April 11, 2009 Pinnacles National Monument

The announcement

This week we’re giving up the pretense of a moderate hike. In fact, to make it even rougher on people like me, we’re leaving at 7:30. “What?”, you say, “who is this pretending to be Mike and writing this.” I know, I know. Mikey does not like getting up in the wee hours. Actually, I’m not fond of leaving even at 9 AM. But, as Beth has pointed out, and as we’ve experience every year, when you go to the Pinnacles (did I forget to mention we’re going to the Pinnacles), parking is a problem.

If you’ve known us long enough, you know that Wimbles will never win the lottery, but we always manage to find a good parking place. But how many of you are going to want to do the 2 and a half hour drive in the car with us, Kathy driving and Mikey snoring all the way down? So the rest of you may not be so lucky. By leaving at 7:30 we hope to be there somewhere between 9:30 and 10 and start the hike close to 10, thinking we may have a small shot of being able to park at the main visitor center rather than taking bus, donkey and oxcart to the trailhead.

The hike itself is only a bit over 5 miles, but it’s getting up towards 2000 feet of climb. The trail is pretty nearly all exposed except at the beginning. We’ll be doing a anti-clockwise loop as before. See our hiking blog for maps, recipes and antidotes for snakebite. Not that we expect any snakes to bite us, though Kathy always has her snakebite kit handy (and we hope others have the brandy for an antidote). Most of us would probably cause the snake to die if it bit us, but you never know how smart a snake is or what it’s motivations are.

Sorry, drifted off topic a bit there. Make sure we have cell numbers for each car and we need to coordinate as we get close so we know who to expect at the visitor center and when. We’re entering from the Hollister side. We’ll go to the main visitor center (parking, oxcart, whatever) and take a shuttle down to the alternate visitor center to do the loop. We’ll eat lunch just before the summit. When we come down, we may take an additional bit of trail we’ve never done—we’ll see. There’s a fair chance that those who ride back with us will be forced to stop in Gilroy for milkshakes and various other foods imbued with blackberries. Maybe.

Bring sunblock, water, and extra memory cards for your camera. A first aid kit for blisters has been handy in the past. We may be taking another picture for a new FOMFOK Logo (you do know about the existing logo and T-shirts, right?), so be sure to wear clean underwear. Well, you need clean underwear anyway in case you have an accident somewhere. Not that I want to bring up anything about accidents and Pinnacles.

Ok, drifting off again. Binoculars for viewing the condors wouldn’t go amiss. We’ll try to remember to bring a pair of family friendly radios along. If you have a radio, think about bringing it. Not that we’ll need the radios because we won’t be splitting up, right? Right.

Expect muddy trails and slippery rocks. As usual, sneakers would be a bad thing. Expect spectacular views of condors, flowers, and obscene rock formations.

The hike

We perambulated the pinnacle of the Pinnacles. Ok, how often do I get a chance to say something like that? Once too many?

How lucky have we been these past weeks to have pretty much perfect weather for so many hikes? Maybe it was just me, but this was the easiest ascent of the mountain I’ve ever done. And, in case you didn’t realize it, this year’s wildflowers were significantly better than I’ve ever seen there, which I guess was only 5 years before.

We saw a baby condor, which looks a lot like a crow—who knew? We saw a bitterroot flower, which I’d never have known if Kathy didn’t point it out. We spelunked through a cave, albeit one about 6 feet long. We sang. We wept (well, I did when I smashed my shin on the big vertical rock face). We saw a daring rescue on a climbing rope. I got to eat a milkshake, something that hasn’t happened in a long time.

Good times, good times.

My pictures are here http://picasaweb.google.com/mwimble/20090411PinnaclesNationalMonument?feat=directlink

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