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    2004 Pinnacles Trip - Day 4
    (Sunday, 21 March, 2004)

    See also my photo gallery from this day.


    Previous Day Trip Home  
    We woke up early on Sunday, rising at 6, and whipped up a simple breakfast of coffee, bagels, cream cheese and lox. We drove up the road, arriving at the Chalone parking lot at 7:45. We'd wanted to get an early start since this trailhead has limited parking, and typical of when we get up early to avoid crowds, we were the only car there :).

    Hiking out at 7:50, on the Old Pinnacles Trail, an old double-track road built by the CCC in the 1930s following Chalone Creek. The fog that had been hanging over us burned off very quickly, and we were treated to a lovely display of wildflowers, starting with lupine, mission bells, fiddleneck, california manroot, shooting stars and buttercups. Other than a solitary stink beetle, there was no wildlife to be seen. There were numerous crossing of Chalone Creek, making this a poor choice for wet-season hiking unless you bring hip waders! The trail was "under destruction" in some places to return Chalone Creek's floodplain to a more natural state (the CCC trail bisected the creek and its floodplain). This was nice, as the rerouting was on a verdant green hillside. The first mile or so passed quickly, and after 8 (count 'em) creek crossings, we veered right on the Balconies Cliff Trail.

    The little bit of climbing that followed normally wouldn't have fazed us at all, but the two prior days of long'ish and steep'ish hikes left our legs a touch unenergetic. We soon got our first views of the namesake Balconies Cliffs, and they were just beautiful! Larkspur, Fremont's Star Lily, Redstem Filaree, Blue Fiestaflower, Douglas Wallflower and Bladder Parsnip abounded. The cliffs towered above us, deeply eroded and somewhat orange-tinged, with long views down the Chalone Creek valley we'd just hiked up. Various birds flitted in and out, but none closely enough that we could identify them.

    We descended to the head of the Balconies Caves Trail, arriving at 9:30. There were large patches of sedum covering many of the rocks here in the deeply-shadowed valley. We soon entered the caves (talus jumbles, like the Bear Gulch Cave of the previous day) and had a great time clambering around. I acutally liked this cave better than Bear Gulch, but that was probably largely due to an almost complete absence of people.

    Exiting the cave, we returned the way we came along Chalone Creek. We saw more people now, some obviously coming from our trailhead, some coming from an extended High Peaks Loop. We saw Sarah Orange Tip and Sonoran Blue butterflies on the walk back, but overall I was surprised by how little wildlife we saw here since it is an isolated hike, and near a water source. We got back to the car at 10:45, making this a fairly short, but positively beautiful hike.

    Back at camp, we broke everything down, packed the car, and drove homeward. We'd heard of a terrific tamale parlor in Hollister, but we arrived to find it closed until 4pm, so we had to settle for Panda Garden "chinese" food in Morgan Hill - yecch.

    This was a terrific hike, and the wildflowers were well-varied. It can be done much more quickly if you park at the west entrance of Pinnacles (recall that there are no roads connecting the east and west entrances, and it is a loooong drive between them!), but this would bypass the lovely stroll along Chalone Creek.

    Previous Day Trip Home  


    Day's statistics:
    Distance: 5.5mi
    Time: 2hrs 51min
    Elevation gain: ~400'
    Difficulty: 4
    Scenery: 9 - superb!
    Trail condition/markings/etc: 10
    Overall rating: 9.5

    Trip links:

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