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Hollister
May 23, 2024

New driving laws take effect this year

With the new year came a host of new laws motorists must add to

Motorcyclist dies after unsafe turn onto Hwy. 101

A wrong move turned fatal for a motorcyclist traveling

San Benito YMCA to run middle school sports programs

After the Hollister School District superintendent announced

Possible toxic mold prompts lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed Wednesday by 14 San Benito County workers

Supes approve changes to hillside building rules

After two years of revisions, county supervisors unanimously

War on gangs heats up

by PATRICK O'DONNEL and KATE WOODS

Puppy Love

Hollister girl is the first blind child in the nation to receive

Renowned poet to make Hollister stop

Professor Randall Horton will do a book reading and signing at 7 p.m. Thursday at the San Benito Arts Council’s ARTspace, located at 240 Fifth St. in downtown Hollister.

Hiking Barry’s Pinnacles loop

Pinnacles National Park is just far enough away to place it beyond the "Hey, let's go for a hike this afternoon" category. It's more of a "We gotta get down to Pinnacles sometime this spring" place. And often, we don't get around to it.

 

My visits are so rare that I generally return to the usual attractions: the caves and the namesake spires along the High Peaks Trail. They are beautiful, indeed, but the park boasts many miles of trails I have never seen.

 

Few men love the outdoors more or know our natural history better than Barry Breckling, the now retired ranger who worked 30 years at Henry Coe State Park. A couple years ago, we hiked up North Chalone Peak at Pinnacles when Barry mentioned his favorite loop in the park. I filed away that remark until a couple weeks ago when I emailed him for the details.

 

Barry's route presents a bit of a predicament, because it doesn't end where it begins. To span the two miles between the start and the end of the loop, one needs to either hitch a ride or, dare I say, walk. On a recent weekday morning, I parked my car at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead and walked back down the road to a park maintenance yard I passed on the way in. Several young park employees were chatting near a pickup before heading off to work. I asked if they were heading to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area and, if so, could I bum a ride. Yes and yes. Jackpot!

 

The Condor Gulch Trail edges up toward the park's remarkable spires and crags. These volcanic ramparts are part of the Neenach Volcano born 23 million years ago near Lancaster in southern California. Riding the San Andreas Fault, the pinnacles have traveled 195 miles north to their current location.

 

Wooded, green and cool down below, the Condor Gulch Trail popped into open chaparral when I joined the High Peaks Trail two miles and 1,100 vertical feet later. It was a perfectly still and clear morning; the views stretched for miles in every direction.

 

After the climb, I welcomed the High Peaks Trail's gentle traverse along the shaded north side of the ridge. Shooting stars, saxifrage, larkspur, Indian warrior and miles of blossoming buckbrush joined forces for an impressive floral display that never dimmed. Past the Tunnel Trail, I reached the exposed portion of the High Peaks Trail. Railings and steps cut into the rock secured me along narrow ledges in the volcanic rock.

 

On the Juniper Canyon Trail, I turned down the back side of the pinnacles toward the Chaparral Trailhead parking area where westside visitors enter the park from the Salinas Valley. As I zigzagged down through an ever-changing array of rock spires, overhead I saw a huge bird lazily riding the morning air. Could it be?

 

 

Sure enough. One, two, three California Condors drifted overhead and landed on the rocks above me. One turned toward the sun, stretched his wings wide and basked in the sun's warming rays. What a show for an audience of one.

 

After a bite to eat at the Chaparral trailhead, I started down the Balconies Trail toward home. Lacking a flashlight, I bypassed the Balconies Caves and followed the gentle drift of Old Pinnacles Trail back to my car.

çPinnacles National Park is just far enough away to place it beyond the "Hey, let's go for a hike this afternoon" category. It's more of a "We gotta get down to Pinnacles sometime this spring" place. And often, we don't get around to it.

My visits are so rare that I generally return to the usual attractions: the caves and the namesake spires along the High Peaks Trail. They are beautiful, indeed, but the park boasts many miles of trails I have never seen.

Few men love the outdoors more or know our natural history better than Barry Breckling, the now retired ranger who worked 30 years at Henry Coe State Park. A couple years ago, we hiked up North Chalone Peak at Pinnacles when Barry mentioned his favorite loop in the park. I filed away that remark until a couple weeks ago when I emailed him for the details.

Barry's route presents a bit of a predicament, because it doesn't end where it begins. To span the two miles between the start and the end of the loop, one needs to either hitch a ride or, dare I say, walk. On a recent weekday morning, I parked my car at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead and walked back down the road to a park maintenance yard I passed on the way in. Several young park employees were chatting near a pickup before heading off to work. I asked if they were heading to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area and, if so, could I bum a ride. Yes and yes. Jackpot!

The Condor Gulch Trail edges up toward the park's remarkable spires and crags. These volcanic ramparts are part of the Neenach Volcano born 23 million years ago near Lancaster in southern California. Riding the San Andreas Fault, the pinnacles have traveled 195 miles north to their current location.

Wooded, green and cool down below, the Condor Gulch Trail popped into open chaparral when I joined the High Peaks Trail two miles and 1,100 vertical feet later. It was a perfectly still and clear morning; the views stretched for miles in every direction.

After the climb, I welcomed the High Peaks Trail's gentle traverse along the shaded north side of the ridge. Shooting stars, saxifrage, larkspur, Indian warrior and miles of blossoming buckbrush joined forces for an impressive floral display that never dimmed. Past the Tunnel Trail, I reached the exposed portion of the High Peaks Trail. Railings and steps cut into the rock secured me along narrow ledges in the volcanic rock.

On the Juniper Canyon Trail, I turned down the back side of the pinnacles toward the Chaparral Trailhead parking area where westside visitors enter the park from the Salinas Valley. As I zigzagged down through an ever-changing array of rock spires, overhead I saw a huge bird lazily riding the morning air. Could it be?

 

Sure enough. One, two, three California Condors drifted overhead and landed on the rocks above me. One turned toward the sun, stretched his wings wide and basked in the sun's warming rays. What a show for an audience of one.

After a bite to eat at the Chaparral trailhead, I started down the Balconies Trail toward home. Lacking a flashlight, I bypassed the Balconies Caves and followed the gentle drift of Old Pinnacles Trail back to my car.

There are few eight-mile loops that match the magic and beauty of this one. Shoot for the cool freshness of an early spring morning. The season will be gone before you know it.

Ron Erskine is a local outdoors columnist and avid hiker. Visit him online at www.RonErskine.com, his blog at www.WeeklyTramp.com or email him at [email protected].

CAO to give ‘state of the county’ address to business leaders

County Administrative Officer Susan Thompson is set to speak

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