After hiking through the Bear Gulch Cave, Hannah and I are ready to head into the mountains at Pinnacles National Park – the High Peaks! Click here for the Bear Gulch Cave blog.
Once through the Bear Gulch Cave, we begin the heavy lifting part of our 6.2 mile High Peaks Loop Trail with 1500’ of elevation gain.
Before we hit the High Peaks Trail, we go from the reservoir on the Rim Trail. I stop for a photo op of the valley with Hannah in the foreground.
Just as we are about to ascend the High Peaks Trail, Hannah realizes she left her gray shirt somewhere back on the trail. Without hesitation we U-turn it to recover her shirt. It doesn’t take a genius in the marriage game to figure that eye rolling and complaining about retracing our steps doesn’t score any points with one’s spouse. Nor does it score points with anyone if the one who leaves behind her shirt beats herself up with such self-shaming comments such as How stupid could I be or What a dummy I am?
No, Hannah and I have learned a lot about succeeding interpersonally. Stuff happens. Not 0.2 of mile back, we find the shirt and return to our summitting of the High Peaks.
The 1500’ of elevation is mediated by switchbacks and gentle climbs. There is the feel of high desert with chaparral bushes green from December’s rain.
And before we know it, we are among the condors (not literally but you get the point). It’s not a tough hike at all; just one foot ahead of the other. Lunching on our Subway subs (mine tuna, Hannah’s Black Forest Ham), we let the condors and turkey vultures entertain us.
Crossing the High Peaks, the fun begins as we have footholds sculpted out of the rock and handrails to steady our climb. Without the handrails this trail is un-hikeable, but with them and the footholds, we squeeze through the rocks in places, but in no way is it perilous.
It’s certainly no Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park in Utah or Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park in Maine. It’s nonetheless satisfying and doable.
At the top we notice a park intern seeking condors holding a small version of the 1960s roof top antenna while a volunteer records the times when they hear the beeps emanating from the chips on the condors flying above. The antenna detects condors within a five to ten mile radius. Rangers apply the chips to the wings of young condors by enticing them with a dead calf in an enclosure that then closes the lid remotely once the condors are in.
All condors are tagged with at least one distinct color/number wing-mounted tags for identification in the field. They wear a GPS transmitter, which biologists use to track the condors’ movements while they are not at the nest. The transmitters can be seen on the wing just above the tag number.
Once done with the High Peaks Trail we descend on the Condor Gulch Trail back to the trailhead at the Bear Gulch parking lot to complete four hours of hiking under the temperate January sun. We are told hiking in the summer brings temperatures in the triple digits.
Before driving the three hours and forty-five minutes back to Carpinteria, I feast on the second half of my tuna sub with wavy chips and a fine IPA. Hannah and I toast this out-of-the-way hike that we encourage you to consider for your Hiking Bucket list. Pinnacles is a national park for peace and quiet where cell phones do not receive signals.
PS Did you notice the new hiking shirt I am sporting? After seven years, I am no longer wearing my Ithaca College tee shirt. I am now all in on the Monks of St. Joseph’s College outside of Portland, Maine. Our son Will has taken a job in the athletic department at SJC. Go Monks! But what’s with the blue beard monk? I have no idea!