Youth Camping & Hiking at Pinnacles National Park

My husband and I are youth leaders at our church, so we decided to take our youth group (Jr. High and High School students) camping and hiking during their Spring Break to Pinnacles National Park.

Day 1, Thursday, April 4, 2013:

After squeezing all ten youths, four adults and two toddlers into a 1980's school bus and our Ford Escape, we left Newark towards Pinnacles National Park.  We stopped in Hollister for lunch and gas, only to find out that the church bus wouldn't start.  It's been a recurring problem, but long story short we got the bus started and headed down to Pinnacles NP where we waited for replacement vehicles.

My husband, Jesse had recently taken Front Country Leadership Training, through the Bay Area Wilderness Training, which trains youth leaders to take youth outdoors.  Jesse directed everyone to setup camp which went pretty smoothly, after my 15 minutes of irritation that my toddlers where swimming in the dirt.  I just need 15 minutes to come to grips that my toddlers would be dirty the entire trip and then I'm alright.

Casa de los Avery's

It had been a long day, so there were no hiking trips or activities planned because it really takes an enormous amount of time to setup camp for 16 people.  The dinner crew started setting up for dinner which was pre-made chicken fajitas from Mi Pueblo in Newark.

 I knew no one was going to have time to cut and prepare food, so I thought to get fajitas would be easy enough to just throw in the skillet!

Jesse taught the youth how to make fire, how to adjust their backpacks for the following days hike as well as how setup camp.  In the meantime I was trying to corral my toddlers and setup our mansion tent.  While taking a break, we happened to see Condors flying up above our campsite.  I was ecstatic because I did not see any Condors on our previous family trip to Pinnacles.

As always, everyone was excited to camp and not tired on the first night so all night I could here the youth girls tent yelling at the boys tent and visa versa.  Eventually everyone went to sleep, I think about 3:30 a.m.  It was a zoo all night long, frogs loudly croaked, owls hooted and there were even pigs fighting with what sounded like a raccoon, not to mention the girls laughing.

Day 2, Friday, April 5, 2013:

I tried to sleep in a bit but my daughter, Sophia was awake by 6:30 a.m. so we joined the breakfast crew and let our son, David sleep.  Everyone ate breakfast, packed our lunches and off we went to Bear Gulch Day Use Area so we could start our hike to Bear Gulch Caves and Reservoir.  We selected the Senior year students to be Leaders and Sweepers (End of the line leaders) and started hiking towards the Caves on Bear Gulch Trail.for 1 mile.

During that 1 mile we hiked through the caves which the teenagers and my toddlers thoroughly enjoyed.  Another adult hiker (not in our group), had hit her head on a low lying rock and was obviously in pain.  Everyone checked on her to see if she needed help but seemed more irritated as each passerby asked if she needed help.  Oh well.

The troops piling into the caves.

Everyone in our group emerged safely and we headed through one more set of caves that were "open" (sunlight lighted the way) and then up the stairs to Bear Gulch Reservoir for lunch time.  Originally we decided to hike to the Reservoir and back, but the kids were still enthusiastic about hiking so we decided to hike past the Reservoir towards North Chalone Peak on Chalone Peak Trail.

There were lots of wildflowers such as California Poppies, Indian Warriors, Shooting Stars as well as others that I don't know their names.  I'm a slow hiker because I'm a slow hiker and the fact that I'm usually carrying a backpack and one of my toddlers, so I take the time to take pictures of flowers, landscapes, etc.  The views of the High Peaks were amazing and we could see the trail that we would be hiking the following day but I didn't want to point it out to our youth because some of them were struggling or just not used to hiking.

My daughter fell asleep in my carrier for awhile which is always relaxing and this time I had company other than my husband to talk to.  One of the other youth leaders, Manuel found a baby rattlesnake during the hike up to the ridge.  Halfway up to the ridge a few of the youth were wanting to turn back but eventually everyone decided to continue up to the ridge, good peer pressure!  At the ridge the more adventurous teenagers wanted to continue to the North Chalone Peak which was at 3,304 ft, but after a long break at the ridge we headed back down the mountain.

We took another break at the Reservoir again and headed towards the caves.  I really didn't care for going through the caves again so I (along with Sophia) took the non-cave Moses Spring Trail with two other youths, Jose and Noe while the rest of the group went cave exploring.  We all eventually met back up at the Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

Everyone happily went back to camp, BBQ some Carne Asada, had some good campfire talks and went to bed.  My toddlers were exhausted and I fell asleep with my children.  I think I was partially dehydrated because I had a small headache and couldn't quench my thirst all afternoon, no matter how much water I had.  Just an extra reminder to continually drink water while hiking even if I don't feel thirsty.  Even the teenagers were really tired and everyone went to bed quickly.  It was a much quieter night except for some "ranchero" music playing in the wee hours.


Hiked 5.2 miles in 6:11 hours.  I thought we'd hike faster than when we hike with our toddlers but apparently we hiked slower, I guess 16 hikers take their time as well.  

Elevation Change of about 1,100 feet

Bear Gulch Trail to Chalone Peak Trail (In & Out trail)

More pictures!

View of High Peaks from Chalone Peak Trail

Evidence I can carry my enormous toddler (35 lbs, maybe more)

My daughter really loves dirt, I mean really loves it.....

Flowers, unknown name

Jesse carrying David down to Bear Gulch

Jose (one of the youth's) enjoying the rock formations.

Day 3 of camping was so awesome it needs it own post!