Woodpecker at the Bear Gulch Visitor's Center.
If the parking lot is full at the end of the road, you have to park at the Visitor's Center and walk along a trail that parallels the road for 0.3 miles.
There are a number of trail intersections on the first part of this hike up as far as the Reservoir, but they are quite well marked. A map helps in understanding this, like the one in the "Pinnacles" brochure that you can get for free at the entrance to the Park.
The woodpeckers have done an amazing job of pecking holes in this tree.
The Bear Gulch Caves Trail tops out here at the Reservoir. A lot of people pause here for a snack, as the squirrels will surely tell you. From here you start the 3.3-mile trek up to the Peak.
Less than ten minutes from the Reservoir we come to these interesting rocks.
Typical scenery along the Chalone Peak Trail.
About an hour from the Reservoir I took this photo looking back down towards it. Can you see it?*
*(Of course it's the little dark spot just a little bit below and to the right of the middle of the picture.)
The Chalone Peak Trail provides good views of the whole expanse of the High Peaks area.
At last, the objective of the expedition comes into view, mighty North Chalone Peak. We don our oxygen masks and trudge upwards into the Death Zone.
But, we encounter one last obstacle...
Oh no! The gate is locked! We have to climb over the wooden thingy to the right, risking a crotch full of barbed wire. This reminds me of the Hillary Step on Mt Everest, only worse. Will we make it???
YES !!! Victory is ours! We've reached the historic Summit Comfort Station. But where on earth could they have ever found the stone to build this?
Ah...mystery solved. The expedition geologist identifies it as having come from a quarry in Vermont, circa 1839.
No sooner do we claw our way onto the summit of North Chalone Peak then another gigantic massif comes into view, even more fearsome than the demon we have just conquered - mighty South Chalone Peak. Can we somehow gather the fortitude to climb it, too?
No, alas, our food and fuel are all but gone, our oxygen bottles exhausted. We stagger down from the summit at once, lest we are engulfed by the coming nightfall and a certain death from exposure.
We bypassed the caves on the way down, opting for the Rim Trail connecting to the lower portion of the High Peaks Trail then back to the trail head. Back down in Bear Gulch we enjoyed the lush forest and shade. The descent was an easy and pleasant couple of hours and still with some new scenery.
"Goodbye fellas, come again."
I'm sure we will...