We decided to skip the famous Big Sur on the coast and head inland from Monterey Bay. Our First stop was Pinnacles National Park, area designed to protect cool lava towers and boulder caves. The geological formations were came to be about 20 million years ago, when the Pacific plate collided with the North American plate, forming the San Andreas fault – a tear in the crust of Earth where magma pushed out from, forming the Pinnacles to be. It took 20 million years to get them to where and how they are now – drifting along with the Pacific plate, they suffered erosion, leaving the towers of harder rock standing above the hills, like Yao Ming in his school picture. Other harder chunks fell into the valley, forming caves when waters took the stuff from beneath them.
The sun is working hard at this latitude so we had to get our sunscreen out before hitting the outdoors. There are two main trails in the park when entering from the west as we did. We were in no rush, so we decided to try them both.
First the cave trail – a 3 km loop, half of which high on the hills and half low in the valley. Most people start with the hills and then descend into the valley and eventually into the cool cave. We did it the other way and had lots of fun. Before getting to the cave there are a lot of huge boulders on the trail, reminding you of how small you are. Then a partial cave – some boulders covering a narrow canyon. At first we thought that was it, but then saw a small entrance to a pitch black hole under the rocks. Half way through we heard people coming the other way getting more and more lost and slowly starting to panic, looking for the right way. It was pretty humorous, but we didn’t let them suffer for long – we called them our way and showed them “the light at the end of the tunnel”. All in all we were hoping for more underground experience from the loop, but the one we got was good, too.
The High Trail was bit longer and strenuous, totaling in about 7 km, but giving excellent views of the area. The environment was hot, dry and dusty and as we got higher, the more and more condors started circling above our heads. Luckily their counterparts on the round, the rattlesnakes, weren’t out and we survived to see the best part – the toilet on top of the hill! Just kidding, the best part was the winding and climbing trail on top of the Pinnacles, steps and passages cut into the rock to make it accessible for the “everyday explorers”.
While we were making our way down, the sunset painted the scene even more fabulous. Great views, not too many people and the condors made it a “would recommend” hike for us.
The area around the Pinnacles has a big Mexican community, so shopping at the local grocery store El Pueblo Market was an experience in itself. A lof of products we hadn’t seen in other stores and a joyful customer service made it an unique visit. Me gusta! They had big chunks of chicaron, fried pork skin and they sold skins of corn in bouquets. Such a cool mixture of cultures here.