Jonathan and Mary's Midwinter Jaunt travel blog













Tuesday January 3, 2015. It got COLD last night! We don’t have a temperature gauge but we think it might be in the low 20’s! And we have another problem. We ran the heater almost continually and one propane tank ran completely out. So we had to switch over during the night. With two more nights to go here it is clear that we need more propane. So we rearranged our plans, went back to Hollister, filled both tanks, bought another full tank, had lunch and did some grocery shopping. On the way back, as we neared the park entrance Mary spotted a large cat in the pasture along the road. This was definitely not a house or feral kitty cat. It looked large enough to be a juvenile mountain lion. But it was just sauntering along in a ranch pasture not very much like a “puma” or “catamount”. We took some pictures and consulted with the park ranger. “Bobcat, we see a lot of them here.” Later we took a hike to “Bear Gulch”, which is the trailhead for some of hikes and has a cluster of buildings constructed by the CCC during the 1930’s. And like most National Parks, the trails here were also built by the CCC.

The major attraction and namesake of the park are the Pinnacles. Huge spires of rhyolite volcanic rock rising out of the Gabilan Range. These pinnacles are what is left of a volcanic eruption some 20 million years ago as a result of the subduction and melting of the Farralon Tectonic Plate by the North American plate. And incredibly, this is only 2/3 of the volcano. The other 1/3 is 179 miles to the southeast. As the Pacific plate, following the Farralon plate ground against the North American plate, the San Andreas Fault was created. During this process a small piece of land was snatched away from the North American plate by the Pacific plate and over 20 million years carried to it’s present position 179 miles northwest. The other 1/3 is down in the Mojave desert near Lancaster. We’ll look for it as we travel through that area. There will be a geology quiz at the end of the blog.

Wednesday January 3, 2015. Our goal today is to hike the Old Pinnacles Trail to the “bat filled” Balconies Cave about 5.2 miles round trip. We have a Scrabble game while we wait for the sun to get over of hill and thaw things out. We plan to have a trip long Scrabble tournament keeping a tally of both games won and total score.

The hike is along a mostly flat, shady and quite cold trail. We have the trail mostly to ourselves for a while. We cross a stream several times and finally reach the cave. Donning our headlamps we discover that one lamp is very faint even though we had just changed the batteries. This is not truly a “cave”, but the result of rock collapsing into a steep gulch. However, it very dark and pretty wet. We go a little ways into the cave and when it narrows to a dark, slippery, rock hopping adventure just wide enough to pass we think better of it. We can hear what sounds like a huge party coming our way as well so we turn back. As we exit, an extended family about 20 people from grandparents to tots emerge right behind us. Doubt we could have gotten past them in the small tunnel like passage.

On our hike back we keep a watch out for giant 9.5’ wingspan California Condors. We don’t see any but do discover a new bird to add to our list –the black and orange Varied Thrush.

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