Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pinnacles National Park

In April, we decided to take a trip close to home.  The destinations were Pinnacles National Park and Carrizo Plain National Monument.  We headed to Pinnacles for some different scenery and with the hope to see condors. Hoping to see the San Joaquin Kit Fox was our reason for heading to Carrizo Plain.

The drive to Pinnacles from the Sacramento Area is a relatively pretty drive, but I ended up driving right past our planned lunch stop (Pacheco State Park).  So, we ended up pulling off the road at Casa De Fruta and having lunch while their peacocks serenaded us.  There is a huge fruit stand there, with lots of shops, a train ride and more.  It was quite the happening place in the the middle of nowhere.

Once at the western entrance to Pinnacles we decided to stretch our legs after the long drive by hitting the trails.  However, there was a ranger doing traffic control on the road to the parking lot which made it painfully obvious that all the popular trails were really crowded.  “Ah, we can wait to do them tomorrow” we thought.  So, instead we headed up the Wilderness Trail.  This trail provides a good vantage point of the rock formations and was very uncrowded.  

View of the Pinnacles:
Pinnacles National Park

Western Fence Lizard:
Western Fence Lizard Displaying

 View from Wilderness Trail:
Wilderness Trail, Pinnacles National Park

We elected to stay at a Bed and Breakfast right at the doorstep to the park and this was a good choice.  The Inn at the Pinnacles is quite pretty and the owners are wonderful.  They definitely deserve the high ratings and good reviews on Tripadvisor.  With 160 acres of open land and vineyards, the critter watching around the Inn is likely quite good, but after checking in and having a light dinner we decided to head back into the park instead to see what would be out around dusk.

Before leaving we did see our first snake of the trip.  This juvenile Gopher Snake was cruising along the gravel parking area at the Inn.

Juvenile Gopher Snake

The trip out after dinner was a bit of a bust since we didn’t see much.  We even cruised the long road between Soledad and the park after dark but all we saw were a couple Great Horned Owls and a Common Poorwill.  No mammals at all.  We did have some good light for more shots of the Pinnacles before the sun went down:

Entrance Road, Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

That night we went to bed with the plan to hit the park sharply at 7:30AM (which is when they open) to do the more popular trails in good light.   That plan died quickly around midnight as the wind picked up…and picked up…and picked up some more.  In fact, we got very little sleep that night due to ferocious winds that were gusting up to 50 MPH and banging things around.  Unfortunately, the winds were not much better in the morning and after some discussion we decided to skip the hikes at the Pinnacles since they are all high up in the cliff areas and we didn’t think they would be very enjoyable in the high winds.

After a VERY nice breakfast at the Inn, we took a last walk around the grounds hoping to spot something.  But, nothing sane was out in this wind.   So, we packed up and headed south to Atascadero which was our gateway to Carrizo Plain in hopes of less wind there.

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