Great Western Loop – Pinnacles National Park (Part 2)

 Time for some chores!

Time for some chores!

Day 19 – Projects Below … Condors Above

We’ve not tackled a single project on Blue since we left Las Vegas nearly three weeks ago. Hallelujah! That said, David was feeling antsy and figured it was time to get a few things done. On top of the list was the vent for the composting toilet. We’ve been using it for liquids, but not solid wastes, and emptying it daily, so it hasn’t been an issue... but still it needed to be done.

 Installing the toilet vent

Installing the toilet vent

He’d cut the vent hole and installed a clam-shell cover in Blue’s roof when he’d installed the solar panels back in Boston and also noted in the headliner where the vent was located, so installing the hose, fan and hardware was all that was left to do. Easier said than done, but with patience, it was accomplished. The project required removing part of the ceiling headliner, the side panel, the shelving on the side panel and the actual composting toilet itself. We had parts of the toilet and Blue balanced on logs and the picnic table and were quite happy that our camping neighbors had left for the day and were not there to witness to our renovations.

 Thank goodness our neighbors were out hiking when we were working on this project.

Thank goodness our neighbors were out hiking when we were working on this project.

Inside Blue, a hole had to be drilled in the headliner to correspond with the hole in the roof. The electrical panel had to be accessed and was open. Then outside, a hole also had to be drilled in the toilet enclosure.

Since we had to remove all the plastic tubs under the bed so David could access his tools and project parts, I lined them all up on the picnic table and busied myself by rearranging the contents for more convenient and efficient access. After the last couple of weeks, the bins had gotten rather messy and dusty to boot, so in between providing minor assistance to David, this job was a good one to get done.

Installing and routing the toilet hose, fan and vent didn’t take half as long as the dismantling and reassembly did. Once completed and while the tools were out and accessible, he ran the wiring for the new remote switch for the Xantrex inverter so it can be turned on/off with an auxiliary switch. He also managed to install the CO monitor and reposition a digital thermometer. The thermometer had been mounted with a magnet on Blue’s side and constantly read the extremes of 30-120F of Blue’s metal body rather than actual inside temperatures.

 Miner's Lettuce allegedly tastes like lettuce. In a national park, best not to sample the flora.

Miner's Lettuce allegedly tastes like lettuce. In a national park, best not to sample the flora.

 To the right, mariposa lilies lined the trail ... just gorgeous!

To the right, mariposa lilies lined the trail ... just gorgeous!

We finished up projects, gave Blue an interior cleaning and still had time for an afternoon walk. We took the park shuttle to Bear Gulch then climbed the rocky, rooted trail to the Condor Gulch Overlook. Once again, the wildflowers were magnificent and we identified several new species that we’d not seen before.

 Condor Gulch Trail

Condor Gulch Trail

The views from the overlook were awesome and gave us a sense of the wondrous nature of the place and how fortunate we were to be here. We thought we saw California condors circling in the updrafts far, far above us. It could just as easily been turkey vultures because they were so far away we really couldn’t identify them … but we’d prefer to say they were condors.

 Those might be condors soaring high above us ... we'd like to think so.

Those might be condors soaring high above us ... we'd like to think so.

 Pinnacle views were awesome!

Pinnacle views were awesome!

We hiked the Bear Gulch Trail back to the campground and managed to rack up another 10-mile day. Tuckered out, I cobbled together a red chili con carne for dinner which hit the spot as the sun began to set and the cool evening set in.

Day 20 – Hiking the South Wilderness Trail

 Hiking the South Wilderness Trail to the park boundary.

Hiking the South Wilderness Trail to the park boundary.

This is our fourth day at Pinnacles National Park … the longest we’ve stayed since we left Tucson and it’s been wonderful. Blue has been relaxing, soaking in the solar rays, taking a rest and enjoying a little TLC.

 Scarlet buglers along the Southwest Wilderness Trail

Scarlet buglers along the Southwest Wilderness Trail

As we sat enjoying our morning coffee, we laughed when we heard a ‘Daddy’ chasing his kids around. The kids chanted ‘nah,nah,nah-nah,nah,nah … you can’t catch us’ and the Daddy gruffed and growled and finally caught a kid who screamed in mock-fright followed by peals of high-pitched laughter. We reminisced about our camping trips with Casey, Brennan and Brad decades ago. The kids were all energy during the days, then collapsed each night with fatigue. We were exhausted, but exhilarated by the trip’s end as we packed up all the gear, made the long trip home and unpacked at the other end. So much work and so worth the effort. Good memories.

 A hummingbird enjoys a Venus thistle for a morning snack.

A hummingbird enjoys a Venus thistle for a morning snack.

We opted for a less ‘exotic’ trail to hike today primarily because the park was a bit crowded with weekenders. The South Wilderness Trail was marked ‘moderate’ in the park brochure, but it was quite easy, except for the prickly stickers that stuck to my socks and shoes. The morning was warm and sunny. The wildflowers were prolific and hummingbirds and bees were hard at work. We met only one other family during the entire hike.

 A black-tailed deer browses along our path.

A black-tailed deer browses along our path.

We saw deer, turkey, rabbits and quail. The birds were singing and chirping merrily. We chatted sometimes and other sometimes we were lost in our own thoughts as we tromped along. Mostly it was the joy of physical movement and enjoyment of the day and each other’s company in such a beautiful environment that made it so memorable.

 Wood gathering prohibited ... Wool-gathering okay!

Wood gathering prohibited ... Wool-gathering okay!

Gathering firewood is not allowed here in the park, but finding an abandoned pile of firewood at a nearby vacated campsite doesn’t count. We returned to our camp with enough wood for an evening campfire. We discovered that we hadn’t brought a hatchet along so used a chisel and hammer to split wood. We put a hatchet on our to-buy list.

 A hammer & chisel worked for splitting firewood, but we put a hatchet on the 'buy list'.

A hammer & chisel worked for splitting firewood, but we put a hatchet on the 'buy list'.

David commented that it’s the primitive instinct of safety and comfort that a contained, warm fire elicits that makes a campfire absolutely mesmerizing. Our camp neighbors, we learned, were from Amsterdam. Mark and Paula wandered over and joined us for an hour or so around the fire. We lingered till the last flames flickered out, then doused the coals and headed into Blue.

 An evening campfire ...

An evening campfire ...

 there's nothing quite as wonderful.

there's nothing quite as wonderful.

Tomorrow, we move on. Click here to join us.