Pinnacles National Park

If it wasn’t already obvious, we love America’s National Parks. IMG_0710There’s a map of them in our house, and when we visit one we put a little tree sticker on its location (it’s one of the best parts of coming home). If Ken Burns’ National Parks series is on Amazon Prime, we’re watching. Several of the Instagram accounts we follow are National Parks pictures or Parks gear. Etcetera, etcetera. It’s safe to say we’re fans.

With good reason! There’s nothing like some time in nature to balance the effects of city living. National Parks are the planet’s spas and sanctuaries—sacred spaces that calm you and reenergize you.

But they’re not always the easiest to navigate. Some Parks have a lot of amenities, with guidebooks and websites listing several tips and starred attractions. Other Parks are more minimalist and mysterious—leaving you to find out for yourself what’s interesting and where you can go pee. Even the most visited and highly regarded ones have hidden gems and overrated tourist traps.

So we thought we’d share our own experiences and favorite things whenever we visit one. Let us know what you want to know, and which Parks you’ve been to!


We got back from Pinnacles a few days ago. It’s perfect to start these posts with because there’s not a ton you can find out about Pinnacles in advance.

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Like many Parks, it’s inconspicuously located on a quiet back road you probably wouldn’t drive on otherwise. You can easily miss the turn (like we did, even though we’ve road-tripped to Parks several times now🤦‍♂️. Lush coastal hills and gentle brown cows lull you into a trance. Keep an eye on a map because there are just one or two humble signs letting you know Pinnacles is getting closer.

The Park is very spartan on amenities. At the (supposedly busier) east side, there’s only one small building that serves as the visitor center and store. We were able to get firewood and a couple other small items we needed. Plan to buy as little as possible there.

The Pinnacles campground is decent, with some sites much more shaded and secluded than others. We ended up at #50, which was pleasantly veiled from other sites by trees and a small stream at the bottom of a short hill. It was just right for the time we spent there when we weren’t hiking. Over the course of a few days, we saw a raccoon couple waltz through, heard countless wild turkeys, and hung out in our tent for a bit during a full day of rain. IMG_0546

On this trip, we proudly nailed our campfire-baked pizza log after a few frustrating efforts at other Parks. The secret was to do two smaller logs instead of one large one, and to lay them right on top of some glowing coals. There’s nothing like hot pizza flavors in a crunchy, gooey wrapped form after a long day hiking. Check out the recipe below!

Speaking of hiking, Pinnacles has some of the most enjoyable hikes we’ve ever done. On our first day, we did Condor Gulch to High Peaks and then back down through the lower Bear Gulch Cave. There’s a notable elevation change, but it’s fairly gradual. A section of High Peaks requires you to scramble around some boulders with a guiderail (neat!). Going through a cave as part of a trail was pretty cool (that doesn’t exist everywhere). Make sure you have a flashlight in your pack. Getting to see several California Condors in the air—and Condor 606 just hanging out on a boulder for awhile along the trail—was super memorable. A number of these rare birds call Pinnacles home.IMG_0614

Day two of hiking was a rainy stroll along Old Pinnacles Trail, then up through the Balconies Cave and around the Balconies Rim. We got absolutely soaked. But Old Pinnacles is pretty flat, so we got to enjoy walking and talking for several hours with hardly anyone else out on the trail. It kinda felt like we had the Park to ourselves. Those are magical moments.IMG_0591

All in all, we got to visit another National Park just a handful of hours from our home. We ate well, hiked well, and managed to have fun even as it rained a lot.

Pinnacles is an intriguing little Park. There’s less there than busier and larger Parks. But with the Condors, hikeable caves and peaks, and saturnine colors, you can’t really experience something like it elsewhere.

Pros: lower visitation, so there’s more space to yourselves; easier to get a campsite on short notice compared to many other Parks; unique, moderately challenging hikes; California Condors; not super far from San Francisco or Los Angeles

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Con: very few amenities (limited restrooms, no covered picnic areas, one tiny store, no local restaurants/cafes)

Pro or Con (depending on how much you want to disconnect): no cell reception or WIFI

Rating: Four Condors out of Five

Campfire Pizza Logs

Adapted from Shock Munch (shockmunch.com)

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Ingredients

1 batch store-bought pizza dough (or make your own!)

½-1 cup pizza sauce

8oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Grated Parmesan cheese

Your favorite pizza toppings: pepperoni, mushrooms, etc.

2 tbsp melted butter

Dried oregano

Salt

Construction at home

  1. Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll them out on a lightly floured work surface to rectangles ½” to ¾” thick
  2. Gently spoon pizza sauce onto both rectangles, leaving about ½” border between the sauce and the edge of the dough
  3. Lightly sprinkle Parmesan cheese and dried oregano onto the sauce
  4. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly onto both rectangles
  5. Add chosen toppings—be careful not to overload
  6. Carefully roll each rectangle into a log, pinching the sides and sealing the end
  7. Melt butter and gently brush onto outside of both logs; sprinkle on salt and dried oregano, to taste
  8. Wrap logs separately in two layers of aluminum foil or one layer of heavy-duty foil

Cooking on the campfire

  1. Get that thing lit
  2. Let the wood burn down until you have a good amount of coals an inch or two deep
  3. Place the two foil-wrapped pizza logs on the coals
  4. Cook for 16-20 minutes, flipping halfway through
  5. Pull from fire and let cool for 5 minutes or so before eating
  6. Unwrap from foil, crack open your favorite camp beer or wine, and enjoy!

 

Making Long-Distance Suck Less

Being long-distance sucks. We’ve been together for over 16 years, and for most of it we have been lucky to spend at least part of each day together. With some recent life changes, we’ve been doing the past month apart, and it’s not a lot of fun. When you don’t get to see the person you love more than anyone for several days in a row, it’s like a part of you is missing. That’s who you share a bed with. Cook with. Hike with. Crash on the couch and watch Netflix with. Whisper secrets with. Who you feel a sense of belonging and acceptance with.

The longer you’re together, the more your emotions and quirks and goals become intricately interwoven. Your bodies are used to each other. You know a lot about how they think and the way the two of you like to spend free time together. When you’re with someone long enough, you even start to look like one another—which is bit strange and romantic at the same time. Being long-distance yanks and pulls at those threads. Your hand waits to hold theirs, but there’s only a phantom feeling of interlocking fingers. Perhaps one day humans will be able to reach through a FaceTime to touch and kiss. Or travel anywhere in just a matter of minutes—making long-distance relationships a thing of the past.

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In the meantime, there are some things that make long-distance manageable and tolerable (in-between the times you break down in tears). It’s not surprising that communication is the key. But people don’t always know what good communication looks like or how much harder you have to work at it when you can’t look your significant other in the eye and give them a hug when all else fails.

Having regular times for FaceTime or Skype can make a huge difference. At least you can see each other’s faces that way. You can also show off where you’re at or what you’re up to—the living room in your shared home, grabbing a drink at a spot you usually go to together or roaming the streets downtown. Each of your daily routines, while you’re apart, will be somewhat mysterious or unknown. But you can be intentional about sharing how your day went and show some of the things you did. That definitely keeps you closer to each other.

Those are the kinds of things you can do through the wonderful possibilities of the Internet. Messages or gifts through the mail can be fun and appreciated, too. Something as simple as a card with a handwritten note has been a welcome surprise when we send them to each other. You can go all out and send a cool local treat (candy, jam, or wine, maybe?), a new item for their wardrobe, a journal, or whatever else would be most meaningful between the two of you.

Through it all, it’s important to be extra patient with each other. You might go most of a day without talking or texting at all. When you reconvene over the phone, there’s a lot to catch up on. You can end up trying to talk about everything at once and not have a real back-and-forth conversation. Or you might step on their toes by overzealously telling them what to do when they have things perfectly under control. When you have a true, loving relationship, the two of you are interdependent—not dependent. You’re better together (that’s why you’re in a relationship!). But neither of you is completely paralyzed without the other. They can make it without you. When they want your thoughts about what to do or they need encouragement to make it through a tough situation, they’ll probably make it clear to you. Give them space to talk about what they want to talk about. Listen a lot and take things in. Then sometime later you can say a little about what you think about it—and what you’ve been up to yourself.

There’s no science to long-distance. It takes practice and trying things out and patience. Some couples are great at it and others have a really hard time.

When you can figure out how the two of you are going to talk and send things back-and-forth in a uniquely you kind of way, it all goes a lot smoother. You can keep living life together from miles away—however partial that may be compared to what you would do if you were both in the same place. Long-distance can suck a little less.

Thrive Market Review

Thrive Market- “Wholesome Products. Wholesale Prices” 

Trying new things is an important part of our relationship. One of the new things we recently found and tried is an online marketplace called Thrive Market. For a membership fee (with a 30-day free trial!) you get organic “wholesome products” at wholesale prices. We’re talking surprisingly affordable. It is a great deal! You get your items in the mail, along with this amazing catalog/newsletter with stories about products (Like this ONE) and recipes for things like essential oils aromatherapy, meals, and smoothies. The best thing is that Thrive Market has such great prices it allows you to try new products without breaking the bank. Their goal is to give more people access to healthy foods and products, and they’re off to a good start.

Via BigStock.com by Carly Hennigan

Here are some of the items we ordered:

Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Rolled Oats for our Oatmeal in Jars breakfast. (Recipe Here)

Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar for all our baking needs. 

Fishpeople- Creamy Razon Calm and Bacon Chowder which is our new go-to lunch for $3.95! 

Awesome new snacking favorite: Saffron Road’s Non-GMO Crunchy Chickpeas

They even have household and beauty products! We got some lemongrass and argan stem cell shampoo and conditioner by Acure Organics, and it’s been amazing.

We love being “early adopters”–trying things when they first come out. If it’s awesome we will definitely tell you about it. Thrive Market is the real deal.

If you want to try it for yourself, click here to sign up: http://thrv.me/1gUR7Q

Let us know what you think!