Pinnacles National Park

From Morro Bay, we went to Fruitdale, and stayed at a KOA which positioned us to go easily to Monterey, Pinnacles, and home.  The KOA was like a lot of RV Parks, mostly pads for trailers with little greenery or separation from your neighbors.  This park was almost all paved with what seemed like a lot of permanent or at least long term campers.  It seems that there are more and more long term campers in RV Parks.

Since we got a trailer, we have gone to Pinnacles National Park about once a year.  This year, since we were coming up the California coast, it made more sense to visit the park from the west rather than the east.  The park campground is in the east so we had to find another place to stay.  The park highway is not continuous.  You can approach the park from the east or the west but the only way across the park is by foot.  Since we had almost always come in from the east, we decided to go from the west.

A major feature on the west side is the Balconies talus cave and we had never tried to visit it.  The lead photo shows Jennifer under one of the rocks that make the cave.  Unlike most caves, it is made from rocks collapsing to form a roof rather than the usual way a cave is made by water eroding out rock.  Well, actually, the floor of the cave is somewhat eroded out but there is no tunnel in the rock like you would expect in a usual cave.

We walked up the trail and found the cave trail.  Unfortunately, the trail from the south was so steep with you having to walk down very large rock steps without a railing or chain to help you.  We probably would have made it a decade or two ago, but our joints are not as flexible and we felt it was not worth the risk of trying to get down into the cave.  We might have made it from the north as that would have involved climping up the steps rather than going down them.

The Balconies area has two trails in a loop.  The one we started on is the Balconies Cave Trail, while the other is the Balconies Cliffs Trail.  We walked up part of the Balconies Cliffs Trail.  It was already getting rather hot.  We disturbed a snake out sunning itself along the trail.  If you look carefully in the photo, you can see the snake who was rather well camouflaged.

We also saw quite a few wildflowers along the trail.  I suspect that within a month, they will be gone for the summer as it is very hot here during the summer months.

The area of the Balconies goes past another feature of the park, the Machete Ridge.  It appears to be a popular rock climbing destination based on the trail signs pointing to it.  It would be quite a challenge.

On the way to the west side parking lot for the trailheads, there is a new visitor center.  There wasn't one here before so it was nice to see some investment in the park since it became a national park.

After our visit to Pinnacles National Park, we decided to visit another area near our campground: Elkhorn Slough Reserve.  We had not heard of it and yet here it was.  The visitor center is on a bluff above the slough.  There are a number of trails down into the slough.  Since it was getting late, we decided to take the trail to the boardwalk that looks out over the slough.  There were quite a few birds there, some of which we had not seen before.  I, of course, left my telephoto lens in the car, thinking that there would not be anything down along the slough to photograph, and I was wrong, so you can't really make out any of the birds in this photo.

The Reserve is run by the Federal Government.  We were told that their funding was very much in jeopardy in the proposed budget.  I really hope that areas like this are not left to no longer be accessible to people like us.

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