Big Rocks and Blooming Things

We had no idea what a treat we were in for when we left the RV yesterday to go hiking in Pinnacles National Park.

There are no roads through the park, and so there are entrances on both sides. We happened to be on the west side of the park, and so we used that entrance. The visitor center is at the east entrance, which is only significant because I wasn't able to get a shot glass at the "contact center" where we went in. Boo Hoo. However, I did pick up the much coveted refrigerator magnet, and so all is not lost.

We drove about five miles on California State Highway 146 to arrive at the entrance. It was a very narrow and winding road. In the image below, you can see that it is only ridiculously narrow.

At times it went from ridiculously narrow to absurdly narrow. At those stretches, signs were posted warning us that it was a one-lane road, and that we should drive carefully. Duh.

While we were in talking with the ranger at the contact center, the call came in announcing that the main parking lot was already full (it was around 9:00 a.m.), and so we were instructed to park at the overflow parking and hike the half mile to the main parking lot. As we made our way down the road, we could look off in the distance and see the marine layer burning off in the valley below.

From the overflow parking lot, we could see the pinnacles ahead of us.

Below is a tiny section of the park map, showing the area we walked. The green line is there to indicate our path. The cave was dark, and required flashlights. Also, it was quite steep and so we only hiked as far as we though we could go safely on our rickety knees, and then turned around and came back the way we came. As a consolation, even young people were turning back at the same spot...not that we're not young, you understand. I just mean there were people even younger than us turning around. One Japanese man described himself (and us) as "obsolete children," and that's exactly the term I've been looking for.

When we reached the far side of the Chaparral Trailhead Parking, we had one decision to make. Since the Juniper Canyon Trail was an over 1,000 foot elevation gain, strenuous, and narrow, we opted for the wimpy Balconies Trail. 

Here's a little description of it. 

We started out in the bright sunshine, but the trail was nice hard pack, rather than the soft sand we often walked while in the Valley of Fire.

Eventually, we found ourselves among the shadows of immense rocks and oak woodland.

Morning wasn't the best time for photography, but it's the best light we were going to get.

At times, we were standing right beside huge boulders.

After taking that shot, I looked behind me and saw this.

Eventually, the trail grew quite narrow, and we found ourselves in a slot canyon.

Here's how we thought we might die on this trip. Heads up, please.

And these were some big m-effing rocks, let me tell you.

It brought to mind hiker, Aron Ralston, who was trapped when one of these big boulders rolled onto his hand while hiking in a slot canyon. I won't repeat Aron's story here, but if you don't know who I'm talking about, it's worth a click on this link right here. We kept our hands in our pockets as much as possible.

Eventually, we came to the area where the cave is located. It is sometimes closed off because of the stream that runs through here during wet periods. 

It was dry on our trip, and there appears to be a salt residue...calcium? Hard to say.

Look near the bottom of the image below, and you'll see how short and skinny we had to make ourselves to fit through these holes in the rock.

When the trail got too steep, rocky, and dark, we turned around and headed back. On the way out, we marveled again at the immensity of the landscape.

There was a lot blooming along the trail. I know the names of almost none of them, so I'll just let you look.

This here is a thistle.

These little yellow jobs were tiny...a little smaller than a dime.

This next one was on a large blooming tree that was covered with them.

This next one was blooming in profusion in an area where there was water in the stream. Its flower looks a lot like what we call a Scotch Broom in the Pacific Northwest. The plant was different, however.

These little purple jobs were growing in abundance all along the trail.

After that, we returned the way we came and were back at the RV just after noon.

We thoroughly enjoyed this park. It was quite a delightful surprise since neither of us has ever visited before. Now we want to come back and enter on the east side, but that will have to wait for another trip. Today we are making a day trip to Monterey where there will be a lot to see. There is fabric in my future.

Cat Patches

Speaking of fabric...the linky party for the Bag Ladies of the Fat Quarter Club goes live day after tomorrow. Don't forget to link up, my stitch-along friends. No need to finish your piece. Just join in the party and show us your progress.

8 comments from clever and witty friends:

QuiltShopGal said...

I have never been to this National Park, but it sure looks like a nice one to visit. I've added it to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.


Lyndsey said...

That looks fabulous Barbara and those boulders sure are enormous. Love the plant photos. It's a shame you didn't get the shot glass but the fridge magnet is a win.

gpc said...

Oh yes, I remember that hand-caught-in-rock-never-hike-alone story quite well. My hands are firmly planted in my pockets, too, until I forget again, which is making chores difficult this morning. The park looks beautiful and makes me wonder how many national treasures there are that I've never even heard of! It's quite astounding.

WoolenSails said...

Love the park and the terrain, definitely a place i would visit.


Kate said...

Wow, incredible scenery. Hope you enjoy your day trip.

piecefulwendy said...

So fun to go on your hike with you, and so much easier for me from my armchair. Haha. Those boulders are huge. I have to go read Aron's story now, I think. Have fun in Monterey!

Brown Family said...

It is hard to believe those boulders are all one big rock! They are beautiful . Lovely flowers, too!

quiltzyx said...

Amazing scenery! Those tiny areas in the cave...well, I don't think I'm cut out to be a spelunker.

More beautiful blooms too. Thanks again for taking us along with you!