May 12, 2011 10:14 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
Some things are worth a little road trip. But you don't need to book a week's vacation to get there. In fact, along the Central and South Coasts, you won't need more than a tank of gas to find some amazing proof, there's no place like home.
About an hour north of Paso Robles, if you head east out of King City, you'll find a picturesque drive that leads to an amazing getaway. The hum of the freeway you leave behind is replaced by a meandering country highway highway where you'll find magnificent views of the mountain ranges that sprout from this fertile valley. And just beyond the pastures and prairie grasses, you'll find the Pinnacles National Monument. Sandi Heller brought relatives camping here from San Luis Obispo. "Usually we do mountains or beach and this is here all the time and it's something so totally different."
The Pinnacles is a place of unspoiled wilderness, and so unlike anything around it. And it is so much more than a series of rock formations. 9-year-old Smith Briggs came with his family. "There's huge, gynormous rocks. But they can be dangerous." Yes, there are rocks. Mammoth rocks. But there are also amazing vistas if you're up for a little hike. There are also canyons, caves and crevices to explore along the way. Smith's 7 year-old brother Wyatt loves the caves. "There's some dark caves, and when you go into the white and dark and you can actually see how cool they are by the rocks and how big they are and stuff like that."
An ancient volcano, combined with the movement of the San Andreas fault that runs just east of the park, helped shape this hodge podge of terrain. The caves are actually just canopies where huge boulders have fallen off the mountains above and gotten wedged into these crevices permanently. At least we hope so.
The Bear Gulch Cave Trail is a little more than 2-mile loop that takes you such a geological adventure you'll forget how close to home you are. I was incredibly grateful for the flashlight app on my phone, but I'd still recommend the real deal if you come this way.
You'll venture in and out of narrow gorges transformed into caves when the boulders toppled from above, hear the running water nearby, even if you can't see it. It's kind of like a real-life Pirates of the Caribbean. And even though you feel like an ancient explorer, you're guided by an easy to follow trail.
Photographer Kelly Teel and I kept commenting how it was so much more than we expected. And all right in our own backyard.
You will feel at times like you're making a trek up toward some ancient ruins, and I guess in fact, you are. Ruins, created by the rumbles of the earth. I wouldn't call it any of it trecherous. But you need to be in good walking shape, wear good shoes, and good knees don't hurt in a few spots.
The adventure of it all can only be overshadowed by the beauty of the landscape that comes with it. Because just when you think you've reached the place with the best view....there is another. Heller says she's wowed by the variance of temperature and terrain. "Last year did a big loop trail and the flowers were absolutely incredible. All along the gulch creek trail, a huge variety of flowers. That's my thing, so I really enjoyed that.
From wildflowers to rockclimbing to the chapparral covered mountains that surround it, the Pinnacles National Momument offers a playground for most nature lovers. And guess what...this awesome outdoor adventure is right in our own backyard.
For more information on the Pinnacles National Monument, which encompasses more than 26-thousand acres, click here.
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