Day 13. 1/24/2016. Starting Odometer: 144735. Final Odometer: 144806. Mileage: 71. Total Mileage 2562.


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California gave me a great big “Good Morning” with the most gorgeous sunrise illuminating grassy green farmlands. I had never been to this corner of California, and would never have believed there was so green a place in a state with so bad of a drought problem.

In fact, once I passed King City, California gave way, and I found myself in the middle of the Shire. At any minute I expected I’d see four hobbits run of the road, trying to hide from me as they made their way toward Rivendell with a fateful package in tow.

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And the weirdest thing. Have you ever seen a Jerry Bruckheimer movie? (Shut up. Yes, you have. All of you have.) His logo is a big bushy tree on the side of the road, being struck by lightning. About halfway between King City and the entrance to Pinnacles, I swear I drove by Jerry Bruckheimer’s tree. It looked a lot like this:

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The idyllic pastoral setting gave way to the park’s entrance, and suddenly I was there.

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I drove to the visitor’s center, got my patch and stamp, then got a map of the area, and things to do, because I’d never heard of this park before I’d started studying the road trip, and it fascinated me that there was a park nearly as close as the Big Three (Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia) had been to Fresno that was a complete unknown. I have to admit… the end result was a little bit of disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a wonderful park. The pinnacles themselves are very impressive, for what they are. But I must not have spent enough time here to fully appreciate it. Something just feels off about it.

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See, one thing I’ve learned about the National Parks, is that each one specifically targets a **unique** geological attribute. Just from the ones I’d seen on this trip, or was going to see: Great Basin is “I’m in the desert. Holy Crap! There’s a forested mountain range in the middle of it. With caves!” Death Valley is the hottest, deepest, driest place in the nation. Joshua Tree is a collision of deserts. Kings Canyon and Sequoia, turns out, aren’t TOO terribly different — and that’s why the park has slowly started merging the two into just one (doesn’t hurt that they abut each other). Yosemite is Yosemite. Lassen is a giant volcanic playground. Crater Lake is the deepest volcano-lake in the world. Utah has like, 5 national parks all within spitting distance of each other, and they’re ALL uniquely different geologically.

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Pinnacles never gave me that sense. The approach is too much like the approach to the Sierra Nevada parks. The pinnacles pale in comparison to El Capitan, Half Dome, or any of Yosemite’s granite marvels, just a valley or two away.

I wish I had had more time to explore here. Truth be told, the amazing farmlands outside the park awed me so much more than the park did itself. For a Fresno boy who’d been raised on grape vines and orange orchards, massive green fields of rolling hills was a revelation. I’m sorry, Pinnacles. It’s me, not you.

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The day was still young, I still had items on the itinerary. For the first time on this trip, I was visiting two national parks in one day. I kicked it in gear, and made my way back through the Shire, thinking that every single person in California must be feeling as blessed as I was that the winter storms had turned the dry and dusty state into a green, lush paradise again.

Well, almost everyone.

 

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