This is another in Vittles series on our National Parks and Monuments
It took 30 years for this writer to explore both the West and East sides of Pinnacles National Monument located in Central California. But then what is 30 years when the story of Pinnacles began 23 million years ago when a giant volcano in the San Andreas Rift zone destroyed itself leaving a remarkable region of spires and crags so different from the surrounding countryside.
On our first visit we left Highway 101 at Soledad and took Highway 146 the 12 miles to the Chaparral Ranger Station. Today there is no camping at this west entrance but three decades ago there was and this is where we parked our cabover camper, our "RV" at the time.
Our Journal tells the story: "After a long, hot August drive we found Pinnacles roomy and cool. After steaks for supper we found ourselves with evening entertainment watching a Mama raccoon and her three half grown babies. After they had eaten all our scraps, spilled the water pan we set out for them, and were shooed out of the peaches in our truck, they pulled the lids off all the garbage cans leaving us tired but happy.
"The next morning we went hiking, the favorite activity at this park. We took the Juniper Canyon trail to the Bear Gulch Caves Trail to Bear Gulch Reservoir. The trail proved interesting winding through and under a giant rock slide along the creek. We returned on High Peaks trail along the ridge and saw about 15 vultures in the crags and trees and promised a return visit in the Spring when the wildflowers would be out."
There is no road that connects the west and east sides of Pinnacles National Monument. The Bear Gulch Visitor Center on the east side is reached from King City via road G 13, then Highway 25 and then Highway 146 into the Monument.
Or if traveling south on Highway 101 take Hwy 156 to Hollister then south on Highway 25 to Hwy 146 junction. This was the route we took on a recent second visit to Pinnacles, so many years later. This time it was Spring and there were dazzling displays of wild flowers about. At the Bear Gulch Visitor Center we enjoyed a long visit with the Ranger and discussed the many changes that have taken place.
The campground that used to be on the east side was washed out in a flood so now camping is allowed only in a privately operated campground just outside the limits of the park. Trail distances are not great although there is much to see.
We discovered that the Bear Gulch Reservoir is actually closer in walking distance from the east side than our original trip so many years before. None of the trails in the Monument are particularly long but they do provide much enjoyment not only for hikers but bird watchers, rock climbers and caving.
And yes besides the natural beauties of the park something else has not changed. According the Ranger the raccoons are still as frisky, rascally and unrepentant as ever.
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