After an aborted attempt to dive the Channel Islands earlier this year where I was thwarted by the weather I was determined to make another attempt, this time when the weather should be calmer. In order to make the drive down to Southern California a little easier I decided to break it up by stopping partway and since I had never visited Pinnacles National Monument I thought this would be a good opportunity. Despite the promise of caves no one from the MLG was able to join me for the somewhat lengthy trip except for David Smith from Chico who not only would be able to join me for caving at Pinnacles but also kayaking and diving at the Channel islands.
Friday morning we loaded up in his truck and made our way down to Pinnacles. We checked in at the ranger station and were pleased to find the Bear gulch cave was open for visitors. We decided to take the short trail up to check out this cave and save the longer hike to Balconies for the next day when we’d have more time. The trail was a pleasant one, not too steep and with a fair amount of shade. This was a good thing as the afternoon was rapidly turning into a scorcher. Soon though, we retreated into the coolness of the cave. The caves at Pinnacles are described as talus caves, composed where a stream has carved through the volcanic rock and other rocks have fallen, sealing the top. The stream was still trickling through the cave despite how hot and dry it was outside and it certainly was nice and cool inside. We proceeded on up through the cave to the source of the stream, a small reservoir on top the hill then headed back down to the campground. The campground at pinnacles was very nice with shaded spots and a swimming pool. We missed the six o’clock closing time for the pool though and had to settle for cool showers instead, though we vowed to get to the pool the next day before it closed. There was an abundance of wild life present, a rabbit made several trips through our campsite and I pointed it out to a family in a nearby campsite, much to the delight of their children. There were also numerous birds including large families of quail.
The next day we planned on visiting Balconies caves and then possibly continuing up the high peaks trail, but after consulting the visitor’s guide we realized it recommended starting on the high peaks portion of the trail first while the day was still relatively cool, then progressing to the cave and the shadier portion of the trail as the day got hotter. We agreed that this made sense so we would head to the high peaks first. At the trail head we met to women, Diamond and Petrina who had not hiked this trail before either and so we decided to hike together. The hike which is approximately six and a half miles long and goes up over 1400 feet, was a fairly strenuous one and we all agreed we were glad to have the steepest part out of the way while it was still fairly cool. After a brief stop at the Chapparal ranger station for water we headed into the canyon leading to the caves to eat lunch in a shady spot. We even spotted a deer on the trail. We enjoyed going through the caves and once more there was still a stream visible in parts of the cave. Once we left the caves though we began to experience the full heat of the day and when we finally reached the trail head where we had parked we were glad to sit in the shade for a bit. That afternoon Dave and I enjoyed an ice cream from the visitor center’s shop and a cool dip in the pool which felt wonderful.
Next we head for the coast….