Monday, August 6, 2018

~ Chasing Curves on the Pacific Coast Highway ~


The article "Chasing Curves on the Pacific Coast Highway" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" magazine website on 7/30/2018.

It has been over a year since I planned this motorcycle ride along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or California’s Highway One.
A few days ago, in fact at 9:45 am on July 18, 2018, State Route 1 at Mud Creek re-opened after a 14-month closure due to a massive landslide followed by an emergency repair project. The scenic coastal road was blocked for nearly a quarter mile between Big Sur and the famous Bixby Bridge south of Monterey, California.
I wanted to be first in line to travel this coastal road but I decided to wait, knowing that there would be thousands of tourist wanting to do the same thing.
Tonight, I am camping at my favorite National Park Service area, Pinnacles National Park. I absolutely love Highway 198 past Coalinga, then north on Highway 25 that winds through valleys and opens up with vast grasslands where content cows and horses graze. In the morning, I’ll ride past Hollister, San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, and then onto Monterey and Carmel. It will be exciting to again travel south on Highway 1 towards Big Sur, San Simeon, Cambria, and Morro Bay. Summer is in full force in the central San Joaquin Valley where we are on track to break the record of consecutive days over 100 degrees, so I’m looking forward to the cool ocean breeze.
I pack, then re-pack, my motorcycle until things are perfect. I travel light, life is simpler that way — sleeping bag, Therm-a-Rest, ground cover, hammock, headlamp, solar light, Pocket Rocket stove, portable shovel, first aid kit, one cooking pan, Dinty Moore stew, sardines, several Gatorades, and my trusty transistor radio. I once listened to Vin Scully announce an entire Dodgers baseball game at my camp without another person around for miles.
As I leave Hollister, it is a warm 90 degrees but the temperature drops quickly to 60 degrees under a heavy marine layer at Castroville along Highway 1. As I approach Monterey the sun comes out, temperature rise as tourist leisurely walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. I have always enjoyed this area, thinking about all the great stories by John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, and scores of others.
I plan to camp tonight at San Simeon State Park as I pass Big Sur and the massive Redwood trees on my motorcycle. The air is cold but I love the curves and vistas as the sound from my machine echoes off the steep canyon walls. There is still construction ongoing along the cliffs near Mud Creek. There is a new, awesome rock tunnel that I pass on my way to the famous Bixby Bridge. I stop with the other tourist and marvel at the massive bridge which is perhaps the most photographed bridge in the world. The Elephant Seals, near San Simeon, are in the thousands and love to be photographed as well as the rolling hills towards Hearst Castle!
The evening skies are dramatic and the sunsets are gorgeous from Cambria to Morro Rock. Once you take this motorcycle route, it will likely be one of your best rides – guaranteed.
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of my favorites trips and the year-long wait to ride between Big Sur and the Bixby Bridge was worthwhile.
I think you will agree after riding this portion of Highway One.
Text and photography: Robert Griego

Saturday, August 4, 2018

~In Pursuit of Wildness: Exploring the Backcountry of Sequoia National Park ~


The article "In Pursuit of Wildness:  Exploring the Backcountry of Sequoia National Park" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" magazine website on 12/13/2016.

Sequoia National Park
Everyone knows Yellowstone is America’s first national park. Few, however, know that Sequoia is the nation’s second national park and California’s first. That’s where this story begins.
The giant sequoias were here some 2,000 years ago. Their root system is shallow and they drink about 500 gallons per day. If you come by after a fire, you will see hundreds of little sequoia trees sprouting from the ashes. Fire is important to them; they need heat to flourish and grow. In 1903, Captain Charles Young led the U.S. 10th Cavalry, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, to protect the park in its early years.
Sequoia National ParkMy favorite thing to do in Sequoia is ride up to Mineral King and camp at Cold Springs Campground, rated as one of the best in the West. It is 25 miles from Three Rivers, with many curves, but so worthwhile. This high sub-alpine valley is at 7,800 feet. Check out campsite eight if you want a special spot for the night. Tonight I’m pitching a tent alone here, but my fire comforts me while the nearby stream quietly speaks to me. The stars talk too, but my fingers cannot quite touch them. In the warmth of my sleeping bag I think about John Muir and his words, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”
Riding horseback in the wilderness of Sequoia was a dream come true when I worked here. Those trips into the backcountry were a team building experience for management, yet for me it was a pure jolt of wildness. “Remember this moment around the campfire!” Superintendent Jack Davis did not mince words. “Our job is to protect and preserve what you have experienced today. This may be the most important time you spend with the National Park Service.”
On that trip, we rode horses, camped above timberline, fished, and forgot all about our worries back at park headquarters. We were there to reconnect with nature, to be better park stewards. Since 1984, nearly 90 percent of Sequoia and nearby Kings Canyon National Park has been managed as wilderness. So get out and hike. In just two to three miles down a backcountry trail you’ll find few people around. It is so rewarding.
On September 11, 2001, I was in my office at Ash Mountain in Sequoia National Park when I heard the news. The twin towers had just been attacked. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) immediately closed down all American airspace, and we felt that personally at Sequoia.
Our helicopter was being used to transport supplies and crew into the backcountry that day. They got permission from the FAA to do so, but confusion occurred. Our pilot thought the “OK to fly” was good for several trips. Wrong. Two F-18s were scrambled from Naval Air Station Lemoore just 70 miles away. They were flying “hot” and ordered our pilot to descend and return to the heliport immediately. The jets then slowly passed over park headquarters, as if to say to the superintendent, “We mean business.” The roar was deafening.
Today, Sequoia National Park stands strong, and so does our country. Here, the door to wildness is always open. Come and check it out for yourself.

Planning a Visit 
Sequoia National Park, located in the the Sierra Nevada range, is home to General Sherman, the largest tree on earth, and Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous 48 states. There are multiple campsites, but GPS devices sometimes give inaccurate directions in this area, so keep a park map handy and pay attention to signs. Some roads are inaccessible in winter.
To DoDay hiking, Ranger-led activities, visitor centers and museums, cave tours, skiing, snowshoeing, picnicking, horseback riding, camping, rock climbing, and more.
Hours
Open 24/7/365, weather permitting. Highest visitation is in July and August. Campsites may be difficult to secure on summer weekends and holidays.
Cost
Twenty dollars per motorcycle ($25 starting January 1, 2017); $15 individual; $30 vehicle. All passes valid up to seven days for Sequoia & Kinds Canyon National Parks. Annual passes $50.
For more information or to purchase a pass, visit www.nps.gov/seki.
Text and photography: Robert Griego

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service ~


The article "In Pursuit of Wildness:  Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" magazine website on 07/14/2016.


National Parks


The wind, the open road, and my motorcycle: this is my mantra.
Motorcycles have been a part of my of life since I was 16. My first bike was an 80cc Yamaha, and for a high school kid it was magic. I am 67 years old and still riding motorcycles. Today I ride a Yamaha Road Star. This was my gift to myself when I retired from the National Park Service after 35 ½ years.
The vision of preserving and protecting the national parks for future generations is a worldwide responsibility. I learned this after working two and a half years for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Botswana, Africa. My first job with the National Park Service, however, was as a temporary laborer, working on a garbage truck at Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park. My job, according to old Earl, was simple. “You ride on the back of the garbage truck. When it stops, you pick up and empty the trash can into the truck and try not to fall off.”
Robert GriegoSo this 18-year-old began a career. Some 16 years later, I would be offered the Chief of Administration position at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I would end my career here as Program Manager after working 18 years at those great parks, and 35 ½ years with the National Park Service. Today, I live in Three Rivers, CA, at the foothills of Sequoia National Park. These Sierra parks are huge and time is needed to really explore them. Ninety percent are in the backcountry, most in wilderness. But with a few days, you can touch the giant Sequoias, climb Moro Rock, camp at peaceful Cedar Grove or Mineral King, or take the Crystal Cave tour.
Recently, my wife and I rode my motorcycle through both parks in one easy day. We took the Dry Creek backroad to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park, stopped by Giant Forest to take a short walk among the giant Sequoias, climbed Moro Rock for amazing panoramic views, and returned home to Three Rivers via foothills chaparral.
My passion is to ride my bike across America in pursuit of such wildness, in a manner that may have been done 100 years ago on horseback. I will camp lightly on the land, observe and explore nature, reconnect with families and ancestors, and share my adventures, which will take me along trails that might have been traveled by John Muir or Juan de Oñate. They were explorers at heart, and that wildness drove them deep into wilderness. One pursued gold and another pursued nature, yet both had similar passions.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have served our country, working in some of the crown jewels of America: Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier, Yellowstone, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The park system is full of natural, historical, cultural, and recreational wonders. Some of the lesser known areas that I worked at are equally important: Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, and Joshua Tree and Pinnacles National Parks.
On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100th anniversary. A very special date in our history. We can all relate to our national parks—many in our own backyards. Perhaps the next 100 years will be the most important, teaching our children the value of preserving and protecting nature, keeping our national parks alive and well, and for me, all in the pursuit of wildness. In upcoming issues, I’ll be sharing my journey through these well- and lesser-known parks, and look forward to offering tips on how you can plan a trip of your own.

Text and Photography: Robert Griego

Saturday, July 14, 2018

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: New Mexico's El Morro National Monument ~


The article "In Pursuit of Wildness:  New Mexico's El Morro National Monument" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" magazine website on 08/23/2017.
  
El Morro

New Mexico has some of the best, less-traveled parks in America. Whether you go north or south, east or west, it is so rewarding.
This state is rich in history with scenery straight out of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. Everyone loves New Mexico, especially on a motorcycle. I was born in the small village of La Joya, along the Rio Grande River, so I’m partial to The Land of Enchantment. Once a year, I find myself riding my motorcyle across some of the state’s most scenic, isolated highways in my pursuit of wildness.
In my rearview mirror is Interstate 40. A sign points me to Sanders, where I’ll take Highway 191 south. The slower pace agrees with me as I turn east on Highway 61 to El Morro National Monument. My brother Leo always said I should do this ride. “You’ll find a small campground there and you can hike high on top of the mesa … the views are amazing.” But his next words immediately caught my attention: “Juan de Oñate passed through here and inscribed his name on El Morro.”
In 1598, Oñate made a pilgrimage across the state in search of gold. He found little of it, but his mark on our history is inscribed in sandstone here. I love this park. It is peaceful and rich in New Mexico’s history. There are nine campsites, most are covered by shady trees, and the price is right: free. Soon I’ll have my gourmet dinner—beef stew, tortillas, green chili, and a Hostess CupCake for dessert. It’s been a long day, so I’ll save the walk to the visitor center, Inscription Trail, and the Headland Trail for the morning.
My little transistor radio picks up KTNN, a Window Rock, AZ, radio station providing Indian cultural education, news, and country music. The Navajo chants comfort me after a long day, but the occasional country-western music is what I really hope to hear. The station does not disappoint me. This is a quiet spot and the sky is incredible. Shooting stars pass by like Indy race cars, one after another. I wonder if Juan de Oñate also looked up at the night sky in awe or if was he busy planning for the next leg of his expedition. As another streaks across the sky, I know he loved these stars too.
In the morning my small fire is ready for my cowboy breakfast of coffee, Spam, tortillas, and a bit of green chili. Sipping my coffee, I glance toward the huge sandstone bluff that I’ll soon climb. It rises 200 feet above the surrounding land.
Inscription Trail is a must and can be done in a short hour. There are hundreds of Spanish and Anglo inscriptions, as well as prehistoric petroglyphs. They are all valuable, but I am looking for a particular one. “Pasó por aqu픝 (“passed by here”) begins the inscription, a message left by Don Juan de Oñate, the first governor under Spain of New Mexico. According to family genealogy, one of my first ancestors, Juan Griego, accompanied Oñate in 1598 as he colonized New Mexico. The park brochure tells me that Oñate “… brought 400 colonists and 10 Franciscans north, along with 7,000 head of stock. From the beginning, hard winters, lack of food, and the great distances from Mexico caused hardship and discontent among the colonists. Oñate’s explorations finally killed the last hopes for quick riches. Returning from one of these expeditions, Oñate inscribed his name at El Morro on April 16, 1605—the first known European inscription on the rock.”
I’m feeling good, and the Headland Trail is only two miles, so off I go. Leo had said that the views of the Zuni Mountains, the volcanic craters of the El Malpais area, and the El Morro Valley are incredible. So with each deliberate footstep, I climb a bit higher. It is warm but walking feels good and I can easily see 50 miles in all directions. Perhaps Oñate stood here as well. As an explorer, he was always trying to see what might be up ahead, and this is an excellent view of the sweeping land below.
The trail is easy so I continue to the Ancestral Puebloan ruin, Atsinna, or “place of writings on rock.” Between A.D. 1275 to 1350, as many as 1,500 people lived in this 875-room pueblo, which was near the only water source for many miles. According to the National Park Service, “The Puebloans, ingenious farmers of the high desert, were master builders. Their earliest structures, half-buried pithouses, evolved into above-ground pueblos by A.D. 1000. Soon the Puebloans were building many of their villages on mesa tops, perhaps with defense in mind or perhaps simply to be high about the plain.”
A rich history lesson in just two miles. I’m not the least tired, but walk back down to my camp. In the morning, I plan to head farther south toward Pie Town along Highway 60. I can taste the coconut cream pie now.
There is little traffic on these lonely roads. A shortcut to Pie Town exists, but it is on a dirt road (603), so I continue on toward Quemado on the paved road. The little cafe at Pie Town is closed. In years past, I have camped on the free forest land across from the cafe and have eaten pie, but not today.
My ride past Datil, Magdalena, and Socorro is peaceful. I am returning home to La Joya.
Juan de Oñate would have loved a slice of coconut cream pie too, but he was likely thinking about gold as he inscribed his words on the sandstone of El Morro: “Pasó por aquí.”
Planning a Visit
El Morro National Monument is a fascinating mixture of human and natural history. Take a hike to the infamous rock rising 200 feet above the New Mexico desert between Gallup and Grants. This massive sandstone bluff was a welcome landmark for weary travelers. A reliable waterhole hidden at its base made El Morro (or “Inscription Rock”) a popular rest stop. Beginning in the late 1500s, Spaniards, and later Americans, passed by El Morro. While they rested in its shade and drank from the pool, many carved signatures, dates, and messages for future travelers to see.
To Do
Cool autumn weather makes October a prime time to explore the park. Activities include hiking, Ranger-led activities, camping, star gazing, picnicking, kids activities, and exploring the visitor center museum. Hit the museum, then take the short, pleasant hike to Inscription Rock. A tougher two-mile round-trip trek climbs to the mesa top for expansive desert views and ruins of an Ancestral Puebloan village.
Hours
El Morro National Monument is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Summer hours are: visitor center 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; trails 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you plan to hike the trails, it is important to be back at the visitor center by 5 p.m.
Cost
El Morro is a fee-free area, including the campground, which has nine campsites.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/elmo.
Text and Photography: Robert Griego 

Monday, July 9, 2018

~ Where East meets West ~

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect" ~ Chief Seattle

Leaving Three Rivers at 6 am as the sun in the east peaks over Sequoia National Park

Rarely do I ride 1,800 miles just because a stranger suggests an awesome ride.  "This ride is in Utah," he said.  I had just met Scott in Springerville, Arizona, and he was already persuading me on a great ride in Utah, near his home.

He called it the Nebo Loop, a place near Spanish Fork, Utah.  Never heard of it, let alone been there.  He seemed like a real biker so I listened.  "Utah is so beautiful, and this ride on the Nebo Loop is awesome; I know you'd love it."  Apparently, he owns a fly fishing shop.  His card read 'Scott's Fly Fishing Shoppe.'

Honestly, I thought I'd never seen him again.  But fate has it's own ways of correcting our mis judgments.  So, 900 miles miles later, I was looking for Scott's Fly Shoppe where we agreed to meet in Spanish Fork, Utah.

I left Three Rivers, California two days earlier.  The alarm clock rudely rang at 5 a.m. and reluctantly I got out of bed.  My first stop was only ten miles down the road when I saw the sun poking its head over the Sierra Range in Sequoia National Park.  I alway try to connect with someone or something on each of my trips.  It's just something I do to allow the karma to follow through me on another adventure.  The morning sunset was that karma.

The hot desert sun across the Mojave Desert was intense.  I applied tons of sun screen and drank gallons of water.  The temperature, as I passed Las Vegas, was 107 degrees.  The hot wind would be with me until I reached Utah that evening.

As I approach, Cedar City, Utah there is a large fire burning to the west.  I would later hear from my nephew Ruben who works for the U.S. Forest Service in fire management that this fire was huge.  He would later tell me that he and his crew would be redirected from Mesa, Arizona back to fight the fires in Utah where a second large fire broke out.

The XX fire near Cedar City, Utah
I had never been to Cedar Breaks National Monument so that's where I'm heading.  Cedar Breaks sits at over 10,000 feet and looks down into a half-mile deep geologic amphitheater.  At this higher elevation, the air is cool and such a relief from the hot desert.  There are wild flowers everywhere and though it is windy, I immediately like this National Park Service gem.  The night sky is crystal-clear and sleep comes easily after the punishing hot desert winds.

I plan to do a story for RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine, so I can't spill all the beans just yet.  But here are a few pictures from this amazing National Park Service area in Utah.

Entering Cedar Breaks NM

Cedar Breaks NM, at the awesome North View overlook

Robert at the North View overlook, 10,435'

My awesome Yamaha Road Star
I meet Scott at his Fly Shoppe in Spanish Fork early in the morning.  He introduces me to his friends and takes me into his fly shoppe which is rich with feathers, hooks, poles, and art.  Little did I know but Scott is also a musician and gives guitar lessons.

A biker, a fly fisherman, a musician.

Scott Masters in front of his business, 'Scott's Fly Shoppe'
An awesome sign above the door

Scott explains how he ties unique, one of a kind flies

Scott's shoppe is full of flies and art
He provides options and I select the Nebo Loop Byway which I had never been on before.  This byway crosses the Uinta National Forest between the cities of Nephi and Payson.  Our motorcycles cruise easily to over 9,000 feet in elevation.


Scott and Robert riding the Nebo scenic loop
The views of of Utah valley, the Wasatch Mountains, and 11,928 foot Mount Nebo is breathtaking.  Scott is in the lead, so I can play tourist and comfortably look at the scenery.  He pulls over often for pictures and I am impressed.

"I've seen elk and mountain lion just over there," he tells me.  "The Nebo loop is one of my favorite rides," he adds.  I agree.  A very special ride with a new friend.

Two bikers on an awesome ride

Scott's ride is a Truimph
My ride is this awesome, dependable Yamaha Road Star

"Thanks Scott, an awesome ride. Give me a moment to remember the Nebo Loop"

I'm now heading west on Highway 6 for Great Basin National Park in Nevada.  I plan to camp there tonight, after some 150 miles.  The road is often described as the "Lonely Highway' but for me, I love the wide open country.  It's rare these days to see for fifty miles without another soul in sight.

Amazing. Adventure. Alive.

It's evening as I approach Great Basin NP
When I travel, I do not keep track of time or days so when I arrived at Great Basin National Park all three campgrounds are full.  It is Friday and the busy summer months are here.  As I circle the last campground, a young biker flags me down.  "All of the sites are full," he says.  "You're welcome to camp here at my site."  Tired, and thinking that it could be another 100 miles before I found a suitable campsite, I thank him.  This will be home for tonight.

Sharing a camping site with this biker at the Baker Creek Campground

"My name is Jim, and I'm coming down from Oregon."  He was a young guy in his late 20's and rode a cool looking Harley-Davidson; kind of reminded me of 'Easy Rider.'  Talk flowed easily.  Apparently he didn't enjoy camping alone and me on the opposite side of the fence.  I'm glad I took up his offer and we share tales and a few beers that I just grabbed at the general store in Baker.  For such a young guy, he was traveling extensively and I'd call him a real 'adventurist.'  He turned in early as he was planning an extensive 15 mile hike in the morning.

I leave Jim a note as I leave.

Perhaps, we too will meet again. You never know Easy Rider.


My note to Easy Rider


I love this ride towards Ely, Nevada and eventually I plan to camp on some U.S. Forest Service land between Benton and Bishop, California.

My brother Gilbert and I camped there before and we named the camp 'Paiute Ridge.'

I build a small fire, cook my stew over an open fire, eat my Hostess Cupcake, and gaze at the stars.  It is quiet.  No one around for miles.  My sleeping bag is inches off the dirt and the stars are so bright as I move my finger easily across the entire universe.

My camp site, Paiute Ridge


Near Independence along the Sierra Range.  Almost home.


Tomorrow, I hope to make home.

Arriving home as the sun sets in the west after 1,803 miles, satisfied from a ride out to place called the Nebo Loop


















Saturday, July 7, 2018

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Pinnacles National Park ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness:  Pinnacles National Park" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" magazine website on 04/24/2017.


Pinnacles National Park
Once upon a time, it was called Pinnacles National Monument, but today it is America’s newest national park. That’s where this story begins.
Graduating from San Jose State, getting married, and landing my first permanent job with the National Park Service all within one week was a miracle. “We’d like to offer you a job as an Administrative Assistant at Pinnacles National Monument.” I accepted without even knowing where it was located. I have always loved nature and the great outdoors, but my degree in business administration and management was pointing me toward a career in a big city. So this offer from the National Park Service was a dream come true.
A one-room cabin was our first home, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, and living on the east side of Pinnacles was the beginning of a special journey. Our son, Keith, was born in Hollister, 35 miles away.
Pinnacles is located in central California among the chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms. It was formed some 23 million years ago by erupting volcanoes. Today as you enter the park, the green pastures are heaven for cows and horses. You will likely see peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the inspiring California condor.
It is rich in history, as described in the National Park Service publication The Heart of the Gabilans: An Administrative History of Pinnacles National Monument. I recently spoke with the author, Timothy Babalis. His words bring to life the hard and meaningful labor of the young men who made up the CCC. My dad was part of that era, working for the CCC in Arizona and New Mexico. He made $30 a month constructing roads, campgrounds, bridges, lookout towers, and building for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service. He was required by his contract to send $25 home monthly to help his family. President Roosevelt’s New Deal put millions of young men to work after the Great Depression. Today, the efforts of the CCC can be seen in most national parks. Here at Pinnacles, their fine rock work can be seen on buildings, bridges, and the High Peaks trail system.
This little-known monument became Pinnacles National Park on January 10, 2013. Pinnacles is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the National Park Service. Birders, hikers, climbers, and nature lovers fall for it immediately. It is a rock climbing paradise. I was on the Mountain Climbing Search and Rescue Team for three and a half years and climbed nearly all the routes. The rock climbing passion is still with me today.
The movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull was also filmed here, and that was an exciting day for us. The movie producers and camera crews came to tell a love story about a seagull and it put Pinnacles on the map, though visitation was still considered low in comparison to other national parks.
I’m a biker at heart and my favorite ride is west on Highway 198 from Visalia, past Coalinga, then north on Highway 25 to the east side of Pinnacles National Park. The road winds through the valleys and opens up with vast grasslands where content cows and horses graze. You might even see the tule elk, which are making a comeback. There are a few sharp curves to wake you up, but overall it is peaceful and relaxing. One hundred years ago it would have looked much the same. In the spring, wildflowers profusely color the landscape.
I’ll camp a few nights at the east side Pinnacles Campground, hike the High Peaks Trail looking for California condor, and walk the short Bear Gulch Trail to the reservoir. Perhaps the best time to visit is March or April to enjoy the wildflowers. But my favorite time is the Fourth of July, camping and then riding into Hollister for the annual Hollister Rally held July 1 – 3. This event was suspended for many years but has come back in full force. Johnny’s is a must, a central point for all motorcyclists. The music rocks, the food is great, and you can see bikers roll down San Benito Street by the thousands. Hollister was made famous by Marlon Brando in The Wild One.
If you are thinking about a new motorcycle, sit on a corner and just watch the variety of bikes rolling into town. There is an Indian dealership on the north end of Hollister that I love to visit. Sometimes I’ll continue my ride westerly on Highway 156, stopping at San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, and then on to Monterey and Carmel. This route is only 40 miles. Highway 1 south toward Big Sur, San Simeon, Cambria, and Morro Bay is pure joy, but that’s another story.
I meet so many bikers on the road who know very little about the national parks. They are often amazed to learn that there are many types of park passes that can cut down on your budget when visiting. I’m always encouraging fellow bikers to buy an annual pass because an annual pass permits entrance for two motorcycles if the two people who sign the pass arrive at the same time on two motorcycles, regardless of the number of people on each motorcycle.
You will not be disappointed with the easygoing country ride to Pinnacles National Park, hiking some of the trails, camping, viewing the California condor, and maybe topping it off with a ride to the Hollister Rally. As Brando might have said, it’s a bit on the wild side.
Planning a Visit
When Pinnacles was signed into legislation in 2013, it became the country’s 59th national park. Located southeast of San Francisco in the Gabilan Mountains, it sprawls across 26,000 acres of ancient volcanic ground. Because it is less well known than Yosemite, Yellowstone, and other California parks, it offers solitude without scrimping on sights. Here you’ll find everything from sprouting wildflowers and hundreds of bee species to caves and—if you’re lucky—a California condor. Temperatures can be extreme in summer. If visiting then, pack plenty of food and water and stay hydrated!
To Do
Rock climbing, day hiking, wildflower viewing, birding, stargazing, caving, picnicking, camping, Ranger-led activities, and a visitor center and nature center.
Hours
Open 24/7/365, weather permitting. Highest visitation is in fall and during spring wildflower season. It is very common for the campground to fill on weekends and during holidays. Arriving in the middle of the week will improve your chances of a campsite.
Cost
Fifteen dollars per motorcycle or vehicle; $10 individual; $25 annual. All passes valid up to seven days for Pinnacles National Park. Interagency annual passes are $80 and offer admittance to more than 2,000 national parks and federal recreation lands. Ten dollars for seniors; free for U.S. military.
For more information or to purchase a pass, visit the NPS website at www.nps.gov/pinn.
Text and Photography: Robert Griego