Place: Pinnacles National Park (eastern entrance), Paicines, California
Coordinates: 36.49141, -121.146351
The past year has been my Pinnacles year. And it took me as long to post all my of my Pinnacles hikes here too. This has also bee the first year I had camped at the Pinnacles, although I hiked there many times before. This post is sort of a wrap-up for the year, focusing on my camping experience there. Today is exactly one year from the first time I had arrived at this park to stay for the night.
I have visited the Pinnacles National park many times before, yet never camped there until last year. And why would I, if it's only two hours drive from my home. But when I started planning my group hike camping trip I figured I should test that campground in person before I take people there. By now I have camped there three times, once in December and twice in April. Twice I camped alone, at the family campground area, and the last time I camped with the group at the group camp area.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, I was driving Papa Quail's little hybrid to the Pinnacles. Right after I passed Tres Pinos, at about 9:00 pm, I got a phone call. Thinking that Papa Quail who stayed at home with the chikas had needed to ask me something, I pulled over and took the call. It wasn't Papa Quail, but regardless of the caller identity, I soon found myself in a predicament: the road shoulders that looked perfectly firm from the road had turned out to be a mud trap. I had sank pretty deep and couldn't get out. It took nearly 2 hours before the tow truck showed up and put me back on my wheels on the road (The tow truck driver told me that sinking by the shoulders on that road is one of the most common calls he get.)
Take home lesson: If you drive at night on CA-25 from Hollister to the Pinnacles in winter, don't pull over to the shoulders.
Bottom line: It was almost midnight when I finally arrived at the Pinnacles campground and found a spot. It was very dark and very cold, and I had to put up a brand new tent that I had purchased just a day before and had no time to open and study at home.
|Acorn Woodpecker, December 25, 2014|
|California Quail, male, December 25, 2014|
Later that day, after finishing my hike to the Pinnacles Shoulders I sat at the campground and watched these birds at their activities.
|Varied Thrash, December 25, 2014|
So my planned Pinnacles group camping trip got pushed back to April. A week before the group trip I came once more to camp at the park and do some more trail preparation. This time cold was not an issue at all. The main problem was to find a vacancy. April is the busiest time in that campground and I had not reserved a spot. Thank to last minute cancellations I was able to find a spot for two nights and had a very good time hiking and camping.
I was very happy to meet more quails :-)
And it is a birding heaven.
I returned from my High Peaks Trail with enough daylight to spare so I walked over to the visitor center area and checked out the local residents.
|Turkey Vultures fly-in, April 9, 2015|
|Turkey Vultures roosting for the night, April 9, 2015|
On the following week I was back at the Pinnacles campground - this time in the group camp area. The major drawback there is that is has a single restrooms facility for the entire group area. Realizing that I had booked the group site that was closest to the restrooms. Having some very young kids in the group, as well as some beginner campers, that choice turned out to be a very wise one.
Also - the drinking water tap was in our site. Very convenient for us. Less convenient to the neighboring groups who had to come over to fill their containers, then haul it all the way back to their site. Conclusion - better do the homework before reserving a campsite. Particularly when other people's convenience is in consideration.
It was fairly hot when we were there and on the second day we finished our hike with enough time for the families to go to the pool and take a refreshing swim. I preferred to stay at the campsite by myself and enjoy a cold beer. I also enjoyed the visit of a wild turkey pair in the neighboring camp site.
|Wild Turkey, male in courtship, April 13, 2015|
And so it was that I was lying on the bench alone with my beer when the condor swooped over my, quite low. I yelped and run to the car to fetch my camera. By the time I had it on the condor had already gained altitude. But still - a condor!