California: A State of Many Wonders and Oddities
My trip to the great outdoors, accompanied by my fellow co-workers, began with a meandering migration inland to Pinnacles State Park (http://www.nps.gov/pinn/), located some 30 odd miles south of Hollister California. Our road trip required three cars more or less caravanning and featuring at least a hundred stops along the way as lattes, film, fruit, ice and assorted foods were procured. Now by nature I am not a real outdoorsman type but it is nearing the end of summer, another year has passed and I got suckered into it. So off into the heat I went, deeper and deeper into Steinbeck country, and at one point the car that I was riding in got dived bombed by a flock of starlings committing a hari-kari suicide mission type deal most of whom were sucked into the grill of the car or pressed flat against the windshield and passenger side window. An omen we no doubt should have heeded and just turned around and gone home instead of scraping off the goo and continuing along our way whilst praising the aerodynamics of German engineering.
Pinnacles Campground lies in a very shallow dried up creek bed just off highway 146 enclosed by the desiccated and barren Gabilan Mountains that make up Bear Valley. Though no bears were to be found on our trip there were in abundance wild boars, tarantulas, deer, coyotes, cotton tail bunnies and numerous species of flying things – bats, condors, vultures and ravens, magpies and screaming mad blue-jays who conspired in the shadows hoping to mug us for anything we were eating. In the late afternoon a particularly obnoxious type of black fly would descend and hover and bite until the sun went down, this was of course preferable to the yellowjacket hornets that besieged us when we arose to start our day trying to drink your first sip of coffee as the stinging bee type thing is doing the same, therefore almost making it into your mouth at the same time. Ah, nature at its best.
The campground was run by a very large fat lady who seemed pissed off all of the time, but maybe it was just the heat and all, though I did overhear a conversation regarding chaffing that she was having with an equally fat camper. There was a swimming pool that the cotton tailed bunnies used more than anybody else or at least used to shit around in great quantities and a small building with showers off to one side with “extra security” doors to keep out the marauding gangs of wild boars, though why we should only be scared of the wild boars while taking a shower and not, let’s say, when we’re lying in our tents, I don’t know? But anyway – the showers were a strange contraption that required quarters to turn on the hot water, bringing sleazy motels or high class Tijuana jails to mind – and all the RV’s and trailers were off in their own little fenced-in, boar-free enclave with the electrical and water hook ups, they didn’t need the facilities so we were pretty much on our own as boar bait.
As for camping, what can I say? Some things never change: the ground is still hard, at night there’s no god damn noise except the rustle of “things” (read boars) in the bushes and outside – first thing in the morning, it’s awful bright. Coming back from the shower you had to keep an eye on the road because the huge hairy fat black tarantulas love to sun themselves on the blacktop and there were quite a few hundred doing just that, the fat lady said to be careful because they could jump up at you, but it was way too hot for anybody to be doing any jumping and besides they probably only jump to get out of the way when she waddles past.
We took one hike into Pinnacles National Monument that promised a trek through bat caves, but it turns out that they had been closed due to the bats freaking out over too much contact with people and they now needed some quiet time to themselves, so we sort of went around and got above near the “pinnacles” – large pointy rocks that should have fallen over but somehow have escaped the earthquakes – and saw spectacular views, breath taking vistas and gaping holes leading to other dark caves covered in bat guano. There were, of course, another few thousand tarantulas hiking with us and lurking at every turn of the trail so that we all sort of moved lively along our hike waiting to get back to the campground and its modest amount of safety.
At night we cooked massive feeds and waited until the fat lady left so that we could burn large amounts of wood in our fire, thereby breaking all the rules concerning fires that were posted through out the campsite. NO WOOD FIRES! Signs were everywhere and charcoal was the price of platinum at the fat lady’s store, so we were forced to buy a bag or two just to look good and then even the picnic tables were going in after the sun went down. At one point during a beaucoup flame up another camper materialized out of the dark, probably some RV dude, and pointed out that wood fires were against the rules – “Do we really look like the kinda guys who follow the rules?” was the reply! Talk about your male bonding!
All in all I had fun, got sun burnt, insect bit and a stiff neck but in the end it was worth doing, I guess. Civilization still looked pretty good as we sped through the traffic of San Jose and onto the peninsula while Burger King’s and Wal*Mart’s blurred into one another in a cluttered semblance of reality as I hurried home to a soft bed and food served without indistinguishable black bits in it!