Monday, November 3, 2014

Pinnacles National Park, CA

We have all heard in the news that the southwest is in a 3-year drought. Reports tell us that reservoirs are drying up and those who live off the land are seeing harsh times. We see much evidence of that in California, in Lake Shasta which is unbelievable low, the Sacramento and Central Valleys where irrigation is the only source of water but dust devils plague the fruit and vegetable fields (reminding us of The Grapes of Wrath dustbowl scenes), and in these coastal mountain valleys where cattle are almost a distant memory. There is nothing left to eat here; the valleys are bare dirt. If ranchers didn't bring hay in from elsewhere, their livestock would starve. In fact, most ranchers have either lost their land to financial lenders or are hanging on by a thread and either selling off their cattle or taking them away to "greener pastures"! It's a very sad thing to witness and makes the news reports all the more real to us. Everyone here is praying for rain, which we do get for a full day, but will it be enough to help?

We find another awesome campsite - for free in California! While it is almost 25 miles from Pinnacles National Park, and up in the mountains a bit, it provides us with the solitude we seek. Brad sees a bobcat while walking Grady one evening - they are interested in each other, but the bobcat thinks better of trying to attack with Brad standing guard. Sorry I missed that. This sunset occurs two days after heavy rains, and on our last night here before heading to the coast.
Bear Gulch Caves Trail

Pinnacles National Park must be a local favourite rock climbing spot. Many trails lead to climbing routes, although this guy (arrow pointing to him and he's impossible to see) is ascending the cliff over the trailhead parking lot.

The clouds are incredible during our hike around the Bear Gulch Reservoir. They seemingly form out of nothing and the high-level wind currents wisp them into streams.

A tiny oasis in Bear Gulch Reservoir above the caves.

Brad inside Bear Gulch Caves (the bright blue dot in the centre, 1/3 of the way up from the bottom). The caves here are talus caves, meaning they were once narrow canyons that have been filled in by massive rocks, some the size of a two-storey house (not kidding!), falling during earthquakes. In some areas of the cave, it is totally black; in other areas the light filters in where no rocks have filled in the cracks. We are very close to the San Andreas Fault here, so earthquake activity is not unusual.
Balconies Caves and Cliff Trail

While this is not an incredible photo showing the beauty of the park, I love the way the sun is backlighting these pine trees against the cliff wall. Just me being a little artsy.

Brad at the end of the Balconies Caves (he's at the bottom middle of the photo). You can see the size of these boulders! We are lucky that we are here during the two weeks that the bats vacate the caves and visitors are allowed passage, although one bat does fly straight at my head while Brad is taking a photo. I guess they left someone home to stand guard while all the other bats go on vacation.

The Balconies Cliff is huge (a girl is walking on the path in the foreground slightly left of the big tree on the right). We assume that the black grooves down the face are from water that runs down after rain storms. It would be quite impressive to see a waterfall in each of those slots.

Marilyn enjoying a rest overlooking the canyon. The Balconies Cliff Trail climbs up from the floor of the canyon for this spectacular view of the pinnacles this park is named for.

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