Pinnacles National Park



I intend to visit all the National Parks in the contiguous US within the next ten years. The US has fifty-eight National Parks. Hawaii has two and Alaska has eight, which leaves forty-eight parks in the contiguous US. Until last week, I had seen only two of them: Yosemite and the Channel Islands. Last week  I visited my third, Pinnacles National Park, leaving me forty-five to go. Pinnacles is about 3.5 hours south of my home in San Rafael, small, and uncrowded.


Pinnacles is the nation’s newest National Park. In 2013, Congress upgraded it from National Monument. It is known for it’s rock formations (duh!), the place where the California condor was released, and for the largest amount of species of bees in the world. It is supposedly a rock climber’s paradise, but a rock climber I am not. With my National Parks Senior Pass, I got 50% off the campground site and free entry to the park. I paid $18/night for the campsite.

California was still having a heat wave. Daytime weather fluctuated between 102 and 108 degrees during my two-day trip. The air was also hazy from all the wildfires in California and Oregon. Not so great for taking photos.

I left civilization after driving through Gilroy, known for its garlic. I passed this industrial area with a line-up of trucks full of the pungent bulbs …


… followed by a block of market stands selling garlic braids and other local produce. I bought a basket of Bing cherries thinking I was supporting the local farmers. Turned out they came from the state of Washington. Oh well.


The road from Gilroy to San Benito County, where the park is, consisted of farms and golden fields of grassland.



I passed the San Benito County fairgrounds, where, interesting to me, there was a sign saying that RV parking was available.


A sign as I entered the tiny town of Tres Pinos (population 500) let me know it was the last place I could purchase gas. I had already tanked up at the Costco in Gilroy.




After more grassy hills, I came to the RV campground, which is not within the pinnacles, but about a mile east. I pulled into the parking lot of the visitor center and parked right next to a Roadtrek version of Ramsey.  Roadtrek is the major competitor to PleasureWay, the company that built Ramsey on a Dodge Promaster 3500 truck chassis. The Roadtrek was also built on that chassis. You can see they are cousins!

2444-RamseyRoadtrekI checked in at the visitor center with my Senior Pass in hand. It was blissfully air-conditioned in there.


It was about 1:00. The park let me in earlier than their formal check-in time. Annie and set up camp at spot number 106, which was the far eastern end of the loop.


Then we returned to the Visitor Center, this time with my National Parks Passport in hand. One ranger held Annie’s leash while another ranger took this video of me stamping my first National Parks stamp in my passport.


After that, we returned to the rig. It was so hot, there was nothing more we could do than crank the air-conditioner to full speed, read, and eat the cherries, which had been cooling in my fridge.


Around 4:00 we took a tour of the campground. I looked through the telescopes that aim at the hills where the condors live. Placards explain that the difference between the condors and the turkey vultures is a white patch under their wings. I saw a lot of dark blobs in the trees, but nothing I could clearly identify as a condor.


The ranger said wild turkeys often roam the camp but I saw none. I did spot this deer and a wild hare. Quails scurried everywhere.


It being too hot to take a hike, I purchased an ice cream sandwich at the visitor center and sat on the porch to people watch. The dog friendly visitors kept Annie well petted.


From the east end of the campground, it is possible to hike to the pinnacles area. There are two major places people hike. One is a shortish walk through Bear Gulch that takes about 45 minutes. The other is to the highest pinnacles known as the Balconies. That takes much more time. There is very little parking, maybe ten spaces, at the beginning of the trails. Most people take a shuttle from the Visitors Center to the trail head and hike from there. The shuttle leaves every 20 minutes, starting at 9:00 in the morning.


Pets are not allowed on the trails. Since I didn’t want to leave Annie in the rig and take the shuttle, I decided to take my chances and drive Ramsey to the parking lot by the Bear Gulch trail head early in the morning and leave her there. We left at about 8:00 am.


The parking lot was mostly shady, and the temperature cool and overcast. I felt secure Annie would be comfortable.


My destination was the small Bear Gulch Reservoir, which one reaches through a trail encrusted with boulders and caves. My three-year old grandson, who loves to climb steps and rocks, would have been in Paradise. Bats live in many of the caves, but the areas where they breed are closed off at this time of year.



Fortunately, I had learned ahead of time that I would need a flashlight for some of the caves. There were a few that were completely dark.


I climbed the steps in the photo above and came out to the pretty little reservoir.


The clouds began to clear, which meant time to head back before it got hot inside Ramsey.


A few more caves and I was on the road for home.


Balancing Rocks — Culver, Oregon


Relatively recently, I became interested in early man’s efforts to communicate through rocks and rock drawings or pictographs. I had no idea how many ancient rock formations are sprinkled around New England. Some, such as the structures at America’s Stonehenge in New Hampshire, have been carbon dated to over 2000 years old. I joined the NEARA (New England Antiquities Research Association), went to one of their conferences, and learned more about analyzing, finding, and preserving these often ancient and mysterious structures.

One type of rock formation common in New England is balancing rocks. When I learned there was a field of balancing rocks in Culver, Oregon, which I visited to watch the solar eclipse, I just had to see them. (They are also called the Metolius Balancing Rocks, even though you get there from Culver.) No one knows who positioned these rocks, how, or when. The National Park service has marked them on their maps, provided detailed instructions on how to reach them from one of its campgrounds (directions inserted below), and built a path for us to walk out to see them.

Still, finding the rocks was not easy. I made many wrong turns before reaching them. I started my search by asking the locals at Culver’s coffee shop, “Do you know how to get to the Balancing Rocks?” Most of the people I talked to confused them with a structure known as Shipwreck. “They are only 20 minutes away,” they told me. Wrong. It takes 35 minutes to reach the rocks from Culver. The drive itself is an adventure.

PathToBalancingRocksCulver is on a vast plain. It looks flat as far as you can see. (That is Mt. Jefferson in the background.)


But the Crooked River (aka the Metolius River, a tributary of the Deschutes River) has cut a mini grand canyon that has two forks. After driving along the flat roads, you suddenly plunge into the canyon toward the Billy Chinook Lake, part of Cove Palisades State Park. The lake formed when people built the Billy Chinook Dam across the Crooked River. Sorry about the bug splats on my window.


I knew I was supposed to skirt the lake for a while until I came to a bridge. This bridge had two lanes.


On the other side of the bridge, I skirted the lake for another quarter mile then climbed the canyon wall and came out on the land between the two forks of the lake. I wove through some low, rocky hills and came to the Deschutes Campground, where a ranger gave me the written directions I needed. From the campground, the drive is 13.9 miles west. I wound my way to the the second canyon and plunged down once again, where I crossed the fork of the lake on a single lane bridge. That meant I had to make sure no one was coming from the other direction. Or if there was a line for the bridge on the other side, I had wait for my turn. I was the only one around. Point is  — this was not a well traveled road to an important tourist destination.

On the other side of the bridge, I climbed out of the canyon, then followed straight roads through flat wooded, desert and dusty land. Again, you can see Mt. Jefferson in the distance.


I made right angle turns, as you can see from my map above. At milage point 13.5, the pavement ended and Ramsey bumped along a gravel road going up a hill. My RV does not have four-wheel drive, but I only had .4 miles to go. I could see Road 1170 marked on the left, the only landmark that told me I was in the right place. A turnoff on the right served as a three-car parking lot, marked by the first sign I had seen saying “Balancing Rocks.”


A path obediently led from the parking area. My directions told me to look for the Balancing Rocks to my left about a quarter mile down the path.


Sure enough, there they were.


The path led to the right around the top of a ridge, from where I could climb down to the area of the rocks. I noticed from this angle that the pillars seemed to form an arrow. I checked the compass app on my iPhone and learned that the arrow pointed north. Mt. Jefferson is to the left, almost due west of the rocks. I would love to visit again during a solstice to see if the sun comes up any where near Mt. Jefferson.

Most of the balancing stones, which were shaped as rough arrow points, also pointed north. (These stones were shaped by breaking, not worn away by water.) When I reached the stones, I walked around with my copper divining rods, but I’m not very experienced at using them and they didn’t make any interesting movements.







These next four photos were taken on the other side of the ridge from the main cluster of stones.





Faithful hound, Annie, waited patiently while I snapped pictures. The photo of her gives you a close up of the rock bed. The balancing rocks seemed to be of a darker stone than the pillars on which they balanced.


Time to go home. I followed the path back along the ridge away from the stones.


I took these two photos from the path along the ridge as I walked back to the parking area, the second by zooming in.



On the way back to Culver, I passed the rock formation that I assume is called Shipwreck Rock. It is indeed about 20 minutes from Culver.


I climbed back up the canyon after crossing both bridges again. From this point, I could see one canyon from the other.


I crossed the RR tracks as I returned to Culver.


One web article stated that the rocks were for a long time hidden from the public even though the National Forest Service rangers knew about them. A forest fire in 2002 revealed their existence to the public. That same article stated, “The rock spires were created by one volcanic eruption, while the balancing slabs on top were created by others. Because of their differing sedimentary make-up, the rocks eroded at different rates.” After studying the New England balancing rocks, I don’t believe that statement for a minute. I think people purposefully created these structures to state a message, which probably has something to do with the agricultural calendar and the celestial bodies.

If anyone reading this can support my claim, I would love to hear from you.

Here is a website about other balancing rocks around the world:

As promised, here are the directions to the Balancing Rocks from the Deschutes Campground — as given to me by the State Park Ranger service. These structures could have been formed by man thousands of years ago. Help us preserve them.

Essentially, you follow the main paved road for the first 13.5 miles. It turns to gravel for the last .5 mile. It is passable by passenger vehicles, although it includes steep curves. Easy parking is available for two passenger vehicles (not trailers). Allow 1/2 to 1 hour driving time one way.

Mile 0 – Turn left out of the campground onto Jordan Road, proceed to the Deschutes Bridge.

Mile 1.5 – Carefully proceed across the one land bridge and follow Jordan Road to the top of the canyon.

Mile 5 – Bear right to stay on the main paved road.

Mile 7.1 – Pass the Three Rivers Recreation Area on the right.

Mile 10.5 – You will enter the National Forest Land. Stay on the paved road. You will see evidence of forest fire.

Mile 13.5 – The pavement ends.

Mile 13.8 – Road 1170 will head off to your left. Continue on your path.

Mile 13.9 – Take the first turnoff to the right. This is the parking area for Balancing Rocks.

Park your can and hike about 1/4 mile down the dirt path. Look for the Balancing Rocks on your left.

Have fun and stay safe.


Along the Path of Totality — Culver, Oregon


Ramsey on Brian Hebb’s Field, Culver, Oregon.

It was handy having an RV with solar panels on August 21, 2017 — the date of the Solar Eclipse. People in the small towns of Oregon along the Path of Totality were offering places for people like me to camp only if we could dry camp i.e. boondock i.e. camp without hooking up to water, electricity, and/or a sewer.

A friend of mine wanted to meet her boyfriend in Oregon along the Path of Totality. He was headed to Oregon from Idaho. After some worrying research, during which we found most campgrounds along the Path full or extremely expensive ($750 and up for three nights), we found Brian Hebb’s field in Culver, Oregon, only 9 miles south of Madras off Highway 97 ($255). Whereas the full eclipse was expected to last 2 min 2 seconds in Madras in the center of the Path, it would last 1 min 53 seconds in Culver — a difference we would not notice at all.

So, we packed Ramsey up for 5 days. Since my friend is a vegan, we needed two sets of food. Her small dog ChaCho, 20± years old, required a special homemade stew, which needed most of Ramsey’s tiny freezer. Considering he was deaf and blind, he was good company for my corgi, Annie, and very affectionate.



Whereas Madras turned out to be crowded and expensive, Culver was a delightful tiny town and wonderfully peaceful. I was amazed at how friendly and accommodating the locals were, and surprised to meet many townies who had grown up there and never wanted to leave.

We were among the first to arrive and had Brian Hebb’s field all to ourselves. The field had been in Brian’s family for years. When the city lot closer to the hills filled up, City Hall asked Brian if he would temporarily convert his hay field into an RV lot for the big event. The town is on the right, the park down on the left. That is the full extent of Culver.


Culver happened to be having its annual CrawDad Festival that very weekend. Saturday I attended the parade, which started at 10:00 am, followed by the festival in their not-so-central park. I can’t show my photos of the parade of vintage cars, the local sherif, the local fire truck, and the local ambulance, because there were children lining the street and, legally, I can’t show photos of children without their parents’ permission. As the cars passed, the drivers and passengers threw out candy for the kids, who had come armed with bags to collect the candy, just like for an Easter hunt. The scene warmed my heart. I loved it that the children knew and admired there law enforcement people.

The festival consisted of booths in the park selling local crafts such as woodworking, photography, jewelry, crocheted baby blankets, and hand batiked baby clothes.


The line for the crawdads, harvested from the near-by man-made Billy Chinook Lake, extended from the booth where they were served at one end of the park to the other end of the park. It remained that long until about 3:00 that afternoon and the food ran out.



I passed on the crawdads. I wasn’t very hungry. It was too hot. I purchased an ice cream cone instead and slurped it while listening to the country band.


Meanwhile, kids, and a few campers needing a shower, cooled themselves off in the Culver fountain.


My friend’s boyfriend and his terrier, Clayton, met up with us on Sunday morning. The two vans created a mini courtyard in the field. That evening, we hung out in the Culver’s one and only bar, drank some beers, and listened to the town chatter about the eclipse due the next morning.


I didn’t take a video of the eclipse itself. You can see better images of that anywhere on the internet. What I did was take photos of the hills (to my left as I took the photo of the RVs above) to show the change in light. It also got so cold that I put on my fleece jacket.


By 10:19 am it was noticeably darker.


At 10:20 am, the light went out. Everyone around us cheered. I wish I could have photographed the festive moment the sun appeared again. There was a burst of light.


A minute later, at 10:21 am, it looked like this.


10:26 am


10:30 am. I took this photo of the cars and RVs that were already leaving by 10:30, even though the eclipse had another hour to go. Some people really wanted to avoid the crowded roads.


10:38 am. My friend Marie kept watching.


10:38 am. Her boyfriend Russell kept watching.


At 11:41 am, the last little nub of moon covering the sun disappeared, ending the eclipse. Marie and Russell left about a half hour or so later, headed for Crater Lake. I stuck around for the rest of the day. I planned to wait a day to drive home and I wanted to visit the nearby Balancing Rocks, which I will tell you about in the next post.






RVing with the Grandkids

As expected, Hurricane James loves Ramsey the RV. James and his brother, Felix, their mom, and I took a trip together a few weeks ago. Destination: the Paso Robles Ranch and RV Park, which is roughly half way between my daughter’s home in the LA area and mine in the SF area. We slowly made our way up Highway 101 with frequent stops. Felix needed nursing and James needed to run around.

We made it to Paso Robles a bit after 5:00 pm. Even though it was officially dinner time, Mom consented to a swim in the Park’s pool, which, for the boys, was the best part of the whole “camping trip.”

Dinner consisted of hot-dogs grilled on my new mini-Weber and string beans I had marinated with dill ahead of time. We called them pickle beans so James, who loves pickles, would eat them. He ate a couple.


We had bought ingredients for smores, but didn’t have an open fire. Besides, it was getting late and the last thing James needed was sugar. It was hard enough calming him down for the night as it was, he was so excited. For Felix, who isn’t crawling yet, Amy and I had built a bed from a cardboard box which fit on the floor in the front part of the cabin without blocking the door to the bathroom. We cut the mattress from an exercise mat – something like a yoga mat, but thicker. We used two thicknesses covered with a cotton blanket and a crib sheet. (Obviously, this photo wasn’t taken inside Ramsey.)


Eventually morning came. Amy and I enjoyed our café lattes while James watched Netflix on the iPad (Wifi provided by the Park). Felix kept busy playing with Ramsey’s measuring spoons and cups.


In Gilroy, on the final stretch to the Bay Area, Ramsey provided an private dining room when we stopped at In-N-Out for lunch.


 James is hiding under the table.

The great thing about this PleasureWay Lexor is that it can fit in most parking spots.


After a week’s visit, including a walk through the Muir Woods (subject of next blog), I delivered Amy and her boys back to the LA area in my regular car. We left my house after lunch and drove during the boys’ naps to Livermore, where James could wear himself out on the Lost World Adventure play gym.


After sharing a plate of nachos at Chili’s for dinner, we completed the 5-hour drive down I-5 while the boys slept quietly.

Camping was fun, but I think we’ll wait until the boys are a tad older before taking any more long trips. An hour out of town, maybe, but not an eight-hour drive that took us sixteen-hours to make.

Monterey – Marina Dunes


After three days of packing the car for our first sleep-away in my new 21-foot PleasureWay Lexor, my dogs and I were ready to head out.


We drove 2.5 hours to Marina Dunes RV Park 20 minutes north of Monterey. Marina Dunes is a tidy, small park. Beggars can’t be choosers. I took the only spot available on such short notice. Just big enough for my relatively tiny rig, I shared a campfire pit and picnic table with four neighbors who all backed up to the same circle center. I wouldn’t need either the pit or the table. The pricey $77/night fee, including taxes, provided water and 30 amp electric, but no sewer hook-up. (There were sewer hook-ups for the larger spots.) Cars whizzed along the freeway to the east. But hey, this trip was meant to be a practice trip. Ice-plant covered sand dunes spread to the west promising the dogs and me a walk along the beach.

According to my bubble level, I didn’t need to try out my new leveling blocks. I plugged in the electric, passed on the water, since I didn’t have a water pressure valve yet, and changed into something warmer to head to the beach. The walk down the sandy trail would take about 15 minutes if you didn’t have a corgi who wanted to sniff every stick and pebble and a male Norwich Terrier who didn’t want to mark every post along the way.

I assume the RV park’s hefty price tag is for the privilege of walking California’s gorgeous coastline. The crashing waves and soaring seagulls reminded me why I wanted to get away from my computer desk and out into the fresh air.

I cooked my first meal on my propane stove. I learned that I need to pack fewer pots and pans because they get in the way and to turn on the Fantastic Fan before frying salmon or I will set off the smoke alarm. The brown rice and black beans came from Costco packaged in a packet that I heated up in my microwave. Super easy and no cleanup for that dish! I farmed the lettuce for the salad on my hydroponic Tower Garden – food for another blog.


We woke up to a chilly, cloudy day. I prepared a decaf latte on my tiny cappuccino maker (my one space splurge) and drank it inside. Ramsey is surrounded by tinted windows. I can see out and others can’t see in. That means I have yet to try out my new folding table and chairs for the outside. I fried both the scrambled eggs and the English muffins in a pan on my propane stove. After cleaning up with my super eco-friendly dish soap I got ready for a short trip to Monterey. Marina Dunes is in the process of rebuilding their restrooms and showers. I won’t comment about the porta-potties and shower trailer they provided for the mean time.

Parking for a Walk along Cannery Row

Just as you approach Cannery Row in Monterey there is a place to park your RV. It’s called Breakwater Cove Marina on Foam Street. Perfect.


You purchase a parking ticket from a machine, place it where it is visible on your dash, then head west to walk the strip of former sardine canneries that John Steinbeck made so famous. A statue I had not seen before displays the characters from his stories. Dead center is my favorite, Susie, who featured in Sweet Thursday.


I was home again by 4:00 that afternoon, safe and sound. I hosed Ramsey down to get the bugs off her nose, vacuumed her interior, and unpacked the food and clothing. Where to next?

Delivery Date

Today I pick up my 21-foot Lexor RV built from a Dodge Ram 3500, who, as mentioned, I’ve nicknamed Ramsey. I’m nervous as heck about driving him. He is a lot wider than my SUV, Alice, and has no bells and whistles to warn me if I wander into the wrong lane. The hardest part will be angling him into my driveway. Deep gutters threaten on each side. If I don’t turn at the right time, his wheel will drop in and get stuck. Not good. I am on the waiting list for the nearest RV parking place. Someone is vacating a place for me in a month. Meanwhile, my neighbors will have to put up with an elephant in my driveway.

I’ve gathered kitchen gear and linen items plus a few mechanical necessities like a clear elbow for the black tank hose and some wheel chocks. My list of needed equipment printed out on four pages: hoses, wrenches, water filters, surge protectors, on and on, not to mention a bicycle rack. Most of the RV bloggers and vloggers think the best deals are through Amazon and Wallmart versus stores like Camping World and my home RV dealer. I’ve got the list of prices in my handbag. Once I figure out how to drive Ramsey, I am ready to shop.

It’s Wednesday. A weekend looms. Hopefully, we will be ready for our first trip on Saturday – even if just for a day outing.

Almost Official RVer

The last time I wrote, which was nearly six months ago, I announced I wanted to be an RVer. Well, I put down my deposit on a 21-foot Lexor and when it arrives in May things will be official. I can’t wait. The first road trip that Annie, my corgi, and I will take will be to Bodega Bay where, for a night, my Lexor will be a beach house. I have named the Lexor Ramsey because he is a Dodge Ram 3500. (I can’t seem to find a big strong man to travel with, so I paid for a big strong truck.) From what I see on the web, there are several campgrounds to choose from in Bodega Bay. I’ve found RV-Land’s equivalent to Facebook, which is Maybe I’ll see if there is someone on it who can give me advice about which place in Bodega Bay is the best. Meanwhile, I have been watching video after video on how to dump black and gray tanks and I’ve made sure Ramsey will fit in my driveway and that I can legally park him there according to my city’s code. The people at PleasureWay in Sacramento where I ordered Ramsey sent a test drive model over to my house to give the Lexor a test fit. My neighbor was horrified, but it is the only driveway I have. So what can I do? Two nights ago I watched Robin Williams in the movie RV, which was too silly, but after watching all those video’s, made me laugh. Meanwhile, I am going to learn to play pickleball, a game I had never heard of but which, I’ve learned, is very fun. It’s supposed to be the rage in RV camps. There are free lessons near me on Tuesdays and if the rain lets up tomorrow, I’m heading out to give the game a try.