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National Parks
Our mission is to visit all 61

And we're up to 47!
Come join us on our adventures.

Pinnacles National Park - The New One

Pinnacles National Park - The New One

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland, OR

Historic Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland, OR

“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.

Rare condor

Rare condor

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.

Pinnacles National Park, CA

Pinnacles National Park, CA

 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.

Check out other National Park visits on our way to reach our goal (now 61) below:

Parks 44-47 Arches, Capitol Reef and Grand Canyon National Parks - an Adventure!

Park 43 Shenandoah National Park via our Nation’s Capital!

Parks 40-42 Parks Voyaguers, Isle Royale and Cuyahoga Valley National Parks - the Great Lakes and the Great North Woods!

Park 39 Acadia National Park - the Other Coast

Parks 36-38 Biscayne, Everglades and Dry Tortugas Naitonal Parks - the Water Parks of Florida

Park 35 Petrified Forest National Park - What Makes it Petrified?

Park 31-34 Congaree, Great Smokey Mountains, Mammoth Caves and Hot Springs National Parks - our Southeastern Tour

Parks 28-30 Bryce, Zion and Great Basin National Parks - a Road Trip Home

Parks 26-27 Haleakala and Volcanoes National Parks - the Hawaiin Parks

Parks 16 & 23-25 Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain National Parks - Our Tour de Colorado

Park 3 Glacier Bay National Park and the Inside Passage via Ferry - Skip the Cruise Ship

Park 21 Waterton - Glacier National Peace Park - In and Around the Four Historic Lodges

Park 20 Saguaro National Park for the New Year!

Parks 17-19 What is Big Bend National Park? Where is Quadalupe Mountains National Park? And, Who first explored Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

Park 13-15 Where is Channel Islands National Park? How Big are the Trees in Sequoia National Park? And, What is Kings Canyon National Park?

Park 12 The North Cascades National Park, North America’s Alps

Parks 1 & 10 Is that a Cactus in Joshua Tree National Park? Will I Die in Death Valley?

Park 11 Olympic National Park - a Clockwise Tour

Parks 8 & 9 Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks via Bozeman, MT and Wallace, ID

Parks 4-7 Redwoods, Yosemite, Mt Lassen and Crater Lake National Park - Our First Four

Park 2 Cycling in Mt Rainer National Park

We like to give back to the National Parks through the National Park Foundation.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain National Parks - Our Tour de Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain National Parks - Our Tour de Colorado

Glacier Bay National Park and the Inside Passage via Ferry - Skip the Cruise Ship

Glacier Bay National Park and the Inside Passage via Ferry - Skip the Cruise Ship