Let’s Begin 2016 at San Luis, Pinnacles NP and Lake Chabot in February!

It’s 2016 and that means new adventures in the cloud, and with a week off in February ending with a wedding it was time to plan. This upcoming summer will finally take us out of the state, so we’ll stay in until then commencing with the central valley. Leaving on Sunday –using Saturday for prep – I made reservations for San Luis Reservoir SRA, Pinnacles NP and Anthony Chabot. San Luis Reservoir SRA would not be first on my list simply because it’s a SRA which means to me a lot of people, however because it’s February I’m hopefull it will be quiet and empty, but still I made reservations.

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O’Neill Forebay with the California Aqueduct in the foreground. San Luis Creek Campground is within walking distance.

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It’s Valentine’s weekend and two should always celebrate by being outside somewhere…
We traveled 6 hours and came to a false entrance- crazy highway turn – but gave us an awesome view of Tule Elk, and the knowledge that we needed to be cognizant of the highway- one not to cross and maybe in the future look at Google satellite view.  Once we arrived at San Luis Creek Campground we were assigned a site (that’s what they do in the winter) and unfortunately all the water views were taken – holiday weekend. Arriving at site 50 on the outside of the loop we were happy with a view of the green hills, mega power lines (I know a lot of linemen) and California cows – and no neighbors unlike we found out the water views had. We spent the next day having a blast as everyone left and we were pretty much alone in the 50+ site campground.
 After a Monday morning walk to the water we noticed the California Aqueduct was accessible and that signs didn’t discourage bikes – sooooo off we went! The ride was perfect- empty, flat, 75 degrees, and interesting. After driving from one end of California to the other the aqueduct has always interested me. It’s inviting in the hot summer and thought provoking all the time. We rode for over two hours – 13 miles round trip and saw birds, cows, mega solar farms, and highway 5 travelers. We thought a lot about how water flows in California and how the aqueduct allows us ride on a flat service for miles- my ideal bike ride like the Strand in So. Cal. After lunch we visited the Romero Visitor Center and learned all about the flow of  water in California, and then went to the campground at the reservoir and saw herds of Tule Elk. One of the elk was chasing a rabbit – don’t know the outcome but it was funny to watch the chase as it reminded me of a kid super focused on the prize.

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Site 50 – but be aware that this is a double parking area campsite and most of the campground is designed like that – so if you have neighbors you had better be friends.

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The California Aqueduct is 444 miles and was constructed from 1962-1973. It would be interesting to know how much of it is continuously rideable.

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The Romero Visitor Center has everything you need to educate yourself about the water flow in California. 47% this year 39% last year at capacity.
Moving on day was Tuesday and early that morning we rode on the aqueduct to a McCabe Rd. and on to the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery – pretty spectacular. It’s one of nine in the state. As we were finishing up breakfast after the ride outside we had a coyote come visit our site.

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The entrance to one of 134 National Cemeteries in 39 states.

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Lots of areas to bike and explore. This trail is an easy bike ride and provided access to the water.

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Tule Elk – only found in the Central Valley to the grassy hills of the coast of California.

Driving over Pacheco Pass was easy but that might be different in the wind and when there is heavy traffic as it is quite the steep grade. 

Arriving at Pinnacles NP we pulled in forgetting about the sites only having electric and that hookups mean different things in different parks, and that we are boondockers at heart. We secured water and set up – 80 degrees – and nine Condors flying – nothing better!

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An entrance sign to the older – original section of the park.

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Trust me there are California Condors in that big tree!
Tuesday we hiked the Bear Gulch Trail to the reservoir via the caves- such a great texture walk- water, rocks, flowers, caves, sky, wind, lake, people, lichen, lots of big rocks! A cooler day – 68 I think – and the wind! Nothing compares to a wind that doesn’t allow one to be outside comfortably. Upon returning to the campground where it was noticeably windier than on the trail, I watched one camper try to open their door and almost lose it to a velocity that would make all of us frightened. The wind went one way and then the opposite direction – best to stay inside to read, cook, write and drink wine. It added a driving rain at dark and most likely a sleepless camping village as I can attest to.

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On the way to the Bear Gulch Cave.

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Caves require flash gear.

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There are stairs and rails which I appreciate and then the view!

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The views around Bear Gulch Reservoir are awesome. It would be prefect to hike here in the summer for a swim however no swimming signs are posted.
Wednesday morning was sunny, gorgeous and notably cooler – 60 or so. Recommended by an NPS person in the visitor center and after a relaxing morning we took the Condor Gulch Trail to the High Peaks Trail to the Bench Trail to the Bear Gulch Trail. It was 6.7 miles in total and was scenic with views, wildflowers, vegetation and birds. Leaving at 11 we finished about 3. The journey took us through rock climbing areas, oak woodlands, and meadows with numerous flowers, views for miles, cell service, and wet fernloving areas.  We enjoyed a campfire and getting to know a couple of Airstreamers.

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Shooting Stars were everywhere! Wildflowers were fabulous on the High Peaks Trail.

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The sign cracks me up for this climbing spot.

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Nothing better than a bird book and some camp chairs.

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Site # 102

Friday morning we awoke to sun after a 35 degree night the coldest yet. Our breakfast window view provided us with over two dozen turkeys and a big massive male in full regalia watching over the group – looked just like the turkey I colored in school foraging for breakfast. I forgot that the night before we had seen a hefty coyote across the road as well as some deer – so the wildlife variety should have been expected.

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Numerous birds – the Western Bluebird hung around a lot.

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Wild turkeys and in the background the one big male watching over the group.

Leaving was bittersweet – with the rally group coming in we saw many different models/years before the main group arrived and it was quite the Airstream venue for the weekend that we were going to miss.Venturing north to the Oakland Hills we hit rain, traffic, stress, Google map issues, a gas tank looking grim and ultimately a rainy site that seemed tight and steep. Alas the site was fine after the hookups were infused. After unhooking, warming up from wet gear, we drove to get gas, and returned to create dinner which was the best yet…all was right with the world and the internet was working.

Woke up to overcast skies and patches of sun trying to get through. After breakfast John went for a bike ride and I hiked around the campground. Pretty empty, but for one loop besides ours that had campers. Stopped to chat with another Airstreamer in their site and witnessed a coyote looking pretty skinny stalking the campground. It  was soon time to dress up and head for Tilden park to attend a wedding.

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Lake Chabot from the campground. Since its a reserve water supply there isn’t swimming and only canoes and kayaks launched from the marina can be used. Good fishing though.

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A flower in the campground I know not the name of quite yet.

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Site #12 and if we were longer than 25 it would have been questionable to get into.

Sunday morning we awoke knowing that we had a drive home and also work the next day. Wanting also to touch base with an IG friend whom came in the night before we walked over to his site to meet him and enjoyed chatting about places we had been and solar.

Leaving we headed north and somewhat abruptly decided to get lunch. We ended up getting into quite a situation with a parking lot – nearly having a mess with less than an inch to spare. It proved to be a stressful drive home for us – but we landed safely by dark to relax and think about the next trip.

Stats: 22 hours driving, 910 miles, 78 gallons of gas.