After arriving in Los Angeles early in the morning we rented a Chevy Malibu and drove north for about five hours.  The previous evening we were in Hawaii and flew overnight to the mainland. We wanted to visit the newest national park in America which is located east of central California’s Salinas Valley. Rising out of the chaparral-covered Gabilian Mountains is Pinnacles (chaparral is a plant community characterized by densely-growing evergreen oaks and drought-resistant shrubs.)

Pinnacles - Sign

Pinnacles National Park was upgraded from monument status on January 10, 2013 and the reason for this is apparent. Rock spires, ramparts, and crags that bear no resemblance to the nearby foothills dominate the landscape. Massive monoliths, sheer-walled canyons, and boulder-covered caves define millions of years of erosion, faulting, and tectonic plate movement.

Pinnacles - Family High Peaks Trail 1

When we got to the east entrance of the park it was late morning on January 3, 2014. We went into the visitor center to stamp the boys passports and canceled our 51st national park together as a family. We parked at the Bear Gulch Day Use area, organized our backpacks, and began our over six mile hiking adventure. We stared south on the Moses Springs trail and connected it to the Bear Gulch Cave trail. We have a great time exploring this wilderness full of rocks and caves. Luke and Winston were delighted to crawl through tiny tunnels as well as climb massive boulders.

Pinnacles - Luke Hiking on the High Peaks Trail

The next section of our quest was the steep and narrow High Peaks Trail. Alisa was not having as much fun as the men. She did not enjoy the scary cliffs, narrow openings, and steep climbs. We designed our trek to create a loop and the final section was the Condor Gulch Trail. During the hike was discussed a few fun facts about each other. Lastly, after we finished the hike we were very fortunate to see some California Condors.

Pinnacles - Luke Climbed on the High Peaks Trail 2

Our lodging was an hour away in Soledad. However, when we woke up early the next morning the drive to the west entrance of Pinnacles was brief. We were the first people in the park at the Chaparral Ranger Station. It was 28 degrees as we began our eight mile loop hike on the Juniper Canyon Trail.  Today was Saturday and our last moments of our family winter vacation. We had ten flights and flown over 15,000 miles. We had several rental cars and hiked over 100 miles as we canceled four more new American national parks. We also had the privilege of visiting Hawaii which was our 49th state.

Pinnacles - Family

Now all that’s left is Alaska and the eight national parks within this enormous and remote place. Our plans are to accomplish our quest of exploring all 59 American national parks together as a family before our children are 18-years-old this summer. We expect to be in Gates of the Arctic and cancel our 59th NP on August 8, 2014. Luke will be sixteen and Winston fifteen when celebrate this fantastic family accomplishment.

Pinnacles - Boys on the High Peaks Trail

As we continued to hike we entered the Tunnel Trail. Soon thereafter the sun began to shine.  When we got to the top of a ridge it began to get warmer and we ate breakfast. Next we hiked along the High Peaks Trail again and continued onto the Old Pinnacles Trail. As we walked we told some secret lies about each other. It was hilarious to expose each of our deepest and disgusting secrets.

Pinnacles - Boys Overlook of Bear Gulch Reservoir

Finally, as we reached the Balconies Cave Trail we climbed and reflected about our journey. As one chapter of our life closes another begins. This park definitely deserved to be upgraded to a national park. The size of the rocks and the beauty of this landscape along the San Andreas Fault are truly grandiose. Moreover, we appreciate the quality time we spent together… just the four of us.