Way out to the west coast

Way out to the west coast
Willcox, AZ

Willcox, AZ

I made two more brief stopovers on the way to the west coast. Chiracahua National Monument is another spot that had intrigued me as I zoomed by on I-10, and Pinnacles is the newest National Park, south of San Francisco, CA.

Chiracahua National Monument is in southeastern Arizona just outside the town of Willcox. The fantastic rock formations were created by volcanic activity, followed by wind, water, and other kinds of erosion. There are lots of pinnacles and balanced rocks. The area was called The Land of Standing Up Rocks by some of the native peoples who lived here. It is named after the Chiricahua Apaches who holed up here until they were forcibly removed in the 19th Century.

From the Visitor Center I drove up the gorgeous Bonita Canyon road, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30s, to Massai Point. This is the area where several trails radiate out to take you to view the rock formations.

After taking in the view at the point I took the Echo Canyon trail to an area known as the Grotto for its beautiful and varied rock formations. The bright green lichens make quite a contrast to the light color of the stone.

Below the Visitor Center is an old homestead called Faraway Ranch. A family of Swedish immigrants settled here and supplemented their ranching income by taking in guests and giving them tours of the rocks. Their daughter Lilly and her husband Ed Riggs were instrumental in getting the area protected as a National Monument.

After a white-knuckle drive through typical southern California traffic I made it to Los Banos, CA. I told myself I chose this spot for its proximity to Pinnacles National Park, but really it’s just an excuse to have dinner at the Wool Growers Rest. I consider this one of the best restaurants anywhere, and I have eaten lots of Basque food in Spain and France! I sat at a long table with four fun ladies from Merced. The food is served family style (I lost count after 8 courses) and the grilled lamb chops are to die for!

After a lamb-induced good night’s sleep, I drove over Pacheco Pass to Hollister, CA and then south to Pinnacles National Park. Although it is known as the newest National Park, it has actually been a National Monument for many years. The National Park designation is certainly making it better known–I hadn’t heard of it before this year!

These red and beige rock formations were created by the San Andreas fault splitting the Neenach Volcano 23 million years ago, about 200 miles south of here. The Pacific Plate moved north along the fault, bringing the Pinnacles up with it. The rock formations are not only stunning to look at, but very popular with rock climbers, and I saw lots of climbers as I walked along the trails.

There are also lots of talus caves caused by the earthquakes and fault action. The Moses Spring loop trail actually goes through one of these caves for about a quarter of a mile. I chose to loop around the long cave and enjoy the sunshine, but I did see several smaller ones.

Leaving the quiet of the trail, I headed up US 101 towards San Francisco, where my son Loren and I enjoyed a gorgeous, sunny day at the Giants game. Tim Hudson pitched a 2-hitter that the bullpen almost threw away for him. The game had a bizarre ending as an Angels runner was hit by the batted ball for the 3rd out in the ninth.

Next stop was my son Christoph’s house in Elk Grove. His project for the day: installing the new stereo in Isabella’s car. My problem: I am not old enough to have a granddaughter who drives!!

Before getting to Portland I made my traditional stop at Shasta Lake to see how the drought is progressing. As you can see the water level is crazy low. My kids are putting a plastic bucket in the shower with them, then emptying the water onto the garden.


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