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Every couple of months, after daily interaction with computer users, I feel the need to escape humanity for a while. Combining two of my hobbies (hiking and photography) I find some interesting trail, pack a few things, and start early.

One of my favorite destinations is Pinnacles National Monument, famous for its oddly shaped rock formations:



Usually I take the High Peaks trail which provides some awesome views on a 4-5 hour round trip. This time I felt adventurous and took the North Wilderness trail.

North Wilderness Trail
9.7 mile loop, 5 to 8 hours
Strenuous hike. Much of this trail follows the Chalone Creek bed and is marked by rock cairns. Makes a loop by combining with the Old Pinnacles and Balconies Trails.


The trail starts out going uphill for about 2 hours. I noticed that temperatures were way higher than expected - not good. Shortly after breakfast break, I stumbled across a Kingsnake which disappeared in some hole, but after a few minutes reappeared for some nice shots.



I think snakes in general are beautiful, and don't understand the usual reaction "snake - did you kill it?". I love their graceful, efficient movements, and admire the speed they use to catch their prey.



After a while, the trail follows a (dry) river bed. When hiking new trails, you always learn new stuff. My shoulders learned after a few hours that a DSLR body and two decent lenses are way heavier than a P&S camera. I learned that I did not carry enough liquid for a 6 hour hike in 95 degrees heat. I learned that a path that is rarely used is full of bloodthirsty ticks. After squishing about 30 of them I got tired and just snipped them back into the grass.



I learned that it is important to keep an eye on the path ahead. When you hike for a few hours, your mind starts to drift, weird thoughts set in... Why am I doing this... Why don't I watch TV or go shopping instead... well cause I can. A nice big fat Rattlesnake will disrupt these sort of dreams for sure.



As I went on trotting along the trail, back in deep thoughts, with my eyes still on the path, I suddenly stopped, because unconciously I had registered a weird pattern. Took me a few seconds to realize that in the middle of the trail a baby rattler was taking a rest.



During the entire wilderness trail, I did not meet a single human soul. It's a bit weird, if you get bitten and there is nobody around you... I guess keep eyes and ears open and the risk is low.



And let me repeat, I think snakes are most beautiful creatures.

Spring is a good time for getting out to hike, after the Winter rain everything is green, lots of flowers, and no horseflies/mosquitos yet.

There were many more things I saw and photographed that day, landscapes and flowers and rocks and caves, but the snakes were definitely the highlight.

 

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nice pics wasser..... i love to hike also....flat trails and steep climbs...doesnt matter to me...
its funny that you mention keeping your eyes on the trail ahead.....last weekend my gf and i went hiking up a steep rock face....and were getting close to the top (we were outta breath by that time) and i almost stepped on a very large black snake that was sunning itself.....
i was surprised to learn that this particular snake climbs trees :icon_bigg
anyhow..
you should invest in a camelback water backpack....great investment for hikers
 

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I was there in January.

Nice place, did you go from the East or the West side?
I'm not sure which I like better.
Western side is drier, hardly anyone there.
The trail up to the top is well worth it however.

BTW, King's eat rattlers.
Which is fine by me:)
You saw a bunch because there was not anyone else hiking likely.

I use to catch kings and sell them back east years ago.
But I'd rather keep them around to eat Rattlers.
I caught a few ring necks last Sunday, sorry no pics.

Got accused on being Steve Irwin, as long as I don't try and catch no stingrays, I hopefully will be okay.

Good snaky pics though.
Good place to rock climb also.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Nice photos! Were you using the 17-70? Still debating that lens! Will match up nice with the 70-200L that will be in my bag before to long!
That's what I used for the landscape shots. For the snake pictures, I really enjoyed the 70-300 APO Macro. The macro function is amazing! Needless to say it comes in really handy when taking pics of rattlesnakes. :icon_mrgr
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Nice place, did you go from the East or the West side?
I'm not sure which I like better.
Western side is drier, hardly anyone there.
The trail up to the top is well worth it however.
I usually start from the West side (Chaparral), then Tunnel or High Peaks trail up to the High Peaks, and down to the East side (Chalone). Then back on the Old Pinnacles trail.

Nice thing about that hike is that you can climb up to the High Peaks in the morning, before the sun hits that side. Then down for an hour, the rest is pretty flat. Saturday/Sunday it can get really busy around the Balcony caves area, picknickers and loud ppl...

This time I started at the Chaparral area and took the North Wilderness trail that hits the Old Pinnacles Trail/Balconies Trail.

I have been at the Eastern side and yep, it's a bit busier. Not sure which side is better, they are different and both have their interesting things.

Here are some maps in case anyone wants to have a look: http://home.nps.gov/applications/hafe/hfc/carto-detail.cfm?Alpha=PINN
 
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