For our twelfth and final camping trip of the year, we went to Pinnacles National Park (just an hour drive south of Gilroy)! On the way, we were able to see another view of the Central California landscape - lots of rolling green hills, herds of grazing black cows, and old wooden farm houses. As we arrived at the park entrance to check in at the visitor center, we were even greeted by a line of wild turkeys crossing the road!
Since we checked in around 4:30pm, we only had half an hour to explore the park before sunset! The first spot we stopped by was Peaks View, a small area with a bench and a couple of fixed binoculars for looking at the pinnacles off in the distance. These pinnacles were formed as a result of volcanic activity from 23 million years ago and their subsequent erosion - the cliffs and peaks are all made of volcanic rock! Then we stopped by the Bear Gulch Nature Center area and decided to go on a 0.7 mile hike to the Bear Gulch Caves. We saw a couple big rock climbing groups on the cliffs (this park definitely seems like the place to go for some intense rock climbing). Once we reached the caves, it was completely dark, but that didn't stop us from putting on our headlamps and going inside for a bit! I don't think I had ever hiked an actual cave before. It was an awesome and sorta-scary experience. But it was also so fascinating - these talus caves were created by boulders falling into steep, narrow canyons, and forming ceilings and passageways over time! We definitely hope to go back and explore the rest of the Bear Gulch and Balconies Cave Trails. Here are a few notes about hiking the caves: Remember to go online to check the status of the caves (sometimes they may be closed due to flooding, severe weather conditions, and the protection of bat colonies). I also recommend going with more people during the daytime...and don't forget to bring flashlights and headlamps, because they will be needed!
As for the campsites, they are located in their own little area a few minutes drive away from the pinnacles. We stayed at campsite #25, which came with a fire pit, food locker...and a fearless raccoon.
Wow, I am still in awe that Clay and I have completed this camping-once-a-month goal for the year! But I am even more in awe of all the amazing county/state/national parks that California has to offer. This past year, we got a glimpse of so many of these parks, but there is still so much to be seen and experienced. Clay and I hope to continue camping at least 2-3 times a year in the future :) our new camping goal for life.
Just capturing as I go.