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    2004 Pinnacles Trip - Day 3
    (Saturday, 20 March, 2004)

    See also my photo gallery from this day.

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    We woke up at 6:45, lazing around until 7:30'ish before preparing a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, cheese, and sausage burritos. We gathered up the day's gear and drove into the monument at around 9:15. A truck full of fellow Bay Area Link-Up hikers was stopped at the gate - apparently they won't let you drive in with un-seatbelted passengers. Those poor folks got an extra mile or so tacked on to their morning. Eventually everybody was assembled: Russ (our leader, from San Jose), Sean (San Francisco), Lisa (Oakland), Erin (Redwood City), Glen (Oakland), Beth (Mountain View) and Dan. After a brief safety speech from Russ, we hit the trail at 10:15.

    Starting out on the Condor Gulch trail at a brisk pace, as passed blue dicks, indian warriors and a few other scattered flowers as we climbed steadily, soon arriving at Condor Lookout (which featured no condors at this time). We took a quick break here to dip our hats in a little brook to cool off, and to enjoy the nice views, then continued up up up until we met a ranger who was monitoring the location of the 6 resident juvenile california condors. He talked at length about the plight of these prehistoric beasts and the dangers posed to them by lead buckshot (since they're carrion-eaters, they injest it in shot ranch rabbits, birds, etc). The condors had only been release in December 2003 and were apparently still learining how to survive in the wild. The ranger said they sometimes had to rescue the birds because they became too tired and misjudged the distance to their roost, perching on the bare ground where they would be easy prey for a dog or coyote.

    Continuing upwards with continuing great views we eventually topped out at the High Peaks Trail and turned left into the crazy rock zone. Very steep steps are cut into the rock face in places, but these were easily navigated with a modicum of caution. We found a nook with a shade-providing tree and declared it our lunch spot, dropping our packs at 11:55. Sarah & I ate salami and cheese sandwiches, but were easily out-gourmeted by Erin, who whipped out proscuitto and pears! We decided this was very civilized indeed. The spicy cracker peanuts we'd brought from a local asian market were also a hit with everyone (I wish they weren't so hard to find!). After relaxing and enjoying the views for a half hour or so, we continued hiking, now heading back towards the start.

    There were a number of people around, but thankfully a huge and noisy group of red-shirted scouts was nowhere to be seen. The trail dipped steeply, affording a fun down-hike along a ridge, then under some towering rocks. We came to bonafide bathrooms here in the middle of nowhere just before the huge scout gang arrived. We hurriedly continued down the trail to put some distance between us and them, enjoying continued downward grades and a fair bit of shade, in contrast to our ascent. We passed a number of suffering hikers heading upwards, many looking entirely underprepared for a long, hot hike. After some gentle rolling terrain we came out on the Rim Trail and headed up to the Reservoir, arriving at 1:30.

    We took another brief break here to dip our feet in the cool water, then donned our headlights and entered the Bear Gulch "caves" at 1:45. After some initial congestion caused by too many people in a very tight space, we had a highly enjoyable hike through the caves (not really caves, but formed by huge boulders falling into a narrow valley). It was wet here (bring sandals!), ankle-deep in a few places, but the path soon dried out. White arrows were helpfully painted on the rocks to tell you where to go (a good thing, this, as navigation would be difficult without them!). We descended numerous stairs and passed a couple burbling waterfalls, but it was entirely too dark to get any good photos.

    Eventually the fun subsided and we came out on the Bear Gulch Trail and quickly hiked the remaining few thousand feet back to the parking lot, finishing at 2:22. It was fun hiking with a larger group, comprised mainly of strangers, although it left little time to stop and smell (and take pictures of) the flowers. Everyone seemed nice, which must have meant that we were the obnoxious ones (there's one in every group you know!) :).

    Back at camp Sarah & I had an icicle and beers, showered, and I journalled before we snacked on brie and crackers while playing Perquacky (?sp).

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    Day's statistics:
    Distance: 6.5mi
    Time: 4hr 6min
    Elevation gain: 1,700'
    Difficulty: 7
    Scenery: 9 - superb!
    Trail condition/markings/etc: 10
    Overall rating: 9.5

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    Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
    Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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