High Peaks Trail at Pinnacles National Park + 2 1/2 snakes

The trail starts at Old Pinnacles Trailhead Parking which is located close to the east entrance of Pinnacles National Park – Carsten gets the last parking space, at 10:15 am! If you wanna be independent and rather drive your car than  go by shuttlebus from the visitor center – don’t come too late!

Matthias and me fill our backpacks with water – it should get warm today. Around his head buzz a dozen flies like a halo…so we move forward.

We walk over the little bridge of Chalone Creek.  We’d liked to see the sea of flowers to the left and right of the creek. Only: it is June, there are neither water in the stream nor flowers to be seen, if you want to enjoy that you have to get up earlier, like in March / April.

After one hour of hiking we perspire and the annoying flies buzz absorbing-horny around our heads. Matthias is cursing and trying “seven on one stroke”.

I’m more busy to wide-eyed look out –  for snakes! If I were a snake: that’s the place I would want to live. Few people, many warm stones for sunbathing, and I am sure you can creep beautifully on the sandy trail…

“Uaaaiooihhhhiiiiiaaaa” I squeak every minute – as every few meters something longish is crossing the trail. It’s only a lizard’s tail, I am relieved. But only shortly – because the next time it could be a rattle snake!

Ther are so many lizard-tails crossing the trail – one is even crossing Kikis foot!

My heart is racing and my pupils are dilated maximized. It can’t go on like this – Matthias blames me as well. Yes, I know. So I meditate:

I can not prevent to meet a snake today. Not even with fear. And actually I would rather enjoy the trip than beeing anxious all the time. So I am trustful: if I need to meet a snake today, she will just appear, but not bite. Yes.

Slowly I calm down and I only think of: beautiful. Hot. Thirsty. Sweat. Thirsty. Thirsty. Beautiful. Steep. Hot. Steep. Hot. Thirsty.

About 23 million years ago, a few volcanoes and the San Andreas fault had experimented a bit and voilà:
That’s the result:

Here it is, the first pinnacle!

Now it’s time to satisfy our thirst and enjoy the view.


And then we go further, we still have to conquer 8.5 miles.

The landscape is changing. It’s getting barren.

But the flies remain persistently at our side. But we have showered – not that there is a wrong impression! But noticeable is: Matthias looks more like a fly-beekeeper, a black cloud flies around and is landing on his head.  While on my head are only a few. Then I remember: insects always prefer dark horses, not the light ones! Matthias has another T-Shirt in his backpack, a white one! And? With the white T-Shirt it’s immediatly better!

The landscape is changing again and it’s getting crazy awesome! Bizarre rock formations are located on the left and on the right and – everywhere.

We hike the High Peaks Trail higher and higher and after 2.6 miles there is a junction. You can go to the right and hike the Tunnel Trail or you turn left and stay on the High Peaks Trail, passing the “Steep and Narrow Section” sign. THIS is what we are doing! And YOU should do thas as well! It is steep and narrow, but just awesome!


Here is the highest spot – and we find a nice shady spot for having lunch. There hasn’t been so much shade to be found on this trail. So don’t go here in summer, or you will melt…


Now it is going downhill. And at the next junction you’ll find a toilet. To pee into the wild? Not in the USA!

At the toilet-junction you turn right on the Juniper Canyon Trail – that’s the way to get to the cave!

After a while we come across Chaparral Trailhead Parking, in the west of the national park. Here you find drinking water. Thank god! We refill our bottles and then stroll along  Balconies Trail towards the cave.

Again, there is a small bridge to cross – this time there is water in the creek to be found. And a snake.

“Snake.” I whisper to Matthias.

“Snake.” I whisper to Matthias and stop. It’s small, and has black and yellow stripes. I feel save on the bridge and so I practise “snake-watching”. Works well. Just a little beating of my heart – but no tears!

Then we continue. After just 0.6 miles we approach the Balconies Cave. Just a little climbing and we are inside the cave.


And here it’s doing shlooooop and we are in the dark. But Matthias, aka Indiana Ikeda, is well prepared and has two torchlights. So we can find our way through the cave and after 0.4 miles we approach the other side. If you don’t want to cross it, you can hike outside as well. But will miss the fun!

Now it is only 1.3 miles back to the car. The whole Trail is 9.3 miles long and has 1465 elevation gain. We needed 5.5 hours – including Wow-Moments, taking pictures and having lunch.

“Oooooh oooooh!!!!!!” Matthias suddenly groans. In exact this  moment while crossing a suspicious, winding print on the sandy trail. I make a broad jump: higher, faster, farther – especially farther. The world record is 7.52 meters. I also managed this easily, but WITHOUT taking a start!

Matthias shakes his head. “What are you doing?”

“Well, you said: oooooh oooooh!!!!!.”

“I just wanted to tell you, that maybe there was a snake – because of the trace in the sand.”

“Well and I thought, you wanted to tell me, that there IS a snake!!!”

“Don’t be so sensitive…I just wanted to show you something.”

“Okay, if you are saying oooooooh oooooooh!!!!!!! – I jump. If you want to show me something, then you should say something like: Look, how interesting.”

Then we meet other hikers. “Did you see the rattle snake, right there, the big one?” they ask.

Carefully I turn to look at the spur. I am so happy that I only had to see the print and not actually the rattle snake.

Then we go further towards the parking lot.

“Snake.” I whisper again and stop. “There, there it is, lying on the trail, black and white ringed.” I point on the snake that strechtes out just infront of me.

Matthias presses forward to take a picture.

And I? I just stand (!), just a few meters away and watch! Having a beating heart, but no tears! I’ve been working hard on my fear for the last few years.

I had “visited” a snake in the Morphogenetic Field and asked for help. In my thoughts, I regularly talk to her and put her around my neck as a charm. I was not sure if this kind of “therapy” really would help. But obviously it did something.

Before, I broke into tears at the sight of a snake, suffered from breathlessness and had to run, run, run. It was a panic attack!

And today I met two and a half snakes. I was totally unprepared when I saw them right in front of me on my path.  And I could just stop and watch it, without crying and thinking of dying. I would call it a success!

Conclusion: High Peaks Trail in Pinnacles National Park is great! The trail and the landscape is changing all the time and we really enjoyed the hike!


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