To drive east or west… that was the question we faced as we sat in the Fresno Walmart parking lot after my flight landed at 11:58pm the night before.
We could meet up with some friends if we went east, but it was a bit out of the way of if we wanted to make it to our June 23rd wedding in Seattle. Which we must make it to.
Also, my gut was pulling me to the coast. I’d never driven highway 1 south of San Francisco before, and it was something that I really wanted to do. Even in a 19 foot (22 feet if you count the storage box) Mercedes Sprinter van.
I’m a firm believer of listening to your gut whenever you hear it talking. So, I expressed this to the co-pilot, boss, wonderful woman beside me, and she agreed.
We were both also pretty stoked to see Big Sur, as neither of us had been through that area.
Bonus material: Pinnacles National Park
As you (should) know… Our goal is to experience all of the US National Parks on this adventure of ours. And we were pleasantly surprised (also known as stoked) to find that Pinnacles National Park was directly on our route (or at least close) from Fresno to highway 1 just south of Big Sur.
The Fresno temperature was projected to be 104 degrees, so we were excited to get out of there. Fast forward 3 hours later, and we’re driving through the desolate, windy roads into Pinnacles NP (which were quite beautiful), and the vans thermometer says 102. Hmm. So much for escaping the heat.
There were mountains (or large hills as we’d call them in Seattle), so we just figured it would be a little cooler, but no.
Around 4pm we drove into the Pinnacles NP visitor center parking lot. In the center we were greated by an un-enthusiastic park ranger, whom (after some coaxing) reveales to us her favorite hikes in the park.
We decided to set up camp, lift some weights, jump in the pool (yes there is a pool at the National Park Campground) and wait for the evening to cool down before heading out for a 6ish mile trail run. At 7pm, temperature at about 90 degrees we drove up the road to the Old Pinnacles trailhead and set out on the Balconies Cave trail. Not really knowing what to expect we were about to be blown away.
The trail was very flat and we had a nice easy gravel path run up to the entrance of the Cave. This Cave was SO cool, pictures will not do it justice. Think Indiana Jones, squeezing through narrow passages, ducking under giant boulders precariously wedges into place. Upon exiting the cave we jumped onto the Balconies cliff trail and were rewarded with beautiful view of the high peaks and balconies cloaked in the golden light of the setting sun.
As we ran out we were both so surprised by the nature that surrounded us and how rewarding the seemingly simple hike had been. We returned to camp, showered, ate a quick dinner and went to bed feeling grateful for this life.
Next mission, get from Pinnacles National Park to highway 1 without getting a hard stop from the mudslide damage that happened a few years back.