On a quest to visit all 59 National Parks, I created this travel blog. I can’t help but include some skiing, cycling and other travel too. My hope is that it will give you a flavor of our adventures along with some useful information that will inspire your own adventures. Enjoy.

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Sunday
Aug232015

A Road Trip Home – Bryce, Zion and Great Basin National Parks

Liza, my Samsung Galaxy S 5, keeps telling us that we are getting closer to Bryce Canyon National Park in miles but falling further away in time. We realize that we are approaching a massive 10 mile back up on Interstate 15 and there is no way around it. It’s only May, but its 100 degrees in Baker, CA which doesn’t help.

We are driving from the Santa Ynez Valley, CA after a fantastic week of cycling with friends, to Utah on our quest to visit all 59 Parks. Finally, after 12 hours of fairly miserable driving through non-scenic desert, including Las Vegas, we arrive at dusk just in time for dinner at the historic Lodge near the rim of the Canyon.

Day 1, 2 and 3 – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

A friend warned us that, “the Utah Parks are a lot of red rocks”, implying that all six Parks are very similar. As we walk the short distance from our cabin out to the rim of Bryce Canyon, we get our first glimpse of something very unique and magical. I immediately know this is hardly a place of just red rocks!

The Canyon is not a real canyon; it isn’t carved by a river or stream. Centuries of erosion from heavy rains artfully sculpts the red rock initially into fins, the square pillar shapes closest to the rim. Frost–wedging carves windows in the fins. Continued erosion collapses the tops of the windows creating the bulbous spires called hoodoos and finally the spires are reduced to rubble on the Canyon floor. At nearly 8,000 feet, Bryce Canyon is the top of the Grand Staircase created by massive tectonic plate activity millions of years ago.  Extreme weather and temperature fluctuations create this mesmerizing landscape. 

The Park was established in 1928 after the railroad made it accessible. It’s named for Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon pioneer. It has the oldest unaltered historic lodge of all the Parks. Food is fair. The renovated log cabins are lovely, which, unfortunately, is where I spend most of my time in bed, the first of many, due to illness.  

Tom can’t wait to get into the Canyon after our initial morning peek along the rim. As an afternoon introduction, he descends down to the Canyon floor among the towering hoodoos via the 3 mile Queens Navajo Loop Trail then does the steep 600 feet walk out.

After caring for me last night, Tom is anxious to rise early and hike the fantastic 8 mile, Fairyland Loop Hike which begins with a 2.5 mile walk south along the rim. He then descends into the Canyon and walks among the tall hoodoos before climbing over China Wall, another rim, and then ascends back up to our cabin. Luckily he gets back before the afternoon thunderstorms begin, as I crawl out of bed number one and check out.

And, since I am still bed bound, we cancel our plans to go to Capital Reef National Park. No lodging is available in Bryce tonight so we get reservations at the Best Western Plus, aka bed number two, in Bryce Canyon City, just outside the Park – not a bad second choice. 

In between check out and check in time we drive the eight miles along the rim.  The viewpoints are exquisite I hear. Everyone has their favorite. Unfortunately, I need to stay in the car; it’s the maiden voyage of my new, used Audi A4 Wagon which is fun. Visitor center and Park stamp accomplished, we head to the hotel and then to dinner at Bryce Canyon Pines, rated on Trip Advisor as the best in town.   

With an early start, the following day, we explore Escalante, a super scenic side trip. Tom, my four wheeling guy, decides we should try the dirt road to get from Bryce to Zion. Signs warn of slippery and unpassable conditions if wet. But, we of course, keep proceeding even through a stream. Finally, my savior shows up. A car coming from the other direction flags us down and tells us that 360s and side slipping are in our future if we continue. So, finally we get to turn around. Good news! I won’t total two cars in one month – the reason for my “new” car.  Bad news! This detour delays me from getting into bed number three.

Day 4 and 5 – Zion National Park, Utah

As we enter Zion via the east entrance, I simply can’t believe what I am seeing. In all our travels I have never seen anything quite like the magnificent rock formations. The Checkerboard Mesa, with its crisscross pattern, is my favorite. We stop at the overlook right after going through the Zion Mt Carmel Tunnel built in 1930 - spectacular. I am so happy to be here! These aren’t really red rocks either, they are gray sandstone.

Since we have reservations at the Zion Lodge - I always love staying right in the Parks - we are allowed to drive up the Valley Road with our red sticker. Otherwise, the transportation is very much like Yosemite with only shuttle buses allowed. (I hope Mt Rainer and Glacier follow suit.)  

The small lodge is nestled in the Valley surrounded by cabins, cottonwood trees and detached hotel type buildings. It was re-built after a fire in 1966. So, while very nice, it’s not really a historic lodge. We finally arrive at bed number three, a hotel room on the 2nd floor which includes a deck with rockers, my favorite, and a valley view. Dinner outside on the deck of the Lodge seems pleasant for the short time I am there – all the crowds are gone. The food appears to be very good.

Today is the big day; I am going to get out of bed and try a short hike. I select the Emerald Pools Hike. It’s very crowded! Even though I walk slowly in the hot sun at altitude, it feels good to be up and out.

Meanwhile, Tom decides to conquer the famous Angels Landing Trail. One begins by taking the Shuttle to the Grotto stop, crossing the Virgin River and then going up, up, up, per Tom, a rock face prior to beginning the highly photographed Walter’s Wiggles. Named after the first Superintendent of the Park, the 21 switchbacks were built to enable horses to access Cabin Spring. They end just 500 feet below the Landing. While Tom is not afraid of heights, even he decides to skip the last 500 feet with massive drop offs on either side. He seems quite happy with the hike as we meet on the lawn back at the lodge!

Hiking the Zion Narrows, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, in the Virgin River is a must see or do. We take the shuttle from the Lodge and get off at the last stop, after our morning hikes. 1.5 miles on a well maintained trail along the River gets us to the beginning of this unique hike. It is fun to see but fairly crowded and one needs the right gear.

Once again, we must move to another room, bed number four. It’s a cute cabin but not nearly as nice at the hotel. Packing and unpacking is getting old, even in Paradise.

Day 6 – Great Basin National Park, Nevada

We get up and check out a little sad to be leaving such a fantastic place. We exit the Park through the South Entrance and head to the Kolob Canyons section of the Park. Much less crowded, the scenery is as spectacular as the main Valley. This would be an excellent place to hike but it just doesn’t fit our schedule this trip. As we depart and head northwest the scenery subsides. In about three hours we are in flat land covered with sagebrush as far as the eye can see. We begin to wonder what a National Park is doing out here.

We stop at the first of two sparsely visited visitor centers in Baker, NV. All we learn is that this is a small portion of the “Great Basin”; watersheds drain into the Basin instead of flowing out to the oceans. That’s it? That’s why there is a Park here? Oh, and there are some small caves too. By the time we drive up to Mather Overlook which looks down on a small creek and more sagebrush, I have the giggles and can’t wait to leave. It’s the shortest time we have ever spent in any Park.

On top of all that we have to sleep in Ely Nevada, bed number five. The best motel in town is the La Quinta and the best restaurant in town is the worst Mexican restaurant ever. A brief driving tour of Ely confirms that we will never be coming back. 30 Parks down and 29 to go; we are officially halfway – this place is definitely anti-climactic.  

Day 7 – Home

We wake to a snowstorm! Even though we fell in love with Bryce and Zion, I am so happy to be headed home. The white out abates in about an hour and another 11 long  hours gets through Nevada, southwest Idaho, northeast Oregon and southeast Washington to Ellensburg where green begins to re-appear. As we drive the final two hours through the Cascades and over Snoqualmie Pass, I am totally conflicted. I can’t wait to get home to my own bed, but I am also daydreaming of the day I get to go back to Bryce Canyon and actually hike among those fantastic hoodoos.

Addendum – One week after our return, I am totally healthy.

 

Wednesday
Apr012015

Know Before You Go - Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands

Published 4/1/2015 in NW Yachting Magazaine!

Tuesday
Dec162014

Hawaii National Parks - Volcanoes

After being catapulted 2,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean in a metal tube (aka 737), we find ourselves eating tasty sushi (1/2 price) while listening to karaoke at Sansei in Kihei. It’s 11pm Maui time; the place is packed with locals.

Somehow, it doesn't feel like the beginning of a National Park trip. This is my 11th trip to Hawaii; Tom’s 6th. We are here to visit Haleakala National Park on Maui and Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, on our quest to visit all 59 National Parks. 

Day One - Maui

We awake to sunshine in Kihei. The day begins with an inaugural snorkel in the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. A wonderful lunch follows at the gorgeous Grand Wailea. Sandy Makena Beach comes next for a swim. We return to the Worldmark (not recommended in HI) prior to heading into Lahaina, for a casual dinner at Kimos. It is fun to show Tom my old haunts and it's a perfect adjustment to Island time. 

Day Two - Haleakala National Park

"Throw your stuff in a bag - let's go". That's what we say after seeing that the top of the volcano is clear. All too often it's clouded over. From sea level, Kihei, we drive east through sugar cane fields prior to beginning our ascent.  A newly paved road winds upward among large Eucalyptus trees. As we rise above the clouds hanging in the valley, the vegetation turns to subalpine scrubland. It looks like the initial climb to 10,000 feet in an airplane as we follow the switchbacks upward. That's because it is; it's one of the few roads in the world where one climbs from sea level to 10,000 feet in nine miles. 

As we arrive at the small visitor center (9,700 feet), it's still clear - lucky us. However, the air is certainly thinner. There is very little visible vegetation; the Silverswood, a cactus type plant in the sunflower family is it. I am very disappointed to learn that Haleakala Crater is not a "real" crater. This ancient volcano is a shield volcano. The crater is a depression formed by centuries of erosion, not an eruption. We walk up another 300 feet for an open air view into the "crater". Hoping to continue to beat the clouds, which form each day on the east side of the volcano, we drive down to the Halemau’u Trail for a short 2.2 mile hike out to another viewpoint. Luckily, no clouds yet. 

We head down the 1 1/2 hour drive and grab some fish tacos at Ho’okipa Beach Park while marveling at the windsurfing and kiteboarding scene. After a sunset snorkel, the day ends with a superb meal in an incredible setting at Mama's Fish House, a real classic not to be missed. 

Day Three, Four and Five – Hilo and the Puna District on Big Island

Breakfast on "our bench” overlooking Kihei Bay precedes a quick snorkel prior to the 30 minute scenic flight across the Alenuihaha Channel to Kona. As we land, I am struck by the lack of vegetation and old lava fields – kind of like landing on the moon. The Big Island is the newest of the Islands, thus the recent (in geological time) volcanic activity. 

We drive over to Gisella’s, our Airbnb place, in Keaau just outside of Hilo, via the waterfall intensive Hamakua Coastline in our friend, Michael’s, extra van. As we enter the former plantation and ranch, five havalina run across the lawn in front of the magnificent large white Victorian house originally built by the Shipman’s, a historic Island family. Gisella walks us back to the beautifully renovated former Ranch Manager’s house (our home), complete with a wonderful porch and small saltwater swimming pool.  The grounds are a jungle but the beautiful botanical garden variety. As the sun sets, noise intensifies (barking tree frogs)  - all part of the charm.  

This is the rainy side really rainy, 140 inches per year! Its lush but tough for outdoor activities. Hilo, a former sugar cane town, is not what I expect – houses are modest and many are in disrepair. No resorts over here.

The Wednesday farmer’s market is a perfect place to buy local fruits and vegetables as we settle in. Michael gives us the Puna District tour; just south of us. It’s known in November of 2014 for the lava flow approaching the little town of Pahoa. It’s also known for alternative 60’s hippy types, fondly called Punatics. We run into a few. Just as the sun gives a brief appearance, we get to snorkel at the Kapoho Tide Pools.  The water is totally clear (lava versus sand) so snorkeling is awesome - especially with the plentiful, colorful fish who swim right up to your mask. (Another snorkeling highlight, while on this side of the island, is in Hilo at Richardson Beach – three turtles!)

Day Six – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

After another rainy night, we meet my friend Erin, our Geophysicist guide for the day, at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Center.  We learn that the Big Island is bigger than all the other Islands combined. Mauna Kea (not in the Park) and dormant Mauna Loa rise to nearly 14,000 feet.

 First stop is the Mauna Ulu lava shield, formed by a 1969-1974 eruption. Hiking through this massive lava flow is a unique experience; it’s something we would not have done without Erin. Ohi’a Lehua , the first plants to appear, are growing amid a pile of black cement it seems. 4 miles gets us up to and around this very new crater.

Second stop, after lunch, is Kilauea Ilki Crater. The 4 mile hike takes us around, into and across this shallow and older crater created in 1959. Initially the trail follows the forested rim spared during the eruption.  At mile 2 the trail leads us down into the crater. We walk across the crater constantly declaring "wow" as we look around at all the lava formations. A short steep section back up to the road completes the loop. We are happy to hike the loop in 1 1/4 hours since we are racing against darkness; sunset is at 5:55pm.

We want to be in the Park amid darkness to view the glow of the Kilauea Caldera, a molten lava pool known for its red glow. Fog and rain move in so viewing isn't great. However, we enjoy our time in the big wicker chairs at the Volcano House gazing out to the caldera and would recommend it as well as the Jagger Museum at the Kilauea Overlook.

Finally, we head partway down the hill to the town of Volcano for some great Thai food at Thai Thai. What an incredible day!

Day Seven, Eight and Nine  - Kona

On the drive from Hilo back to Kona, we visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a lush 37 acre gulch bordering the rocky shores of Onomea Bay. It’s well worth the stop!

Once at our destination, the huge (1,250 rooms) Hilton at Waikoloa Village, I didn’t expect a train to pull into the lobby. One can either ride the train or take the boat (in a fake channel on a track) to your room.  I’d describe the resort as a cross between Disneyland and Vegas, complete with captive Dolphins – ugh!

The highlight of our day exploring to the North lies at the end of the Akoni Pule Highway. We park and walk down a very steep and precarious trail to magnificent Pololu Valley Black Sand Beach. After taking in the coastal views further north, we really get our hearts pumping on the climb out.

The following day we rise at 5am; when else will we get to go paddling in outrigger canoes with locals? These skinny, traditional Hawaiian boats hold six. As we carry the boats into the water, we are told that once the guy in the front says “heave”, we say “ho” and start paddling on the other side in sync. What a fantastic way to see sunrise over Mona Kea. Thanks Michael!

The highlight of the afternoon is Two Step Beach (quite a drive to the south), a very rocky but fantastic snorkeling spot – coral and fish.  Unfortunately, there are a few too many humans. 

Our Kona days both end in the lounge chairs at Waikoloa Beach, one of the rare sandy beaches. Once the sun sets, we walk over to Lava Lava for a wonderful meal at the popular open air restaurant.

Day Ten – Heading home

As we take off, I gaze out over the lava fields one last time, realizing that it’s been quite an adventure – 27 Parks down, 32 to go. Next trip, I could use a little more beach time to re-charge and a little less lava. Oh dear, now the flight attendant keeps telling us that it’s 50 degrees cooler in Seattle. It will be a tough re-entry! 

Friday
Aug152014

Tour de Colorado National Parks

“Rules are rules”. On our quest to visit all 59 National Parks, one of our rules is that we must visit and enjoy the Parks together. Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde and the Great Sand Dunes are National Parks we each explored individually long ago; Tom is a Denver native and I was a Colorado resident for nine years. Now we get to explore them together and visit family and longtime friends along the way.

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Tom’s family in Denver has plans, so we grab the white Subaru Outback from his Mom’s garage (very handy), and begin our 915 mile, counter clockwise loop around Southwest Colorado.

Day One and Two - Crested Butte

225 miles southeast via highway 285 over Monarch pass in pounding hail and rain gets us to my friend, Melanie’s, lovely home in Crested Butte. A former mining town (incorporated in 1880) gone ski area, Crested Butte is at the “road’s end” (highway 135) in a peaceful valley surrounded by tall rugged peaks still covered with snow.  A quaint Victorian historical district completes this idyllic setting.   

We awake to the clear blue Colorado sky and bright sunshine confirming that a hike is on our agenda today. Since snow still blankets anything high, we meander along the Slate River on a nice group of paths and dirt roads (Nordic Trails in the winter) for about five miles among the abundant glacier lilies, marsh marigolds and candy tuffs. An entertaining BBQ with Melanie’s friend, Mike, completes our long overdue visit.  

Day Three – Black Canyon of the Gunnison (River) National Park

Impenetrable is a word used over and over when talking about the Black Canyon … and for good reason. Erosion created a very dark nearly 3,000 foot sheer rock Canyon. In some spots it’s deeper than it is wide and sunlight rarely illuminates the Canyon floor.

The Park, established in 1999, consists largely of scenic overlooks, accessed by car, NOT particularly enjoyable for someone with a fear of heights (aka me). Hiking down the Canyon is not suggested for most. However, we find a pleasant couple mile hike just south of the visitor center. We walk down through service berry bushes and scrub oak just below the rim to a nice viewpoint. The loop continues back up through a grove of Douglas Fir and Aspen.  

 A side trip in the Park via East Portal road, takes us to the intake portal of an engineering masterpiece – largely unknown - the 6 mile Gunnison Tunnel, built in 1905, which still continues to divert water to irrigate the Uncomphagre Valley today.

We spend the night in the Americana Room at the Country Lodge in Montrose – whoopee! For dinner, Melanie gave us a good restaurant suggestion, Guru’s (Indian and Nepalese).

Day Four and Five – Mesa Verde National Park

The exquisite 67 mile drive south via highways 550, 62 and 145 from Montrose to Telluride is one of the best ever with a lush green valley scooping up toward incredibly jagged white peaks which penetrate the clear blue sky! It’s immediately apparent that the “rich and famous” have moved into the lovely but narrow Telluride Valley. Following a brief town tour and delightful middle eastern food from the Caravan food truck, we drive another 148 miles south to Cortez and Mesa Verde National Park.  

I am excited as we near the Park, established in 1906, having had a “sneak peak” years ago. After checking into the Fair View Lodge, the only hotel in the Park (I chose the re-modeled Kiva room), a short drive gets us to the Chapin Mesa (open all year) where the informative Chapin Mesa Museum displays artifacts (pottery, baskets etc) from the dwellings. We learn that Anasazi is no longer what these people are called. They were neither Navajo nor enemies which the word implies. I think that the new name, Ancestral Puebloans, is too cumbersome! The Ancestral Puebloans (see what I mean) were nomads until about 300 AD, when they became farmers on the mesas. They grew corn (I had no idea it was hybridized in America) irrigated by their sophisticated dams and reservoirs. Above ground pueblos were their homes complete with round, below ground Kivas, thought to be ceremonial rooms.

Around 1,100 AD the civilization moved off the mesas into the open caves (created by oceans long ago in the soft sandstone) where they built the spectacular cliff dwellings for an unknown reason – probably for water (most had springs in the back of the caves). Vessels (baskets, coiled pottery, and then smooth pottery) played a big part in their evolution allowing them to store corn and water. Then, again, for no obvious reason (probably water since there was no sign of hostilities), the civilization moved out around 1300AD. The whole story is so intriguing.

The Cliff Palace is our first tour (tours being the only way to see the bigger dwellings now). The walk down is relatively steep but on a paved path versus the ladders and footholds the Ancestral Puebloans used to enter and exit. Walking among the ancient rooms, seeing the soot left behind, and even seeing a baby’s footprint, they really come to life in our imagination. The Cliff Palace, the iconic dwelling in the Park, housed about 100 people. And, for me, exiting via ladder was easier than it looked.

Toward sunset, we drive the “Cliff Palace Loop”, stopping at each overlook to see the spectacular cliff dwellings across the canyon. It is surreal. Everyone is gone, it’s totally quiet and the setting sun creates magnificent light on the adobe ruins. Once back at the Lodge we enjoy the final daylight and a wonderful meal at the Metate Room Restaurant.  There is just something so special about staying in the Parks; you can totally immerse yourself into the environment.

We get to the 10am opening of the road out to Wetherill Mesa (only open in summer) for the Long House tour, the largest dwelling. After another informative tour, we ride the tram around the loop (no cars allowed) and then head to Step House, on a self-guided exploration of a dwelling built in two different centuries.  Afterward, we drive back to Chapin Mesa for another self-guided tour of Spruce Tree house, the most well preserved of the dwellings.

By the end of day five we feel fully satisfied and inspired by the Ancestrol Puebloans, their accomplishments and lifestyle. Gazing out on the magnificent Mesas from our deck still imagining what life was like in 1,200 AD is a perfect ending to our 25th Park visit – a favorite.  

Day Six – Great Sand Dunes National Park

We begin the 208 mile drive east to the Great Sand Dunes National Park – established in 2000. This Park is about the beach – surprising in Colorado! While there are a variety of landscapes here, the focus is on the two streams which surround and sustain the Dunes, the tallest in North America.  High water stream flows in the spring create waves (think man made water park), that kids can ride, caused by the sand damming and then giving way.  Beach toys and chairs abound. The vast Dunes cover over 30, seemingly endless, square miles.  

A short hike up and into the dunes gives us a big workout - it’s tough going. Sand surfing, which is kind of like snowboarding in socks, is fun to see. The truth is we are now close to 3,600 miles in a car this month and we are just “done”. We get our 26th stamp, call it good, and high tail it back to Denver - 238 miles north via highway 87.

Day Seven & Eight - Denver

Kittens are everywhere. Our longtime friend, Jim, enjoys his volunteer occupation of fostering cats through the Dumb Friends League. I requested kittens for our visit – very cute and fun but not with diarrhea!  

A lovely day with Tom’s Mom, is followed by another fantastic meal with the entire Robinson gang, Tom’s sister’s family. It’s lots of fun to meet William and Graham, the two newborns, and play with Bradley, now a little boy. The next generation is being brought to us by Tom’s two wonderful nieces and their husbands.

On our last day, the Subaru goes back in the garage as usual, and we fly home to Seattle. The Parks are such special places which continually intrigue us, especially the Anasazis (oops, no, the Ancestral Puebloens) on this trip. Equally as satisfying, is time spent with family and friends on our travels; thank you all for your hospitality!

If you go:

Rocky Mountain Park is the fourth National Park in Colorado, established in 1915. If not hiking or backpacking, Trail Ridge Road is a great way to see the majesty of the Park and its spectacular peaks and wildlife. We enjoyed this drive with Tom’s Mom and Sister a couple of years ago and had a wonderful lunch at the Historic Grand Lake Lodge (always a favorite of mine) overlooking Grand Lake prior to entering the Park. (It was so disappointing to see the beetle kill which has destroying most of the wonderful pine trees surrounding the Lake). Trail Ridge road is 48 miles long, 11 of which are at 11,500 feet or more; usually it opens in June and closes in October.  

Wednesday
Jul302014

Pinnacles National Park - The New One

“Let’s stay at the Ashland Springs Hotel tonight” I suggest to Tom as we are heading south toward Pinnacles National Park in California. The thought of driving another eight hours after having driven seven to Ashland, Oregon from Seattle no longer appeals to me – especially with a nasty bug.

Our step backward, toward our goal of visiting all national Parks, in 2013 was the promotion of Pinnacles from a Monument to a National Park. Although not totally clear, Parks are larger and more recreational; Monuments are preserved because of historic or scientific interest. Having already visited all Parks on the West Coast, we decided to “bag it” on the way to Santa Ynez, California for our annual cycling trip.

The Ashland Springs Hotel is a hybrid of Gothic, Beaux-Arts and Arts and Crafts architecture built in 1925 when the Lithia mineral springs were a tourist attraction. Through the National Parks Service’s Certified Rehabilitation program, an extensive renovation was completed in 2000; the hotel is a Historic Hotels of America member. The statuesque yellow landmark has always been my stop, heading to California for longer term consulting projects.

Healthy again, after a tasty European type buffet breakfast on the mezzanine overlooking the bright two story lobby, we drive eight hours to King City. We are happy not to be hiking today as drought relieving cloudbursts blind us on the drive. The town is, well, very modest. The surrounding area is an agricultural mecca. El Lugarcito, the best restaurant around, is where we find freshly prepared Mexican food – no cheese. Keefers, at $70 per night, is one of the nicest hotels in town.

The next morning another hour’s drive gets us to the Condor Gulch Trailhead via the East entrance. Initially, this Park does not feel easily accessible or popular. However, after arriving at the day use area, we realize it is frequented by a wide variety of groups from the San Francisco Bay area. We are all astonished to be greeted by a juvenile condor – one of the approximately 160 in the wild today – perched on a tree in the parking lot!

 We begin the two plus mile ascent up to the Rim Trail with an entire running club on a smooth and well maintained trail. It is now clear to me why there is no road crossing the Park. The Pinnacles rock formations, formed by the Andreas Fault and centuries of erosion are enormous; I can’t imagine getting a road through them. They tower above us; bare rounded and beautifully tinted reddish-orange. I have to keep remembering that we aren’t in the mountains; the highest peak is only 2720 feet. The Park is open all year (rarely any snow) and the wildflowers are just appearing during our visit in late April.

 Our loop includes the steep steps (aka highly exposed steep rocks with little chisel holes called steps), which I pass on due to my height thing. We opt instead to go around the Pinnacles – a little more downhill and then uphill again. In all, the hike is six miles with 1,500 feet of elevation.

 While skeptical of this new Park when in King City, we are pleasantly surprised at the lovely hike amid the towering Pinnacles. Its promotion is well deserved!  We head toward Santa Ynez to meet our cycling friends, very happy we made the effort to see the Nation’s 59th Park – our 23rd.