Pinnacles (5)

Lola getting prepped for adventure

It has been a busy couple of weeks Chez Levenberg. We have been simultaneously managing home construction projects, daughter traveling projects, and our current Lola project. While all have turned out ultimately successful, it has been a lot to juggle, and came to a head on Thursday night, right before Spring Break, where I found myself driving to SFO late in the evening, after last minute readying Lola for her first trip out in over a year and a half, whilst a construction guy was last minute installing flooring in our daughter’s room before her return, which didn’t happen until after midnight because her connecting flight in Dallas had to be un-boarded, mechanically fixed, and re-boarded, resulting in a 2 hour delay. That was my birthday, by the way. It was also incredibly lucky timing because the area where she was staying in Little Rock got hammered by tornadoes the very next day. I owe a LOT to my dear high school friend for hosting her and getting her to and from the airport. I’m truly grateful, and I’m also really glad he’s ok.

Pinnacles NP Campground. She looks happy.

As for Lola, we successfully filled her with all of the things we collected over the past several months, with the thought that setting her up properly for camping would make actually using her more feasible. We knew it would be an adventure, especially since she hasn’t been used in quite a long time. Besides being a great way to allow Randy plenty of time for some yearly maintenance on Dory, it seemed like a good idea to run her through her paces and test the systems. So now she is well stocked with the basics and completely camping ready. BYO clothes, food, and toiletries, and you’re good to go.

A formerly parched landscape, now bursting with life

Our first destination for Spring Break was a half way point between us and Pismo Beach. It also happens to be a National Park, so not too shabby a stop. It was made even better by the fact that someone has installed a new 5g ATT tower out there. It used to be a No Service zone, so that was a pleasant surprise. The drive right now is spectacular, with California looking greener than ever, and popping with wildflowers. Even normally unattractive stretches of highway are delightfully colorful, reminding me that great turmoil can, and usually does, produce great beauty. Despite the relentlessness of the winter storms, California reservoirs are full and the earth appears renewed.

And there she is, out in the wild at last!

Our first night went off without any problems at all. All systems appeared to be working flawlessly. We still complain about the lack of overhead storage cabinets in the place where the BFW (Big F… Window) is, but we also kind of enjoy complaining about that sort of thing. However, in the morning, things got rather cold and we saw that the Truma heater had an error code showing. Thanks to having great cell service, we were able to search Altoistes for discussion on the 122/212 error code. Several people had experienced the same and we were able to narrow the problem down to propane delivery. There are still many reasons this could be happening, and we don’t have it fixed yet, but since we were on an adventure, we got our heads around toughing it out for another night. I’m kind of impressed by how well we rolled with coming dangerously close to actual “camping.” One thing that helped was that the stove worked well enough for coffee and steamed milk. I don’t know if we could have been so flexible if morning coffee were threatened.

Super bloom with Condor in the background! (just kidding, that’s a Turkey Vulture)

We decided to make the most of the day and got out for a big hike. The park was already getting crowded by the time we left, so rather than risk parking at the trailhead, or waiting for the shuttle bus, we rode our bikes about three miles to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. There was even some decent uphill so I can call it a real bike ride I think. I recalled doing some kind of “High Peaks Loop” at one of our previous stays, so I navigated us to that route. It turns out I was very incorrect about exactly which part of the loop we’d done, so the route I chose ended up being quite a bit more strenuous than I was thinking. It does say “strenuous” on the trail description, but I think I’m getting a little cocky these days.

Amazing views on the High Peaks Trail

It started nice enough, climbing up Condor Gulch. All the way up the trail, we saw floating black birds. I would ask, “Is that a Condor?” and Richard would answer, “No, that’s a Turkey Vulture.” This game continued for the whole trail, with small variations; “What about that one? It’s big.” “Turkey Vulture.” At one point, we were arguing about whether one of them had straight wings vs curved wings, and a guy passing us on the trail muttered, “Turkey Vulture,” as he walked by. The trail kept going up, and up, and up, and I began questioning whether I could ever have actually done that trail. But there were glorious blooms of wildflowers everywhere, and endless opportunities to ask whether another thing in the sky was a Condor.

Now, THOSE, are in fact Condors!!

At the point where I finally decided that a) there was no way I had never done that part of the loop, and b) I was never going to see an actual Condor, we had climbed over a thousand feet. The trail now became edgy, offering spectacular views all around. Then, lo and behold, as we were walking through the highest peaks, I spotted two birds that I had to really insist might be Condors. It’s hard to judge size from a distance, but they had a distinctly flat shape to the front of their wings, with long finger feathers spread out at the ends. They swooped closer and Richard whipped out the binoculars. Sure enough, he spotted bright orange tags on one of them. And we could then clearly see the white undersides of their wings. There was no doubt about it! Richard even made out a number on one of the tags. No one is going to tag a Turkey Vulture, so we had irrefutable proof.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

The Condor pair gave us a long, lovely show before slowly swooping behind a peak. We continued on the trail, which was becoming steeper and more dodgy with every step. We came to a sign warning of a “steep and narrow” section ahead and we asked hikers coming from that direction what it was like. We got some wishy washy answers in the area of “It’s not too bad,” “It doesn’t go on for too long,” “I think you can do it,” but not the full throated, “Oh it’s no problem at all. Piece of cake!” response I was after. We went just a little ways further, climbed up a steep passage with steps built into the rocks, and then arrived at a Big Nope. There, in the side of a rock face were tiny footholds cut into the rock, with a handrail to make you feel better before you die. We saw that this kind of terrain went on past where we could see, and that further ahead, there were people way up high making their way across a narrow fold in the side of a peak. We were officially done at that point, and simply turned around and went all the way back down. It ended up being a five and a half mile hike, with 1500 feet of climbing, two Condors, and no deaths. Successful day all around.

Gorgeous colors all over the place

We biked tiredly back to Lola and were happy to find the heater, water heater, stove, and water heater all functional. We hypothesized things about propane freezing in the cold, or regulators failing, but all that mattered was that we were warm and showered. The next morning, the same events occurred, with the heater and water heater not functioning. The stove again ran long enough for coffee and steamed milk, so that was all we needed. We knew we were headed to Pismo Beach for the whole week, RV capitol of the world, and figured we could probably find someone or something to troubleshoot.

Thank you Pinnacles. What a beautiful way to start Spring Break.

We are really enjoying Lola, despite her lack of overhead storage, and organizing projects bring me great joy. There are a few odds and ends we need to stock or swap, but the things we have intentionally changed are working just fine. Like in Lola, we will not be using the 12v espresso machine. I know, that sounds extreme, but we are making do with a stovetop moka pot and it is messy, but OK. And rather than use a projector and big screen for shows, we are using Lola’s 12v TV. Both decisions reduce battery draw, and since Lola doesn’t have fancy dual lithiums, this is important. But really, most everything is pretty much the same. We’re pretty skilled at navigating Alto 1723s. Even without heat and hot water in the morning, it’s a step down from the glamping we are used to, but it still ain’t no tent. We could dub this trip: “That time we almost went real camping,” and tell the scary tale around a fire. But then we will go inside where a heater is running.

Total miles: 127.7, 17.5 mpg, 4 hours 3 min. Site 47b no hookups. Nice quiet loop with mostly tents and small RVs. Newly available 5g for ATT. Paid wifi at campground store, but didn’t need it now. Pretty good solar in site and not right next to other sites. Terrible dump with curbs and poles so you can’t get very close. You have to get a key from the store and leave your ID in order to use the terrible dump.

6 thoughts on “Pinnacles (5)

  1. Ya, the top of that hike would be a big nope for me too. But wow, what a gorgeous place. Nice birdies too. 😉

  2. What a treat – tons of flowers, blue skies, and condors. Thanks for sharing. I saw a condor once at Grand Canyon but didn’t realize what it was until it flew away.

  3. So who is Lola, and what happened to Dory? Clearly, I’ve missed a couple of episodes!

    1. Haha! Dory1 crashed in 2020. We bought a used Alto, “Lola Too” (named by previous owners), to get us through the wait while Dory2 was being built. 🙂

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