The fame that exists for U. S. National Parks, both in this country and around the world, was once again illustrated with a one word name change. Pinnacles National Monument was established in 1908. But in January of 2013 Pinnacles became a National Park.
That change of one word from Monument to Park has boosted the number of visitors by some 25 per cent. The Park itself encompasses 26,000 acres with 16,000 designated as wilderness. Thank the meeting of the North American tetanic plate with the Pacific plate along the San Andreas Fault for the volcanic forces that created the rock formations that give the Park its name. Fault action and earthquakes have added the canyons, gorges and rock jumble that dot the region.
Besides its unique geography the Park has much wild life and is home to the California Condor, the largest bird in North America. For people Pinnacles offers a place for exploration of peaks, caves, hiking and its abundance of wild flowers that appear each Spring.
For this Writer our recent summer visit was the first since its designation as a National Park. We met with Ranger Mike Brendeiro who told us about the upswing in visitors. Pinnacles is somewhat unique in that while there are both a west and east entrance there is no road that goes through the Park.
The west entrance from Highway 101 at Soledad includes only a Visitor Contact Station, restrooms, water and trailhead parking. The east entrance is from California Highway 23 with Hollister the closest city. Here there is the Visitor Center, campgrounds as well as a day use picnic area. If you wish to cross the park from either direction there are several hiking trails. While it is possible to cross the Park hiking many of the other trails are short in mileage and designed for casual day use.
Our visits to Pinnacles date back decades and as is often the case our first visit is still the most memorable. At that time, with my wife and two sons, we were exploring parts of Central California in our cabover camper and so found Pinnacles Park and settled in the campground.
But perhaps our Journal tells the story best.
"We found the Pinnacles campground cool and with lots of space and almost alone. After our BBQ steak dinner we were joined by local visitors, a host of raccoons including a mama and three half grown babies. After they had eaten all our scraps of steak, spilled our water pan and were shooed out of the peaches in the truck, they moved on to the garbage cans which they rattled all through the night.'''
I asked Ranger Mike if the Park still had raccoons and he said yes and sighed that they are a constant nuisance. So, fortunately, at least some things stay the same through the years.
For more information on Pinnacles National Park call 831 389-4455, on the web at www.nps.gov/pinn.
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