Tag Archives: hike

Bear Gulch Reservoir Hidden behind Mountain at Pinnacles National Park California from the High Peaks Trail

Pinnacles National Park California

Pinnacles National Park

We’ve visited Pinnacles National Park previously about two years ago, but this time around we decided to take a slightly different route through Bear Gulch cave and then up to the High Peaks pass. Pinnacles is just under a two hours drive south of San Jose and makes for a great day trip, and we’d been itching to go since we arrived back in California.

Rock formation at Trailhead

The park itself offers more than 16,000 acres of dramatic spines of rock and and fallen boulders. And this time of year is a great time to visit because the weather compliments the location pretty well. In the summer it can get hot and the sun brutal. But spring is great because the recent rains have turned the landscape green and vibrant with wildflowers and the temperature allows for a comfortable climb.

Creek In Pinnacles National Park

Getting In

We arrived at a seemingly inopportune time; as this is the best time of year to visit, the park can get crowded pretty quick, and with us arriving at noon we had to wait about fifteen minutes before we could get parking, but that was about our only set back.

We parked near the trailhead for Bear Gulch and began making our way towards our first destination – Bear Gulch caves. The path gently rose, through the well shaded riparian forest and rising monoliths of stone.

Rock Formation near trail head
Path to Bear Gulch

Bear Gulch Cave

Canyon Approach

We could see numerous rock climbers taking advantage of the excellent climbing conditions here as we approached the cave. Just before entering the cave, we could feel a strong cool breeze blowing out from the entrance. The breeze was refreshing, but quite decidedly chilly.

Rock Climbers near Bear Gulch at Pinnacles National Park
Tunnel on the way to Bear Gulch Cave
Passage on the way to Bear Gulch Cave
Entering Bear Gulch

Talus Caves

The caves themselves are Talus caves, formed from rock falls in valleys and canyons, where the falling boulders would become wedged in the narrow spaces and form the roof and interior layout of the caves.

Talus Rock Roof Inside Bear Gulch Cave

Bear Gulch cave was a little bit larger than Balconies Cave (which we had previously visited) and was a little more challenging to get through as well. We enjoyed the challenge though. The primary obstacle was the water, as a small stream flowed through the cave and many times the stream crossed the path or even was the path.

flooded path in Bear Gulch Cave
Part of the path inside Bear Gulch is the River itself

Climbing Waterfalls

Numerous waterfalls were inside the cave as we proceeded through the roughly half mile cave, and we steadily climbed up the rocks. The passages were quite narrow and ceilings low, so scrambling on rocks and wedging into tight spaces was a must. The most difficult part (for me at least) was getting through a small passage that could only have been maybe 3 feet high at the max and shimmying up a stepped waterfall.

Waterfall inside Bear Gulch Cave
Pool inside Bear Gulch Cave
Light from above in Bear Gulch Cave

Bear Gulch Reservoir

After about thirty minutes we emerged from the cave, miraculously completely dry, although I suffered a few bumps on the head from the low ceilings. The caves are home to Townsend’s big-eared bats, and are closed throughout the year to allow them to raise pups in peace. Due to the narrow nature of the caves, they can also close due to rain.

Exiting Bear Gulch Cave

Upon exiting the cave, we came to Bear Gulch reservoir. The reservoir is a nice lake, home to the endangered red-legged frog. While we could have stayed here for a while, as others were, we knew that we still had a long hike to go and only so much daylight, so we proceeded on up the path towards High Peaks.

Bear Gulch Reservoir

High Peaks Trail

The rocky trail winds its up way steadily up for several miles, passing through meadow, sparse woods, and ridge line. The floor falls away pretty quickly as you climb and you can begin to see the surrounding landscape.

Rising Above Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park was originally established in 1908 by President Roosevelt as a National Monument and later converted into a national park in 2013 by President Obama. Pinnacles sits squarely atop the San Andreas fault, and as such the park and surrounding areas have been dramatically shaped by the seismic activities. The dramatic formations of the park are part of what remains of the Neenach Volcano, which erupted 23 million years ago, down near Lancaster. The fault has since moved the roughly half the rock 195 miles north to it’s present day location in the Salinas Valley.

Rock Stack on way to High Peaks

After an hour or so, we began to near the High Peaks area. The spires of stone stand with a dramatic hue of orange and red against the green hills. Within another thirty minutes or so, we finally made it to the “top”.

Approaching the High Peaks
Climbing towards High Peaks

This isn’t really the top of the mountain, rather it’s a convergence of several trails at a scenic overlook. Here, you can often see falcons and other birds going about their business. We had stopped here our previous time for lunch, but had to run down the canyon due to an abrupt lightning and hail storm. This time however, the skies were completely clear.

From this point, where you’ll also find a restroom if you should need it, you can proceed multiple ways. Our direction was through the High Peaks trail, which follows the ridge line of the mountain.

Steep and Narrow

The hike through here is a lot of quick up and down, climbing very steep and narrow stairs. There are also several tight walkways to maneuver. Luckily, the park has installed railings to assist you through here.

More Stairs at Pinnacles National Park
Steep stairs at High Peaks Pass

You can also find tons of multi-colored lichen and slime molds on the rocks throughout the park.

Lichen at Pinnacles National Park

Back from the Brink

As we were finishing our way through the High Peaks area, we came a stunning view of the resident Californian Condor. Brought back from the brink of extinction, all the birds present are descended from the original 27 birds that were left on earth. The breeding program has been a huge success and brought their numbers up now to 435. Pinnacles serves as a release site for the Condors and if you look closely, you can even see the tag numbers and find out who they are.

Narrow Paths in the High Peaks Paths
California Condor

Most of the Condors were a little too far away from us to get a real good look at, but there was one in a tree near the trail that decided to pose well for us. The tag reads 00. This Condor was laid in the wild, and hatched (under care of researchers) in April 2015. You can find more information about the specific Condors here.

California Condor Landing on a Tree
California Condor No. 800 at Pinnacles National Park

Condor Gulch Trail

After spending twenty minutes watching the Condors (if not more), we steadily walked towards Condor Gulch trail. By this time, the sun was starting to get low, being that it was already nearly 6. We picked up the pace to get down the mountain and make it back to the car before sun down.

Along this route, we encountered the numerous wildflowers present along the trail. There are also numerous bees in the area, due to the flowers. In fact, Pinnacles hosts the highest density of bee species in the world with 400 different species. Most of them are solitary bees though, not hive-dwelling, so you don’t need to worry about being stung.

wild flowers at pinnacles national park
wild flowers at Pinnacles National Park
Wild flowers at Pinnacles National Park
I call them Bee Bonnets

Condor gulch made for a nice walk down as the sun set and the temperature began to drop. The flowers, fresh air, and gurgling streams made for a nice end to a pretty strenuous walk. We were pretty happy for the route we chose as well. I don’t think we would have been as enthused traversing the caves at this late a point in the day.

Finally we got to the car, as the Condor Gulch trail put us out right at the parking lot that we had left roughly 6 hours previously. Tired, but happy, we started our long drive back to San Jose.

Plan Your Visit

If you plan on visiting Pinnacles, you should keep in mind that there are two entrances to the park. SR 146 approaches from both the east and west, but is not a through road. It takes two hours to drive from one entrance to the other, so be sure to go to the correct entrance. We entered from the eastern side, which is just a little south of Hollister; whereas the western entrance is just east of Salinas.

west parking lot viewed from High Peaks trail at Pinnacles National Park

Both entrances are good locations with full access to the park. The western entrance will put you closer to Balconies cave, while the east entrance puts you nearer Bear Gulch cave. Be sure to bring enough water, especially in the summer. Even on a cool spring day, we went through six bottles of water and could/should have drunk more.

Regardless, Pinnacles National Park is an excellent spot to visit for hiking, camping, or even night hikes.

National Park Service Website

 

Sunset near Hollister California

Camping At Pinnacles National Park

If you want to camp at Pinnacles National Park, you absolutely can. There is a campground, but only on the eastern side of the park. To reach them you must approach from Hollister, not Salinas. The campground has 134 sites, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting a place.

They may fill up during the spring season though, which is the ideal time camp. You can camp all year, but may want to be wary about the summer and early fall due to extreme heat. In any case, you’ll want want to get a shaded spot if possible.

There is a camp store that is well stocked for what it is, but you should still pack carefully. The closest supermarket is in Hollister, 32 miles away. There are also showers and flush toilets on site for you to use.

~K~

Pin this!

California USA Pinnacles National Park

View of Pinnacles National Park California

Hike in the South Bay

Santa Teresa County Park Hike

Yesterday we went on a short hike in Santa Teresa County Park. Santa Teresa is only about fifteen minutes away from our place making it an ideal spot to hike. In the winter it’s nice and green, and this year it is especially so with all the rain we’ve been getting.

Afternoon Hikes at Santa Teresa County Park

Kyle gets home from work pretty early and with the sun beginning to set later, we are able to go on short weekday hikes if we want. It helps a little with curbing our wanderlust and gives us some exercise and fresh air.

Here is short video just for fun.

The main reason I took/made a video this time was for some fun experimentation. I knew this would be a good place because we had already been there and it’s both a nice backdrop and not very crowded (I assumed this would especially be true during the week).

If you want to see more hikes in our area, check out our South Bay Hikes post or see our United States page for even more hiking posts from the bay area.

~B~

Hike in Java, Indonesia

That Time We Climbed the Wrong Mountain on Java – Menoreh Hill

How do you climb the wrong mountain (or hill)? I will tell you. We only recently discovered just where we went! If you are curious because you’d like to do the same (not climb the wrong mountain, but do the same hike) we think we went right here. After a quick search, I managed to find one person who did the same hike as us and their photo had a link to these coordinates.

An Itch To Climb

Kyle had really been set on the idea of climbing Mount Merapi while we were on Java, but unfortunately we found it to be unrealistic due to a mix of cost, time, difficulty, and danger.

Okay, only I was worried about difficulty and danger but I read a TripAdvisor review where someone said that their legs were jello for days after the hike and Mount Merapi is an active volcano!

We had hoped that it was something we could do without a guide so we wouldn’t have to pay, but after listening to a few horror stories from our hosts about others who had given this a try, we decided it wasn’t a good idea. Still, we were really in the mood for doing some kind of hike.

Morning Before Menoreh Hill

Deciding On An Easier Mountain

After a little research, I decided Kendil Mountain / Kendil Rock would be a good place for us to go. The actual hike I was looking at did not seem too difficult and I even had a second hike just past it – Suroloyo Peak – planned for afterwards if that one went well. Our hosts at the homestay recommended that we take a guide but we just wanted to do some independent exploring, and for us this takes away some of the fun because we no longer have freedom to go at our own pace, do little side explorations, etc.

Plus, obviously, guides cost money and we already spent a lot of our activity budget on Borobudur. There also didn’t seem to be any specific major risks associated with doing these hikes solo like there was with Mt Merapi so we asked for directions, hopped on a motorbike, and off we went.

Getting Read to Ride Out

Getting Lost on Backroads

Well, the first problem was that Kyle could not hear me shouting directions at him from the back of the motorbike. He took a few wrong turns and we got a little lost. We got a bit off the path. We stopped to ask a couple random people we encountered for directions but it didn’t quite work out due to language barriers.

The maps didn’t seem to completely match up with what we thought we were looking at and Kyle and I had different ideas about which direction we should go. Kyle is more stubborn than me and he was driving so I eventually conceded and allowed him to just take us wherever he seemed to feel like going. He took us on what he thought – though I wasn’t quite sure about it – was the right path. But then we came to a closed road on this path. We asked the two men guarding the road for directions but their English was extremely limited.

Road To Menoreh Hill

Well, Kyle thought we must be in the right place and that we should just hike up from there! I said something along the lines of, “Are you serious?! This is nowhere near the mountain we are supposed to be climbing! Even if we could somehow find the way, which I highly doubt we could, it would take a very long time to hike all the way to Kendil from here and there is no way we could make it to Suryolo Peak!” And he said something like, “This’ll take us there.”

Beginning the Trek

Fine. So we parked the bike near these men and began to head up straight but the men pointed us to the right. We asked them again and they seemed to be telling us this was the right direction (only I knew better). We thought about motorbiking up this road but it would have been very dangerous because it was ridiculously steep.

That actually would have been terrifying. Even walking up I felt worried about falling backwards. As we began our ascension, I hesitated because Kyle would be mad at the implications of such an assumption, as he often is in when I ask something like this, but I asked anyway: “You have the key for the motorbike, right? You didn’t leave it in the bike.. right…?” Kyle: “Of course n- oh, whoops!”

Forgot The Key

Well Kyle went and grabbed the key which he left in the ignition and we began up this road. Slowly it became more and more interesting.


Road Up Towards Menoreh Hill

We saw butterflies fluttering all over and examined large colorful beetles. We stopped to look at interesting plants and flowers.

Perhaps a big cat

There were a couple pretty big spiders – you can’t tell from the photo, but this spider was as big as our hands.

Huge Spider Hanging In The Trees

There were also some mosquitos. We had some lengthy discussions about our (mostly my) concerns about dengue, Zika, and malaria on the way up. We kind of felt like we were going exploring a jungle (we kind of were?) so it seemed warranted.

bamboo
Green Path Java

As we climbed higher, we found some pretty great views looking off the side of the mountain. It was also pretty hot. I believe it was somewhere around 100 degrees so we got a little sweaty!

Pretty Hike Yogya
Plaque Commemorating Borobodur Region

Hidden Mountain Villages

Through our climb we encountered a variety of paths – including road, stone, dirt, stairs, stone steps, mud, etc. We didn’t really know where we were going. Reality: I didn’t think I knew where we were going and Kyle thought we were headed toward our original destination and I’m only mentioning this because I found it extremely frustrating during our hike that he maintained this idea.

But we were on the right path to a peak for a while. Eventually, though, as we do, we got off the trail to the place-we-ended-up-going-but-to-which-we-didn’t-know-we-were-going-and-hadn’t-intended-to-go-as-we-didn’t-really-know-about-it.

Though once there, we thought we thought we knew about it because of the name but it wasn’t the same place we were thinking of anyway. Anyway, at some point we reached a more level area which appeared to be inhabited and weren’t really sure where to go.

Living Area
Small Village Near Menoreh Hill

Is This The Right Trail?

We ended up going on this dirt path and were kind of just exploring. But were also hoping the path would lead up to a peak. We took lots of turns and forks and took pictures on our phone and camera which we hoped would be helpful if we got lost.

We Went Down The Wrong Path

I also took lead navigation for a while because I feel a strength of mine is my hyperawareness of my surroundings which allows me to better watch out for looming spider webs in front of us and gaps in land on the ground. I was pretty convinced a giant spider was going to get us.

Continuing Down The Wrong Path

The path got extremely narrow at times but I don’t have any photos to show it well, though, probably because those places were not the best to go around taking photos! At times, I also said things like “Kyle, I don’t think this is a well-traveled path.

I really don’t think this is even a hiking trail! I think animals made some of these paths!” Still, we were both pushing to go just a little further, taking different paths in hopes we’d eventually see that a path that was leading to a peak.

Yogy Quote 02Small stream

Sprinkles Coming Down

After it began to sprinkle, though, it was time to turn around as I was getting worried that we would slip on these narrow muddy paths. This entire way was devoid of people, aside from a person near a single path we found somewhere in the middle which led to someone’s home. We saw they had constructed pipes to their house that went along the mountain and found it pretty interesting.

We navigated our way back to the area from which we found this path and found a man. Either we asked him something or he just looked at us and pointed. I don’t really remember, but anyway, we then began our way up this cobbled road. We encountered a few friendly roosters and as we made our way we up, we saw a sign! A sign! It read: “Menoreh Hill.”

A sign-menoreh hillRooster in the mountains

Up To Menoreh Hill

That was a name I knew. It turns out, the whole thing is not as straightforward as you’d think, though. The map our hosts had provided with showed something called the Menoreh Hills (plural) but it appeared far on the map and I when I had looked into it online it also looked like it was an unrealistically far distance for us to go to which is why we had nixed the idea of going there.

So this couldn’t be that, right? We could see our place from the top of the hill and weren’t far at all. I had also researched other hikes in the area and come across Menoreh Hill (singular), but everyone’s photos involved going and standing/sitting on this tall platform which you could reach via ladder (like this one, though this blog states Menoreh Hills plural, also). This advertised tour for a Menoreh Hill trek also does not resemble the trail we took. We definitely did not go to Kendill Rock or Suryolo Peak either.

So Confusing

After some further research, expanding now to social media, I did find a couple other people (again, pretty sure locals) on Instagram who did get to this same place and they tagged their photos #menorehhills. (The other person I found through a quick google search- from which I got the coordinates in the intro, was from another site.) For this hashtag I found a variety of different views, a few which displayed photos from the path we took and some which clearly did not.

My conclusion is that there are a bunch of Menoreh Hills. I mean Menoreh Hills is plural, but what then, is the Menoreh Hill or do they just call each of them Menoreh Hill? From our past hikes we are used to different peaks and hikes being given different names even if they are a part of the same mountain range which is part of what made it confusing for us. Also, when I try typing in Menoreh Hill or Menoreh Hills on Googlemaps, I’m not given anything.

A Beautiful Overlook

Anyway, we continued up and came to this area which appeared to have a couple houses. This made us question if we were in the right place. We walked around and encountered a very sweet and friendly dog. It looked like it wanted to play with us.

Friendly Dog At Menoreh Hill Village
Kyle

We also saw a young boy and then we heard a family inside their house as we looked around. Soon we found another sign leading up.

House in the mountains
Village Near Menoreh HillSign To Menoreh Hill
Climbing Through Chili Pepper PlantationMuddy stairs

We climbed up some final muddy stairs and reached the top and I have to say, I ended up being quite happy with this alternative route we took.

Yogy Quote 01

Amazing

The view was amazing. I think I may even have preferred to do this hike had I only known. Who knew our essentially random wanderings would lead up to this?

Overlooking Menoreh Hill
Overlook Picture

We took some time to just stay there and really enjoy our view. We were the only ones around and there was a little hut for us to sit in which I enjoyed until I saw a big spider weaving around the wood pole next to me. I also noticed one sitting on the backpack. How long was it there??

Shelter At Top Of Menoreh Hill

We pointed out various landmarks visible beneath the light fog and enjoyed some snacks. We had a nice view of Amanjiwo Resorts throughout most of our hike. At somewhere between $600 and $1600/night, the hotel was out of our price range (lol!) but it does look pretty impressive.

It offers a number of suites, including one which offers you your own private pool and garden! There are some other nice hotels there, too, though, including one inside the Borobudur area – Manohara – where we had meals a couple times.

Overlooking Yogyakarta
Our AirBNB Is Down There Somewhere

We rested our legs while watching as the dark clouds rolled closer.

Looking At Borobodur
Clouds rolling inGetting Dirty

Leaving Before The Storm

I said to Kyle, “We need to get going or we are going to be slipping and sliding down those stairs until we are both a muddy mess!” He agreed and we took just a couple more minutes to enjoy our view before heading down.

Muddy path

It began sprinkling just as we finished our way down the muddy stairs and it rained on and off on our way back. It did make us more cautious on the way down as a whole, though but it was also quite lovely!

Bright Orange Flowers
Briana Overlooking Menoreh HIll

Kyle also picked up a couple more snacks for himself on the way back. (I did not partake.)

Roadside Chili PeppersI Ate The Chili Pepper

We saw very few people through the entire hike, and didn’t see any other hikers. Aside from the man who pointed us in the right direction and the boy with the dog, we saw some people working on a building to the right of the trail at the very beginning of our journey and then a woman hauling up groceries. On our way down we saw a woman and her child.

Once we made our way back to the motorbike we hopped back on, headed back, and then we each took a shower! Later we realized we were able to see the peak and platform from our place. While it started out a bit rocky, this turned out to be one of our favorite hikes we’ve done!

~B~