The day before Thanksgiving, my dad and I headed out to the Pinnacles. The Pinnacles is a state park located in Monterey County, about 90 minutes from home. The weather was supposed to be in the high 40’s low 50’s and that is cold to this California girl so I dressed in a few layers which included 2 pairs of socks. Once we arrived, we parked on got our gear ready. I had my Nathan vest with 20oz of water and 2 Extend bars. I didn’t think I would need the bars for what was likely going to be a 3 hour hike. Insert theme song to Gilligan’s Island.
My pops has had some pretty gnarly injuries over the years so he kept telling me to go ahead. The trail was pretty straight forward and well marked. I would go ahead until I couldn’t see or hear him anymore then stop and wait until I could. It gave me time to take plenty of photos. The scenery was amazing. That combined with the chill in the air made me feel like I wasn’t in California anymore.
The first 2.5 miles gained about 1500 ft in elevation but 98% of that was very user- friendly. All trail, nothing technical. Just great views. The wind was picking up and my ears were getting cold. I can’t stand when my ears or toes get cold. I stopped to pull my headband out of my pack to put it around my ears and waited for pops to catch up. I made a snarky comment about how silly it looked with my hair sticking out and he commented that it’s not like anyone was looking. HA! I hit the first summit around 1.5 miles up and who was there? A crew of firefighters. Working out. Seriously?!
After that fun run in, I just kept going up until I thought I was at the top. I was wrong. My parents had done this trail in the past and I remembered my mom mentioning a set of freaky stairs but I hadn’t seen anything so I figured we took a different path. Nope. There was more to come, I had just missed it. I was looking for actually stairs. Not holes in rocks.
So yeah, I was a little nervous. At least this section had a railing. The last section to the top was a lot of hand over foot. But the view was worth it.
After a little rest on the top, we headed back down the other side. This series of “stairs” was even hinkier and interesting going down. Once past that though, we hit a nice path and going down was fairly easy. I was still super cold, my toes and ears were felt frozen. We went down like we went up, I would go ahead until I couldn’t hear my dad then wait til he was in sight again. As we were nearing the bottom of this particular trail, I admit I was tiring. While the path was walker/hiker/runner friendly, the elevation gain then loss was tiring plus I was freakin’ cold. Pops was fading too. We were just past 5 miles when we hit the trail head. And wanted to cry. We were 3.5 miles from the parking lot. 😢😢😓
We could do this, we could. This path was along the river bed and pretty in a different way. We were paying close attention to the trail as well because there was a trail head and accidentally taking it would add another 7 miles to the route. Umm, no thank you.
However we had one last decision to make. The trail split in 2 one last time. You could choose the Balcony path for 1.7 miles to the parking lot or the Cave trail for 1.3 miles to the lot. The park guide said you needed a flashlight for the cave but that was it. We figured it was more a tunnel and took that route. I was tired and my dad’s feet were hurting pretty badly so half a mile less sounded great.
Coming up on the cave, I started to doubt our shortcut. We were climbing rocks and boulders just to get into the cave. I was getting nervous. Things opened up and flattened out once in the cave. And turned pitch black. I busted out the flash on my iPhone in time to arrive a wall of stone. Ummm, where were we supposed to go? I kept moving the light around the cave wall and I found a tiny little reflective arrow pointing up. Moving closer, there was a hole in the ceiling. Seriously? And it was raining water so the rocks were slippery. We made it through that only to find more rocks to climb up and out. So that half mile less must have been in elevation and the shortcut was that we were climbing it instead. Once out of the main cave, there was a narrow corridor to traverse. Which was fine as long you were cool with boulders being wedged above your head. Granted they’ve been there for hundred and hundreds of years but this is California and the ground does like to move from time to time. 😄
From there it was a much easier hike back to the lot. My Garmin clocked in at 9 miles and I know I lost signal a couple of times. I was completely out of water and hadn’t actually eaten anything for the 5 hours we were out there. My feet were freezing and my dad was hurting too. As we were climbing out of the cave, I glanced at my watch and even though there was no signal it showed a lap pace of 58:something. Haha! I didn’t even think it was possible to do a mile that slow!
I wish I had better pictures of the cave but it was so dark. Kind cool after the fact but it was way harder than I thought it was going to be. 😄 Overall it was a great day just a few hours and miles longer than planned.
Ever gotten turned around on a hike?
How about climbing out of bat cave?