop point at Chaparral ranger station. It was around a 2 hour hike. Bringing at least 3+ bottles of fluids will save your dear body from crying out for thirst. Be sure to pack on sunblock and bring hats and sunglasses to prevent sun radiation.

Start Point at Purple Dot
End Point at Yellow Dot

The caves and reservoir was definitely the highlight of the hike. Although we never made it to the Balconies Cave Trail or the Chalone Creek, it was worthwhile to go again another time. Unfortunately, there were no bats during this time and some of the cave areas were closed. We returned for another swim at the pool but this time around, there were way more people and children to begin with.

First sign of Bear Gulch Cave
Entering the caves
Nice and cool but no bats
Climbing up
More climbing
Look how far up we gotten
A really cool stone bridge
Bear Gulch Reservoir
Volcanic Formation mountains
More mountains

Lovely view
Day 3
Ate breakfast, packed, and headed out.

Pinnacles has been a memorable experience despite the hot weather. The animals that I have seen such as racoons, fox, deers, blue jays, woodpeckers, wild squirrels, lizards, etc has capture the essence of wildlife for this national park. Did I mention the miraculous night sky that were covered in stars? It is truly an awing experience to see. It was a shame that I couldn't capture it on camera. And how fortunate for me, I was the only person to spot a meteor shower, in fact I saw two.

Mohawk bird
Blue Jay
Desert Flower

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