On Sunday Stephanie and I decided to take advantage of the long weekend and drive down to Pinnacles National Monument. This meant waking up early—a difficult task for the both of us—which we almost accomplished, leaving Santa Rosa around 12:30pm. It’s a 200 mile trek, with more than 2 hours spent just getting out of the Bay Area, and the rest on the 101 heading down to Soledad, California.
I should note that we “planned” this trip around 1am on Sunday.
Just before 4pm we exited onto CA-146 which took us through Soledad and then up towards the West Pinnacles. It was a long and windy single lane road most of the while.
I knew the gate into the park closed at 6pm, but since the actual parking lot was several minutes from the gate, I was a little worried about having enough time in the park versus making it out in time. Turns out the gate had a sensor to let exiting cars out and prevent cars from entering—which meant we were free to hike (as long as there was light) without worrying about the time.
On the advice of the ranger, given our limited time before sunset, we took the Balcones Cliffs and Caves trail. A flashlight was required for the caves, which I had miraculously stowed in my CamelBak.
That headlamp was indeed very necessary. We started squeezing through a tight crevasse, ducking under the occasional large boulder hanging overhead—all in waning daylight. But then we found ourselves at the entrance to a cave, no more than a hole leading down into darkness. There were white arrows pointing us in the right direction (sometimes straight down), but still it’s wholly unnerving to climb down into unknown darkness. After a few minutes of scrambling on rocks in the dark, we were out in the light again, hiking along the cliffs as the sun was setting.
Next stop: Soledad and Salinas