I got her unhitched and set up all by myself 🙂
Bookending our Spring Break trip, we stayed again at Pinnacles. We’ve done the drive from home to Pismo all in one day, and it was too much. So we cut the travel distance about in half by stopping in Pinnacles. And since it is a very nice National Park, it is fun to stay there a couple of nights and have time for day hikes.
“Excuse me, does the roof go up on that thing?”
On the drive up, Richard rode up Highway 25 and met me in the campground. It was an overcast day, but the hills were still coated with wildflower blooms. The road is not in great shape, but there is little traffic. There are not many spots to pull a trailer over to let people pass, but when I did, I noticed a curious herd of cows taking a close look at me. I could not tell whether the look was curiosity or expectation, but we chatted for a bit before I moved on. I had a secret mission, which was to get to the Visitor Center before the store closed so I could get treats. I made it just in time and got some ice cream bars for me and one to put in the freezer for Richard.
Water water everywhere
We took a short walk over to the Peaks View Day Use Area after dinner and marveled at how much water there is in the park. The normally dry washes were transformed into rivers, and there were water crossings that are normally bare sand and stones.
Friday night we noticed the battery was getting pretty low. We have been sort of passive aggressively abusing the battery on this trip. I think this is a combination of having low expectations of a seven year old battery, combined with my secret desire to upgrade Lola to lithium. In any case, we did not take the hookup site in Pismo when we could have, nor did we run the generator when we should have. Once we got to Pinnacles, with no generators allowed, and found ourselves in a site with lots of shade, we started to go, “hmmm.” In the morning, the little solar controller battery indicator showed a very sad face and read voltage number I recognized as “not good.” Still, there was enough power to run all the things we needed. We did turn the fridge way down though before we left for the day.
Rows of wild California Lilac, in different shades
Our bikes came in super handy this trip. I mean, my bike. Richard’s bike is always handy. We rode to the Old Pinnacles trailhead and set out for the Balconies Cave loop. This is one we’ve now done a couple of times. The new twist was trying it with knee high water. The hiking was delightful and we noticed a strong perfume filling the air. It was coming from blooming Ceanothus, California Lilacs, and it was everywhere. They must have just started blooming because we didn’t notice them at all the previous week. They are so beautiful, in delicate shades of pink, purple and white. The trail was lined with them the whole way out and it was wonderful.
Delicate and beautiful Checkered Lily
There were dozens of other flowers along the way, which I took pictures of so I could identify them later. Besides the Lupine and Poppies, we saw Shooting Stars, Blue Dicks (no joke), Delphinium, Fiesta Flower, Wallflower, and Fritillaria (Checkered Lily). Those are gorgeous little things that look almost like wild orchids. It was like a botanical garden out there!
Already committed, with shoes fully soaked
The time came when we had to make a decision. Before coming to the cave entrance, there was so much water on the trail that the only way forward was to walk through it. Lots of people coming back were giving us beta on the water, and their shoes were all soaking. We had brought extra socks, prepared for this, so all that was left was to commit to it and take the plunge. The water was cold, but not icy or uncomfortable. It just felt funny to walk through it in hiking shoes.
Beautiful, but impossible to see without light
Entering the caves, we heard rather than saw, a waterfall running swift and strong. We could only see it if we shone our headlamps into the darkness, but my phone did a pretty good job of capturing it. I’ve never seen a waterfall running there.
Reverse shot, looking back down the scary steps
Then we had to traverse the tricky part. This is where I have freaked out in the past when I came to a big smooth rock surface that you need to pull yourself over. This time, I was ok with it, and quite pleased. Next, however, is this very primitive and steep set of “steps” made out of piled rocks. There are four or five steps you have to scramble up and then you’re good. I froze at step #2. It was all wet and everything felt very slick and slippery to me. I paused for a long time, letting others go past me in both directions. It wasn’t until Richard came back down and took my backpack and water bottle for me that I was able to gather the courage to put my full weight on the wet rock in order to pull myself up to the next step. I ended up being just fine, but that was exhillarating.
The fun and not scary part
After that, I knew it was going to be easy sailing. The only excitement then was how deep the water was going to get. There were one or two spots where I’d say it was fully to the knees, with the rest being calf deep. Before deciding to go in fully shod, we thought about trying it barefoot. I don’t think that would be fun because you’re walking on rocks the whole time. It was actually fun doing it in shoes and we figure now we’re ready for the Narrows in Zion.
Watching rock climbers doing a *much* scarier part
After we got out of the cavey part, we removed wet shoes and socks, dried out a little, and had some lunch and treats. I had definitely earned a lemon blueberry hand pie. Bringing dry socks was a good call, but they do get immediately wet when you put them inside wet shoes. Still, a good call. I know now that it is important to always have a backup pair of hiking shoes and that has been added to the camping packing list. Because you never know.
Nice hike back, even if done with wet shoes
Arriving back at Lola, we took bets on the state of the battery and Richard won because it showed a happy face. That turned out to be short lived, and it got sad again after the sun went down. Luckily, the water pump still worked for Richard’s shower, and it wasn’t cold enough to need to run the heater.
Recharging in the sun
By Sunday morning, we had a dead battery. Honestly, we weren’t too dismayed by that. We knew we could hook up to the car if we needed juice to lower the roof, but that wasn’t even necessary. There wasn’t enough to run the water pump, so I skipped my shower, knowing we were heading home. We knew the food in the fridge would stay cool long enough to get on the road, at which point the fridge would start running again. In fact, it was kind of an interesting experiment to see exactly what would happen if you killed your battery. With just a teeny bit of solar coming in, and with the fridge and water pump turned off, the battery sort of creeped back up. The roof actuators operated slowly, but enough to get her closed and ready for hitching. And once we were on the road, everything turned back on. Richard swore his Optimate battery charger at home would even be able to bring it back from the dead. I scoffed at him, but I must confess, since we have been home and Lola has been in the garage, she’s held a charge of 12.9 with no solar, so there you go. I still want a lithium in there though for the next time we take Lola out.
The campground store has all the treats. But it closes at 5, so be prompt.
I should note that Pinnacles was not crowded either weekend before or after Spring Break, with the exception of Easter Sunday. That was the first time we saw rangers closing off the roads to the parking lots, with big signs saying they were full. We also saw a long line of cars waiting at the kiosk to get into the park. Otherwise, not bad. Not sure the rhyme or reason with any of that.
Ceanothus close up
We learned many things on this trip, apart from the fact that we now know we can hike in water. We fine tuned some ways to make it easier to camp in a trailer that lacks clothes storage. And we learned how to live without a 12v espresso machine or a rear projection movie system. We pared some things down (like numerous fancy spices), and realized which things were not a good idea to do without (like spare shoes or sandals). And we learned what actually happens when the propane system goes kablooey, or when the battery gets super sad and has a big X through it. And we made it anyway! We camped without ribbons, we camped without tags, we camped without packages, boxes or bags. It’s like learning the true meaning of camping, but then reminding ourselves we don’t actually like true camping. We like heaters and hot showers and wool mattress toppers. It was a super fun break, with more adventure than normal.
Total miles from Pismo: 121.7, 16.5 mpg, 4 hours 26 min. Site 9 no hookups. No morning solar. Great ATT cell service. Skipped the terrible dump and dumped at a Shell station in Gilroy, one exit past the 101/25 merge, next to the Garlic Farm Truck Stop. $10 for good dump. Note to future biking Richard: there are lots of places for me to pull over in Tres Pinos and wait with good service. That would be a 24.4 mile ride from the campground.